(UN)POPULAR CULTURE

The home of writer & author A. J. BLACK

Welcome to June! Because there’s not enough useless information floating around on the internet, I thought I would update readers of this blog as to what I’ve watched/read over the previous month, each month, in the form of TV, movies and books.

Some of this I will have reviewed on Cultural Conversation but others I’ve just been watching for enjoyment with Mrs Black.

Let’s start this month with TV…

TV

2019 is shaping up to be quite the year for TV, ain’t it? Big shows ending, new shows starting, other shows ticking along nicely, and May had one of the biggest moments in popular culture and TV rolled into one with the final season of Game of Thrones coming to an end.

Suffice to say, GoT‘s final hurrah was as polarising as you might have expected. I did reaction pieces for each episode and one or two articles about the discussion around it but suffice to say… I really enjoyed Season 8, as a huge fan of the lore and the universe. It will be interesting to fully analyse the end of this series with distance so the best thing to do is put it in a drawer right now and revisit when we’ve had some space.

Beyond that, I finished my rewatch of Men Behaving Badly (and my retrospectives on it), finally started The Sopranos (it’s a slow binge right now, not yet finished Season 1) as part of my quest to digest the greatest American TV of the last 25 years, and completed a full first watch of The Thick of It, Armando Iannucci’s masterful British political satire; man does it hit its stride in the third and fourth seasons.

The real treat this month, however, was a surprise in Stefan Golaszewski’s three-season British comedy series Mum, which just came to a close. I didn’t write about it but it’s one of the most joyous experiences I’ve had with a TV show in years. Ostensibly about a family grieving their lost father figure, Lesley Manville’s gives a beautiful, restrained performance as an everyday middle aged widow with an assortment of relatives, with the most poised and heartfelt slow burn will they/won’t they romance with Peter Mullan’s family friend. It’s just sublime and so so well observed, with the comedy naturally occurring as opposed to feeling forced.

Seriously, don’t miss it. An absolute gem.

FILM

So I’ve gone and got back my old Cineworld Unlimited card this month. What with the summer blockbuster season heating up and all those tentpole franchise movies we’re not supposed to like because of the Disney monopoly blah blah bore, I thought I’d reinvest as I’ll be going more.

First up, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, which if you can forgive it’s needlessly laboured title is a perfectly good addendum to the thrilling Chapter 2 a couple of years ago. I reviewed it in more depth and while it’s great fun, it is little more than an extension of Chapter 2 and will need to perhaps try and pull a new trick out of the bag if Chapter 4 wants to avoid feeling stale.

The week after, I caught Rocketman from Dexter Fletcher, which it does seem everyone lived a bit more than yours truly. I enjoyed this lock and the rise and fall and recovery of Elton John perfectly well—and the songs are belter—but it’s a bit of a myopic biopic which doesn’t cut nearly as deep or as savage as it probably should have. Anyhow, more noodlings on it here…

Lastly, right at last knockings, I caught Godzilla: King of the Monsters which was… okay, so there are loads of people who love the idea of going to see a big, loud film with big monsters knocking ten colours out of each other and that’s it. This is fine but I am not one of them. Looks fantastic in places, suitably Lovecraftian which I really appreciated, and Bear McCreary’s score is brilliant, but the script is a dogs dinner. It wasn’t really for me and here’s more on why…

Outside of cinema viewings, I began a couple of rewatch projects. Firstly, in advance of Bond 25 next year, I’m going through all the 007 films slowly in order. Started this month with Dr. No from 1962 which was *way* better than I remembered from when I was younger.

I also kicked off a shorter look back at the X-Men franchise with the first, second and third movies, in advance of Dark Phoenix coming very soon. My biggest surprise was that I didn’t dislike The Last Stand as much as I imagined on this rewatch. It’s still rubbish but it’s not terrible. Honest.

BOOKS

I’ve mainly spent this month digging into some Titan Books novels I’ve been sent that I’ll be reviewing, but I’ll talk more about those next month.

Apart from that, I dug into Ian Fleming’s source novel of Doctor No as part of prep to watch the film and, well… it’s not as good as the film by any stroke. Very 50’s, quite racist. It does have some thrilling sequences but otherwise it’s not Bond at his book best.

I also dipped in and out of Alan Sepinwall & Matt Zoller Seitz’s brilliant The Sopranos Sessions, filled with episodic insights for the entirety of The Sopranos. It’s proving to be a terrific companion to watching the show. Highly recommended.

PODCASTING

Adding a new monthly section here just to talk about my podcasting endeavours from the previous month.

I tend to produce more content now generally under my We Made This banner than I actually record but I’ve still had a few fun appearances across May.

Kicked off the month with the launch of my spin off podcast to The X-Cast, The Time Is Now, talking about Millennium’s Pilot episode with Darren Mooney. I have handed over hosting and showrunning duties for this one but hugely proud of this episode and the podcast in general, which is already going great guns.

Two episodes of Between the Notes, my film score show, with Sean Wilson and this time guest Amon Warmann, who joined us for an episode talking Alan Silvestri’s Avengers: Endgame score and our top superhero movie choices. It was great to have Amon on the show and the discussion was suitably epic.

In guest appearances, I followed up the Avengers theme by discussing the biggest movie of 2019 on The 250, an excellent, in-depth movie podcast from Ireland by Darren Mooney & Andrew Quinn. We recorded it at the witching hour almost so I sound exhausted but it was a really enjoyable deep dive.

I also popped back onto the Trek FM network for the Star Trek: The Original Series show Standard Orbit with Zach Moore to discuss in more depth my misgivings with Star Trek: Discovery Season 2. This one caused a *little* bit of ire in some fan circles, mainly because we don’t simply gush over a fan favourite product. Some interesting points raised, however, and it was a great discussion.

Finally, I popped into my good friend Matt Latham’s Pick a Disc—part of the We Made This network—to talk about Lemon Jelly’s unusual album Lost Horizons, with some enjoyable anecdotes about my musical approach and some University memories thrown in. Plus we recorded this one in my living room – about as DIY as it gets!

Busy month then! See you around in June…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: