April is National Donate Month! Go donate some organs while you’re checking out this months staff picks!
Jason Soto (Host Whatever with Jason Soto, That’s Da Bomb, Yo!, The TV Transmissions, & I Have A Weird One; Co-Host Between The Scares, CineGamer, Musically Ignorant, & The FBI’s Most Unwanted: An X-Files Podcast):
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager (2020)
Look at me, recommending a book! I do read, I just haven’t had the time lately, but now I get an hour lunch at my new job and thanks to social media being boring lately, I just been reading. I picked this up based on a YouTube video featuring a very annoying person (so annoying I won’t even link to the video) and this person liked the book and said something that intrigued me: time jumps. Turns out that didn’t mean what I THOUGHT it mean but this novel is still wonderful.
Maggie inherits a house from her father, who wrote a sensational book in the ’80s about being chased out of said house due to ghosts. Now, Maggie must figure out if her father was telling the truth or if something more sinister is going on! The time jumps comes from the chapters alternating from present day to excerpts from the book. What actually happened? Check out this novel and find out!
It kept my interest and ended up being a decent supernatural mystery that kept me guessing the entire time. I wonder if this could be a movie, I’d love to see it and how they handle the back and forth.
Nick Rehak (Co-host Lyrical Innuendo):
Graceland by Paul Simon (Album-1986)
One of the true masterpieces across art and all its mediums, the album is absolutely timeless. The songs within are grand yet intimate, overflowing with stories, characters, anecdotes, and emotions that still resonate and touch on the heart strings despite being released over 35 years ago. It’s place in the storied history of music is undeniable, mired and admired, and should be required listening for all who have ever listened to music.
Pete Rangel, Jr (Co-host Top Five A Thru Z):
Scream 6 (2023)
My staff pick this month is Scream 6. It’s as they call another requel which is a reboot sequel. Better than the last sequel and more bloodier. Loved how it gave the usual opening kill a clever second act too. It might have also been a little predictable yet the suspense and humor really did overshadow the small flaws. It’s honestly one of the better sequels too as of late from most franchises. Randy’s niece of course again steals the show too. Go check it out.
Lackey (Co-Host Musically Ignorant):
Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (1977)
My staff pick for this month is the music documentary Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me. You’re probably aware of a Big Star song — cover versions of “In the Street” were used as the theme for That ’70s Show. But the band went largely unnoticed in the mid to late ’70s, only gaining a later cult following, becoming a crucial influence on acts like R.E.M. and the Flaming Lips. Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me takes a look at the band’s history, the later turbulent solo careers of founders Alex Chilton and Chris Bell, and ties it all into the Memphis music scene. Featuring commentary from fans including Mike Mills (R.E.M.) and Matthew Sweet, this is a crucial watch for anyone interested in rock history.
Bubbawheat (Co-host Lyrical Innuendo):
Disney Dreamlight Valley (Video Game-2022)
One of the few splurges we indulged in as a family after getting our tax refund in was getting a new game console. We didn’t fully enter the future with a PS5 or Xbox series X, instead we went one generation back which was also partly one generation ahead for us: we upgraded our Xbox 360 to an Xbox One series S. Anyway, one of the games we tried with our Game Pass trial was Disney Dreamlight Valley. Our family all enjoyed spending our lockdown a while back with Animal Crossing alongside seemingly everyone else (so technically we are in the current generation with the Switch but that feels a lot different than the Xbox/PS consoles). And this has really felt like the spiritual successor. The game itself hasn’t even technically launched as a full game, and supposedly it will be free to play and cross platform, but it’s currently available as “early access” which at this point feels like a nearly complete game. It has a bit of a story alongside plenty of Disney and Pixar animated characters from various popular movies including plenty of heroes and a handful of villains. But mostly it’s a relaxing game where you go around collecting items for various crafting and gaining money for decorative clothing and furniture to decorate the island. It’s nothing earth shattering but it’s a nice distraction to play alongside these various Disney characters along with bits of their musical themes. So I’d definitely recommend checking this out.
Ryan Luis Rodriguez (Co-host Tales From The RR):
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine(TV-1993)
I’m not what you would consider a Trekkie (Trekker?), but I am a casual fan of the Star Trek franchise, an admiring dilettante. I love half of the movies and at least mildly enjoy the original series but never felt compelled to dive too deeply into the various spin-offs. Recently I threw caution (or at least apprehension) to the wind and started bingeing Deep Space Nine. Color me impressed. It deals with some of the ideological ambiguities that I’ve always felt elusive in the franchise, and boasts one of the strongest ensemble casts in all of television. It’s compulsively watchable and deeply emotionally affecting, and it’s inspired me to consider the other series in the official canon. Consider is the key word. I only have so many years on this earth and I should spend them wisely.
Heather Baxendale-Walsh (Co-Host Word of (Hell)Mouth):
Cunk on Earth (TV-2022)
For so many years, I’ve been absent Philomena Cunk (played magnanimously by Diane Morgan) in my life, and it’s damn near Shakespearean the tragedy is so great (I recommend her Cunk on Shakespeare as well – in fact, I am confident it’s close to the hardest I’ve ever laughed in my long life). Thanks to my browsing husband, he put it on Netflix whilst I had my nose deep in a book, and after five minutes, the book was closed, and the short series had my full attention. The premise of this delightfully dry mockumentary is Cunk goes through the history of humans on Earth with a deadpan series attitude, coupled with ideals that border ridiculous but then somehow begin to make legitimate sense. Throughout the series, she interviews experts that have no clue this is all a bit. I don’t know how she pulls it off. If you enjoy satire and dry humour, this is for you. Delve deep into the throes of the internet and watch even more Cunk. It’s the happy that I didn’t know I needed.
The Vern (Co-Host Tales From The RR):
3 Women (1977)
In this very bizarre feature from Robert Altman (The Player, Popeye) Shelly Duvall plays a woman who invites the new girl Sissy Spacek at the retirement center she works at. Pinky (Spacek) is an awe of Millie (Duvall) who presents herself as this very confident woman who has many friends and lovers. When the reality is she is just as much a wallflower as Pinky is. Oh and there is a third woman (Janice Rule) who is seen painting lizard people with phalic members in a pool. The way Pinky obsesses over Millie. I was expecting a Single White Female thriller situation but you don’t get that in this feature. I mean after an important incident. The meek and shy Pinky starts to act and behave more like Millie and is more successful than she was but it never erupts into violence but it becomes tense This is very much a dreamlike movie and while I never liked the story, I really liked watching these two actors. Especially Duvall who is very different from the other ones I’ve seen her in. The clueless nature but still confident attitude she displays is great. Spacek is great but this came right after Carrie and her performance mirrors that in a way. It has this flute score that is both nice and a little unnerving but it was different from other soundtracks I heard before. I liked it but didn’t love it and would only recommend if you want to see Shelly Duvall I’m a very different role she played before.
Nick Jobe (Host: Roll For Podcast):
The Princess (2023)
Take Rapunzel from Tangled and put her in The Raid: Redemption with Jasmine from Aladdin‘s story arc, and you get The Princess. It’s light on plot (as in, practically none). But the action is super fun, well choreographed, and well shot. The basic idea is that the princess isn’t allowed to take the throne because she’s female and must marry a suitor she doesn’t want. She refuses, he goes ballistic and chains her in the top tower to take over the kingdom. The movie starts as she wakes up and begins her descent down the tower taking out his men as she goes. That’s about it. It’s a pure action movie with no substance, and sometimes that’s just what you want. I had a blast with it. (There is that whole “you have to prove yourself as an action hero to be a strong woman” thing going on, but that would be the only thing if that bugs you.) But just turn off the brain and watch Joey King kick some butt.
Brenda (Co-Host: The FBI’s Most Unwanted: An X-Files Podcast):
The Opposite of Namaste by Timber Hawkeye
This book, transcripts and excerpts from the author’s monthly short podcasts, provides a lot of food for thought about everyday problems and the bigger picture things in life. The chapters are short and don’t even have to be read in order, so if you like to jump around in a book and be all non-linear, this book may be a good one to pick up. Hawkeye’s two other booked Buddhist Bootcamp and Faithfully Religionless are also good quick reads that I find myself going back to often. (Plus, if you buy through his website, for every book purchased a book gets donated to a charitable program.)
Bear (Host: With Strange Aeons):
The Ballad of Narayama (1958)
I originally watched this movie for school, but I ended up really enjoying it. It was directed by Keisuke Kinoshita, a director known for his technical and genre exploration, and was based on a novel published two years earlier with the same name. It takes place in a 19th-century village that has a policy that when someone turns seventy, a close family member has to carry them up to “Narayama,” a mountain, to die of exposure. The film covers the last year or so of Orin’s life, and her want to fulfill her duties towards her son and community. The storyline is based on the mythical Japanese practice of ubasute, or “abandoning an old woman,” which involves taking an elderly relative to a mountain or other remote area, and leaving them there to die. Just like in the film, this myth is typically presented in the sense that it will prevent resource drain on an already poor community.
If you’re not expecting it going in, the acting may seem overly exaggerated and off-kilter at times. This is because the film was produced in the style of kabuki theater. To quote Kinoshita on why this choice was made: “The book by Fukazawa is a story in the style of old legends. But it is also a horrible story. I did not want to show this horror in a direct and realistic way. The unrealistic style of Kabuki therefore seemed to be the most appropriate approach.” Kabuki was used, with all of its exaggerated movements and constant use of song and music to present this story as a fable, or something of legend rather than truth. This template creates a theatrical aesthetic where it’s clear that the actors are chess pieces being moved around a well-constructed board that viewers are watching for entertainment, rather than the perception that they’re real people being observed – and this theater set is played into with deliberate artifice from the matte paintings of the backdrops that change to reflect the seasons.
It’s an interesting movie, and there’s also an adaptation from the ‘80s that takes a different approach if the content sounds more interesting than the execution.
Marc Armstead (Co-Host Word of (Hell)Mouth):
Bitter Root: Omnibus Book One by David F. Walker, Chuck Brown, & Sanford Greene
Bitter Root is a comic series that follows the Sangerye’s, a Black family tasked with hunting and curing the Jinoo, monsters born from hate and racism allowed to fester in human souls. One part historical fiction and one part monster horror, Bitter Root feels like Hellboy meets The Harlem Renaissance. While the Sangerye Family fight the monstrous Jinoo and the societal norms for African Americans in the 1920s, there is also turmoil within the ranks regarding how to deal with the Jinoo. Some members of the family feel that people consumed by the Jino should be cured, others feel the only way to stop the spread is by amputating the afflicted by killing them. Whether side of the argument the Sangeryes fall on, they have to put it aside to face a new threat unlike anything they’ve seen before, the Inzondo, demons born of grief and fear. Bitter Root uses the lens of Horror to explore the ideas of what both hate and pain can do to a person when left unchecked, and also poses the question can it be repaired, is there a such thing as redemption? If you enjoyed Lovecraft Country then Bitter Root is pretty much required reading. Omnibus Book 1 covers issues 1-15, the authors are looking to continue the series this summer with a time jump to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. Now would be a great time to get onboard.
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