Sunday, June 19, 2016

Series: Summer Lovin' - Week 13

It's been a pretty crazy week in the world. It seems like everywhere you turn, there is some sort of darkness or sadness that makes you want to curl up in a ball and never leave your bed. But just like spring at the end of a long winter, there are good stories and things to look forward to each day. Even though it's not majorly significant to many, Summer Lovin' is a series that means exactly that to me and our staff. We love taking a small break each week from whatever hardships have occurred in the "real world" in order to spend some time celebrating the things that we love.

Joining me this week are the following delightful people:

Let's get started!

What Jenn's lovin': The Newsroom

Why she's lovin' it: When I began to look for a new series to binge-watch on Netflix, people pointed me in a very Sorkin-y direction. I started watching The West Wing and adored it. Three seasons deep into the show, I began to get a bit distracted with life and it wasn't until after a marathon of Poldark that I realized The Newsroom was available to stream on Amazon Prime in its entity. Because I'm the person who gets on things and trends way too late, I had never seen the show but had heard amazing things about it while it was airing. I had no idea, however, how much I was going to actually love it.

Not since Community have I enjoyed a lead male character of an ensemble as much as I adore Will McAvoy. He's witty and snarky, and even though he comes off as a jerk a lot of the time, he's actually a very good person. He's not a character who has to learn to become a decent human being through the interactions with others. He just IS a good person. He gives money away without wanting recognition for it. He takes care of his staff because they're his family. He admits when he's wrong and he shows genuine interest in people below him in rank. He's a fantastic character and Jeff Daniels is astounding. The show itself is so hilarious -- I laughed more in the first season than I think I did at most comedies on television this year -- and its rapid-fire dialogue is so on point. The show's drama never feels contrived or wearisome. And Aaron Sorkin knows how to write female characters that are nuanced, quirky, and strong. MacKenzie McHale is my hero, Sloan Sabbith needs to be my platonic life partner, and I want to protect precious cupcake Maggie Jordan forever. 

Honestly, I don't know how I never got around to watching this show, but I'm so glad that I am remedying that error this summer. (P.S. no spoilers, as I'm about to finish season two.)

What Jennifer I.'s lovin’: Emily Kinney’s album This Is War

Why she’s lovin’ it: This album is perfect for summer! It makes you want to roll the top of your car down (or at least the windows), pump up the volume, and sing along. I’ve been a fan of Kinney’s for a long time, from her work on The Walking Dead. And when Beth Greene sang on that show, is became clear that the actress had some serious vocal chops. In her debut LP, her sweet soprano juxtaposed with edgy lyrics is the perfect combination for grabbing your girlfriends and driving down to the beach.

A particular favorite of mine is her newest single, "Molly," with our singer throwing massive shade at her boyfriend and the girl he’s been cheating on Emily with. The song opens with the blistering lyrics:

Oh, oh I know about Molly ‘cause she told my friend
That she was hooking up with you on the weekend
Guess those stories that you told me turned out not to be true
You say you're done with Molly
Well, I am done with you

In five lines, Emily’s SO done with the jerk, calling him out on his lies and moving on. But don’t think she’s letting the girl off the hook either:

Oh, Molly, you can have him, you're much cooler than me
I never liked staying out smoking weed till three
So, take my boots in his closet like you took my man
It's clear you don't mind wearing things secondhand

Emily might have dropped that guy, but you’ll want to hang on to this album, listening to her addictive hooks and melodies!

What Isabella’s lovin’: Wynonna Earp

Why she’s lovin’ it: Before I get into why I love the amazingness that is Wynonna Earp, I need to say something. I’ve noticed people on social media say that they’re very hesitant to start this show because of the numerous and far too many wIw character deaths on TV in the past few months alone. I know people are hurting. I know people are reluctant to begin watching a new show because they don’t want to get hurt again. I can’t make you watch it and I can’t promise that we won’t get hurt, but I think this is the show to take that risk for.

I’ve felt, in some ways, betrayed by my previous favorite show (ahem, you might know the one) for various reasons. And although I’m still going to watch it next season, it doesn’t give me as much joy as it used to. This might’ve happened to you multiple times for multiple shows. You might’ve even cut that show out of your life completely. After which you’re a little scared to start a new show because you don’t want to repeat this cycle again and end up just as, if not more, disappointed. 

But you do it anyway. You start a new show that maybe clumps of people are raving about on Tumblr or Twitter. You hear things about well-written female protagonists and chances for LGBT relationships. Great, you’ve heard it before; but will it deliver? It might. Giving it a go, you think this might make you feel better -- help you forget about the show you loved. A rebound TV relationship, if you will -- it won’t elicit the strong feelings you had for your previous favorite, but at least it’ll make you feel something.

The plot of Wynonna Earp is pretty interesting (i.e. the understatement of the year). The southern-infused sci-fi show is led by a gun-toting cynical woman who takes no crap from anyone and is most definitely flawed: Wynonna Earp herself. Her gun, somewhat ironically called Peacemaker, is used to hunt demons and return them to where they belong: hell. The supporting characters range from seemingly emotionally closed-off FBI agent Dolls to an immortal mustachioed Doc Holliday to Wynonna’s brilliantly intelligent sister Waverly who strikes up a relationship to look forward to with police officer Nicole Haught. Now you roll all this up, wrap it in a blanket of witty sarcasm, and plop it down in Wynonna’s hometown “Purgatory.”

It’s the end of the first episode when you realize that Wynonna Earp isn’t your rebound TV relationship. It can’t be. It’s not even close. It may have started that way, but you’ve fallen in love much too quickly, even after you didn’t think you could. Wynonna’s passion for restoring justice for her family accompanied with that cute sassy smirk after she comes up with a good comeback got you. 

... it got you good.


What Lizzie’s lovin’: Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter book series

Why she’s lovin’ her: I was fortunate enough to grow up with Hermione Granger at my side. And I say fortunate because when I was younger, I didn’t realize how important she was and how much of a trendsetter too. To me, it was normal for a girl to be the smartest of the class -- the one everyone came to when they had questions. The planner and the doer. To me, it was perfectly normal for a girl to be the hero and to be friends with the titular character -- real friends -- without any kind of romantic entanglements. To me it was normal, because Hermione (and J.K. Rowling) made it normal.

And then I grew up. I read more books, watched more TV and movies, and realized Hermione was not the norm. No, she was the exception.

Unapologetically smart girls in pop culture are either reduced to the sidekick or the love interest (or, often, both). Hermione was neither. Sure, the books were named after Harry, but he, Ron and Hermione can rightfully be said to be the main characters. And sure, Hermione ended up falling for Ron and even married him. But Ron was not the titular character and the romance was never more important than the rest of what was happening.

Hermione Granger was, simply put, a character who proved that women can do everything and can be everything. It’s not just guys who can have it all. Stereotypes are hurtful and they’re the reason why little girls grow up thinking they can’t do things. Hermione shattered all of those. She could be smart, she could be the best at magic even though she came from a Muggle family, she could be Harry’s best friend and Ron’s girlfriend, and anything else she wanted.

That’s how awesome she was.

A part of me knew all of this from the beginning. But re-reading the Harry Potter books as an adult makes it easier to see it, to point it out, and to shout to the heavens. I grew up reading the Harry Potter books and yes, they’re named after Harry. And yes, he won in the end. But Hermione Granger? She is MY hero. And she always will be.


What Yasmine’s lovin’: X-Men: Apocalypse

Why she’s lovin’ it: Well, I’m a sucker for superhero movies. And while the chatter recently has been to compare the latest Captain America to Batman v. Superman, or to ramble endlessly about the awesomeness of Deadpool, for me, the winner in this year’s race for the genre has been X-Men: Apocalypse.

Superman is my all time favoritesuper hero. Ever. And unlike most people, I absolutely loved the Batman v. Superman movie. And Captain America: Civil War was incredibly fun to watch. As always with that franchise, it was just fun fun fun. And as for Deadpool, I’m sorry, but I think I am in the minority who did not enjoy it. I think people hyped it up so much for me that when I got to watch it I was underwhelmed. I don’t know... it just didn’t do it for me.

This movie though and its reboots in the franchise have managed to have that perfect balance of entertainment and actual heavy plot and themes. It is not just about a bunch of metahumans battling egos. It runs much deeper than that. And what I love about this installment is the juxtaposition of the struggles of the new generation (Jean, Scott, Kurt, Peter, Storm, etc.) and those of the older generation (Professor, Mystique, Magneto, Beast). Their struggles with identity, with their inherent good and evil, with belonging, with fitting... they are all real struggles that everyone faces, even in our non-meta-humanness.

The new kids are awesome. I just loved the additions to the cast, both the actors and the characters. The quintessential Quicksilver scene is absolutely brilliant. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender carry the movie just beautifully, both giving performances that -- had this not been a “comic book” movie -- would be considered for awards. Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult bring a lovely balance to the generation gap; they bring that mature yet young balance between the newcomers and the Professor/Magneto group.

My only issue? Not enough Hugh Jackman. But then again, you could give me three hours of just Hugh Jackman and I would say the same thing.


What Hope’s lovin’: Reign’s return

Why she’s lovin’ it: I’ve got mixed feelings about this show, but what I know is that three of the most recent episodes have been Reign at its very best. I recently caught up on them and love the direction they're headed in. The show is tying up loose ends as it sends Mary back home to Scotland, to the point that it almost seems like the show itself is wrapping up.

And even though there’s a fourth season coming, it kind of is. Reign is the not show it was, with Mary’s ladies-in-waiting scattered to the wind, Francis gone (I cried my eyes out, I’m not going to lie), and Mary saying goodbye to France. I appreciated all the little details (and there were so many) that called back to the beginning -- including the use of "Scotland," the original theme song by The Lumineers. Has the series gone a little off the rails now and again? Maybe. But the recent episodes have shown how much the writers care about Mary’s journey and crafting a poetic ending to one chapter of her life, before they begin a new one. My interest in this show has been renewed, because I’m really excited to see how they continue to tell Mary’s story. She’s such a strong female character, and a wonderful portrayal of a fascinating historical figure. 

Adelaide Kane, Megan Follows, and Torrance Coombs were brilliant in their goodbye scenes in "Safe Passage," which might just be one of the show’s best episodes ever. There’s something about their intense and powerful acting, combined with the fact that the sets, costumes, and cinematography are always visually stunning, that makes this show practically jump off the screen.

The complicated relationship between Catherine de’ Medici and Mary Stuart is one of the cornerstones of this series, and these two have always been at their most powerful when they are on each other’s sides (#LadiesSupportingLadies). Their goodbye, as well as the final scene between them, was poignant and powerful -- true to the complexity of the characters, and a sign of how far they had come. It’s a shame that with Mary in Scotland, never to return to France, these two won’t share scenes anymore. Megan Follows is just amazing, and together her and Kane have aced every scene they’ve ever shared.


Mary and Bash’s goodbye was just as perfect, and that shot of Mary through the back of the carriage, watching him as she rode away, was one of the most poignant shots this show has ever had. One thing I’ve been wishing for since season one is for Bash to accompany Mary to Scotland, so I’m thrilled. With Coombs leaving the show and joining ABC’s pilot Still Star-Crossed, I’m concerned (please don’t break my heart, show), but I’m still going to enjoy their trek through Scotland, with its woods and pagans, which mirrors season 1 so well. 

This is a show that recognizes what makes it compelling and isn’t afraid to use it. These episodes, assuming the show survived this far, have been a given since day one -- and everything you could have wanted the show to do, it did in these episodes. It’s pulling out all the stops, crafting finale-worthy episodes, with one episode still left to air. If you haven't watched in a while, now would make a great time to pick up the series again. If nothing else has convinced you, watch it to see Mary take back her throne in an incredibly powerful scene.

What Jon’s lovin': Stephen King’s End of Watch 

Why he’s lovin' it: With the summertime fast approaching, that means only one thing: summer reading! And no, you’re not required to write a 500-word report on what the significance of the deus ex machina was. The summer is an excellent time to catch up on some reading, or pick up some new books that you can read at the beach. However, every summer, there always seems to be a few books coming out that I like to call “event books.”  

An event book is when a certain author of a famed nature or author of a major series releases their next installment. One of these event books is the upcoming script release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The other book, and the focus of today’s blurb, is Stephen King’s finale to his Bill Hodges Trilogy, entitled End of Watch.

While I am only about 40-50 pages into the novel, I think we’re going to have another King classic on our hands. What I’ve loved about the other two books up until this point is how, for once, King doesn’t focus on the supernatural. Or, at least, it’s barely there. Instead, he dabbles in the pulp detective genre and it’s fascinating to see King tackle a genre we haven’t seen yet, and he does it brilliantly. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of Finders Keepers (it takes a while for it to get going), Mr. Mercedes is still one of King’s best novels to date, with the twists and turns coming at a breakneck pace. 

What’s wonderful to see in End of Watch thus far is, besides King finally giving in and making this much more supernatural than the prior installments, is how far both Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney have come. Without spoiling, there’s very much a clear character arc for both of them that’s coming full circle. However, it remains unclear whether one of them or both of them are going to make it out alive. 


What Amir’s lovin': EXO’s new album EX’ACT

Why he’s lovin' it: EXO happens to be one of the biggest groups in K-pop right now, and yet it’s their third album, EX’ACT, where they manage to prove their mastery.  Where their record shattering sophomore album EXODUS felt inconsistent and a bit overstuffed, EX’ACT manages to provide a more consistent and cohesive album while also being sonically ambitious. Where the former bored, EX’ACT excites. That’s not to say that EXODUS is a bad album, but it certainly doesn’t display the group’s ability to work at peak performance in the way that this one does. It’s hard to find harmonies this good. While EX’ACT happens to be one of the group's shorter affairs with nine songs, it proves to be a beneficial decision. Leaner, tighter, and a jam from start to finish, EXO stake their claim by putting out one of the best albums of 2016.  

“Lucky One” and “Monster” -- their lead singles -- manage to provide good pop on both sides of the spectrum. “Lucky One” brings an airy synth that pairs well with it’s funky riffs and bassline, while “Monster” provides a hard hitting foot stomp of an anthem with one of the group's best choruses. Album standouts “Artificial Love” and “They Never Know” further showcase the group branching away from generic pop to something more unique and ear-catching, akin to f(x)’s phenomenal 4 Walls.  EX’ACT can even make the clumsiest person want to get on the dance floor and the vibes that flow through the album feel good from start to finish. Even album closer and standard piano ballad “Stronger” gets points for bringing it back to basics and providing a nice release.  

It’s still arguable whether EXO are actually the best in the game right now, but it can’t be denied that they’ve managed to release a fantastic record with each member operating at peak performance. A lot of people going into this record were asking how could they top their last album. EXODUS really brought the group into stratosphere, for better or for worse. Ironically, EX’ACT brings them back down to earth, and keeps it simple; good verses, catchy choruses, and harmony. EXO haven’t just learned that less is more; they learned that sometimes it’s better. 

What Megan’s Lovin’: Now You See Me 2
Why she’s lovin’ it: Back in 2013, I had a running countdown until Now You See Me was going to hit theaters. In the midst of a hundred remakes, sequels, prequels, re-imaginings and adaptations to hit the mainstream, here was a fresh, original film that actually looked incredible. I flew to the theater the day it came out for the first showing and I was in no way disappointed. Halfway through the movie, I was screaming at how great it was and knew by the time the credits rolled that a sequel was on the way. 
When it was announced, I was so excited. The countdown started again when I saw the release date and the trailer for Now You See Me 2 and when I sat down in my cushy seat with my snack last weekend, I felt excitement fill me up. That excitement was warranted as when the movie started and it immediately drew you in, I knew it was well worth it. 
There was so much going on in this movie that proves it has its place among the successful, well-written franchises of recent memory. It’s not an adaptation of a popular series of novels, nor a TV show or reboot, but rather an entirely original piece of work that is gripping and has you on the edge of your seat. There’s humor that relies heavily on sarcasm rather than jokes, there’s heart that’s not nauseating to watch or feels like it’s just added for a romantic subplot. It’s thrilling, fast-paced and has incredible action sequences.
Not only that, but until the movie also explains how things work, you literally have no idea how it was pulled off. It’s incredible to go to a movie theater and not know how they got there. There’s no predictability, there’s no moment halfway through where you think, “God, I already knew that.” That’s part of its, for lack of a better word, magic. It never skimps on keeping the magic (both literal and figurative) alive. I love that.
And let’s not forget the cast. That was fantastic all on its own. Everyone from the first installment returned apart from Isla Fisher who was pregnant at the time of filming. However, it was fortuitous in the sense that we now get more Lizzy Caplan in our lives, and that’s never a bad thing. Another surprising addition was Daniel Radcliffe as an arrogant millionaire with an axe to grind. Or, I suppose, axes to grind.
Now You See Me 2 was well-acted, well written and well crafted. It was a ride from start to finish, much like the first one, and certainly did not disappoint. I look forward to the announcement of the next film in the series!

What are YOU lovin' this week? Sound off in the comments below!

1 comment:

  1. I also think that X-Men: Apocalypse is the best movie based on the comic book this year (I still have high expectations for suicide squad *fingers crossed*), and I fully agree with everything you said, and one of the reasons I like James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender (beyond the amazing bromance - off and on screen) it’s because I feel that for them it doesn’t matter if it's just one more blockbuster, they really worthy their performances and there’s few actors who play superheroes movies and deliver themselves to the role like them.
    And I'm looking forward to watch Now You See Me 2.

    But the best thing that I'm watching this week was Peaky Blinders, seriously, this show is worth the marathon.