I’m sorry to announce that this is going to be final Staff Picks post. We all had fun doing it but decided to back off on content. I hope you all enjoyed all the picks we had each month and hopefully you found a new piece of media that you never knew existed. With that said, here are our final 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):
R.E.M-New Adventures In Hi-Fi (Album 1996)
My final staff pick is going to be my #1 favorite album of all time. This doesn’t come up a lot when talking about best R.E.M albums or even songs but I LOVE every song off this album and I can just put this on, close my eyes, and just lose myself for an hour as each song plays. There’s also a gimmick to this album, it was all recorded on the road, while they were on their 1995 Monster tour. Some songs were recorded live on stages, some where in studios in cities they were visiting. One was even recorded in a dressing room. Picking just one song off this album is tough for me. If you haven’t listened to this yet, give this a shot. It’s wonderful!
Pete Rangel, Jr (Co-host Top Five A Thru Z):
John Wick Chapter 4 (2023)
If you want a action sequel that lives up to the hype and delivers lots of non-stop action topping previous entries John Wick 4 delivers. Not much dialog but tons of fighting, car chases, shootouts , martial arts, and more. Check it out!!
Lackey (Co-Host Musically Ignorant):
My staff pick is the 1984 martial arts film Furious. This film has it all: martial arts action, a cameo appearance from Bangles singer Susannah Hoffs, a whispering Buddha statue, sorcerous mayhem, and above all, lots of chickens. Starring acclaimed stunt siblings Simon and Phillip Rhee, Furious will make you doubt your sanity roughly one every three and a half minutes. If your problem with the John Wick franchise is that it doesn’t feature a talking pig, this is the movie for you.
Bubbawheat (Co-host Lyrical Innuendo):
Not Dead Yet (TV-2023)
I’m sticking with my usual routine of recommending three favorite media that I have consumed over the past month, and for this past month it was Not Dead Yet. It feels like there’s been a small, scattered run of comedy shows about people who see ghosts like Deadbeat from a few years ago. But this show stars Gina Rodriguez from Jane the Virgin only this time she’s basically a mess of a millennia named Nell who drinks too much, has a mediocre job at a paper writing obituaries, lives with an autistic roommate who’s autism feels more realistic and less sitcom-y. Oh, and she sees the ghosts of the people she’s writing obituaries of until she submits the finished assignment. It hits a lot of the more absurd comedy with plenty of quirky ghosts who are more caricature than character as well as the boss who is extremely privileged and uptight but is also good friends with Nell’s best friend which helps explain them being together while also having a mildly antagonistic relationship. The comedy is fun, but there are also good moments of character depth and growth as we see realistic sides and issues with the characters so they aren’t just caricatures. There’s also the ongoing question of the season for when she is going to tell any of her friends that she sees ghosts. It’s nearly halfway though the season at this point and she’s come close a couple times but hasn’t happened yet. It’s pretty fun and worth watching.
Heather Baxendale-Walsh (Co-Host Word of (Hell)Mouth):
J.D. Robb’s In Death Series
I’m recommending this entire series. I’ve read thirty-eight books in it so far, and I’m not even close to being burnt out because it evolves. I’ve read series that were not unlike TV procedurals. But each book is unique, and each homicide investigation is unique, which sounds ridiculous when you consider how many books have been written, but it’s true. Each death takes about two weeks out of Lt. Eve Dallas’s life, and we follow a chronological sequence of her from the first book, Naked In Death, to the twentieth to the thirtieth. In each book, we are able to witness her growth with her, face the nightmares, face the darkness in the world, and embrace the people she connects with along the way. There are many levels of darkness explored. Make no mistake, this is a homicide series that shies away from no subject. There have been a few books that I struggled through because the topics were brutal, but J.D. Robb treats them with honesty, but also dignity through Eve. She faces the murder of a homeless Jane Doe as a wealthy person of importance or even a child. It doesn’t matter the circumstance. She does the job. Murder is a personal affront to Eve. Sometimes you know who the killer is in the first scene. Sometimes, it’s a mystery. Sometimes you get shifting points of view, even from the killer. Sometimes it’s all from Eve’s perspective. The friends and found the family she meets and makes along the way become an integral part of the narrative. The relationship between her and her husband, Roarke, is one of the most stripped-down, intimate (and not just in the sheets) examples of a couple with a helluva lot of baggage that passionately love each other and fight to make it work. And it’s not always easy. Lt. Eve Dallas is one of my favorite protagonists of all time, easily in my top ten MFCs in any medium. This is a woman whose life has been literal hell, and in each book, you learn more about her past and the healing that goes on, but the personality traits that set her apart from a lot of typical women sing to me. This woman walks into a room and doesn’t ask for respect. She demands it because she’s bloody earned it. I consider myself a tough woman and have nothing on her. We should all walk into rooms like Eve Dallas. I’ve recommended this series to people who read various genres from different age dynamics and sexes. Everyone, save one person that has given it a go, is now hooked. This is the series I read before bed almost every night. While violence, death, and murder may seem brutal, I sleep peacefully knowing Dallas is out there hunting the big bads down and will stop at nothing to ensure she does.
The Vern (Co-Host Tales From The RR):
Switchblade Sisters (1975)
Switchblade Sisters is a movie directed by Jack Hill that was released in 1975. It tells the story of this girl gang called the dagger dolls who at the start are more like the girl friends of the male gang members. When a new girl Maggie(Joanne Nail) gets into an altercation with one of the girls named Patch (Monica Gayle). She earns the respect of the girls leader Lace( Robbie Lee). This isn’t going to be a full review of the movie just one particular scene that stood out to me. After Maggie is released from jail. She goes to hang out with the other gang members and meets Lace’s boyfriend Dominic ( Asher Brauner). It’s clear that he is very attracted to Maggie and follows her home. At home, Maggie hears her mom having sex with the landlord to get out of paying rent this month. It’s something so common now that it doesn’t phase her. She’s about to go to bed when Dominic comes in the front door. She tries to get him to leave but he is much stronger and he pushes her into her room where he rapes her. Now what makes this scene different from other rape scenes in movies is what happens during the attack. While it’s going on, a majority is with the mom outside the door who thinks that her daughter brought another guy home. Now Dominic is not holding her mouth shut, she could scream for help but she doesn’t. Why is that?? Also when you watch the scene. It looks like Dominic has performance anxiety that it doesn’t take more than like maybe 30 seconds before he finishes. Another thing that stood out while watching it is how Maggie reacts to the assault the next day. In most other movies, it would be about her getting revenge. Either by bringing him to the cops or causing him physical harm. She does neither of these things and is seen hanging out with all the other gang members like nothing is wrong. She even has a conversation with Dominic and there is not an ounce of fear in her. Is there something mentally wrong with her. She was just raped by this guy. Why is she not traumatized by this act of violence. When Dominic starts to act rough Infront of her, Maggie just puts him in place. Telling him that if ever tries that shit again, she’ll cut his dick off and you as the audience believes it. Because of what a bad ass fighter she is In most other exploitation movies that do have scenes of assault on women there was a need to over sexualize them and while Switchblade Sisters has its T & A. Jack Hill never oogles his female subjects. Most of the sex in this is usually just implied. There is a moment when a rival gang grab a girl and throw her into a van to essentially gang rape her and a lot of the attack is only implied Now rape in shows and movies is a touchy topic for some. There are usually multiple content warnings if even the word is just mentioned. Most of the time it was a weak excuse to show nudity but sometimes it’s a key element to the plot. In Boys Don’t Cry directed by Kimberly Pierce there is an attack that made the actors involved physically ill to shoot but it’s a crucial scene. Now why I understand that people should be told about what a movie has in it. I feel that so called trigger warnings go a bit too far with their advisories. There is even a trigger warning for weather. The freaking weather is a trigger warning. Look I understand if people feel uncomfortable when viewing that content. It is supposed to make you uncomfortable. What Switchblade Sisters does is unique on how it portrays the rape. Dominic isn’t treated like a monster of all time and Maggie isn’t treated like a fragile victim. It was a horrible event and both of them moved on from it. Now some may say that I’m glorifying assault on women but that is clearly not the case. I just think there should never be any subject that can’t be used in stories. I also urge you to listen to The Video Archives podcast where Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary discuss the controversial scene in Straw Dogs.
Nick Jobe (Host: Roll For Podcast):
Power Rangers: Once and Always (2023)
Today’s rec is weird because it isn’t exactly *good*. I loved Power Rangers growing up, watching practically the first arc (up through In Space). This mostly original cast reunion was definitely something special. This hour-long special is cheesy, poorly acted in a way that would impress fans of The Room, and full of martial arts you wish was filmed a bit better. In short, it’s exactly like 90s Power Rangers. What makes the special work as well as it does is the story they decided to tell. But to understand why they told this story, here’s some background: halfway through the Mighty Morphin era, Jason, Trini, and Kimberly left the show because the actors wanted more money out of a show famous for cutting costs. Jason and Kim would make appearances here and there in other Ranger things, but Trini actress Thuy Trang tragically died in an accident in the early 2000s. Jason’s actor ended up going to prison. And Tommy actor Jason David Frank, arguably the face of the franchise, also died the end of last year, though after filming had wrapped. He and Amy Jo Johnson (Kimberly) decided not to come back for the special. Though there is a memorial tribute to both Frank and Trang at the end, via 90s Kimberly. So this special follows primarily Billy and Zack as still-active 50-something-year-old Rangers who unwittingly freed Rita Repulsa’s evil into a robot version, who then kills Trini. The rest of the episode focuses on Trini’s daughter, a teenager with attitude (three guesses on how her character ends up), who wants revenge on Rita while being mentored (and more or less adopted) by Zack. The special is a great homage to Thuy Trang, wrapping up her story and legacy nicely. I also appreciated that the special was more about Zack, Billy, and Trini considering most episodes focused on Tommy, Kim, or Jason. I also quite liked how they were older. Seeing aged Rangers was actually pretty cool and felt fresh (Jason David Frank was always fit and youthful, so his Tommy recurrences don’t count). There were a number of fun Easter eggs, as well, such as what happened with Bulk and Skull. And the fight at the juice bar (and ones soon after) were actually pretty cool for the style they did. If you were a fan of the original Rangers, this feels like it picks up where the characters would have left off and done in a style reminiscent of the show. If you’re up for that, I say definitely give it a shot.
Bill Szany (Co-host Top 5 A Thru Z):
Pinback is an underground indie rock group that is what I’d refer to as the Megadeth of smooth relaxing rock. I was first introduced to them in or around 2005 and have been faithfully listening to them ever since. Another mainstream group (formerly underground)they are often compared with or paired with in playlists is Modest Mouse. Postal Service also comes to mind. I imagine (for Jason’s sake) there has to be some REM influence there as well. Pinback however has it’s own unique sound that, if you’re not careful, can relax you a bit too much while taking a bubble bath. The group’s singer Rob Crowe has other projects as well, such as the much heavier and controversial Goblin Cock. Pinback has it’s own faithful followers but to me it’s a shame they aren’t universally known because they are amazing.
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