Posted in Pop Culture

Friday Favorite (aka Where I blabber about what I love): Netflix Bingeworthy- Luke Cage

Luke Cage is Netflix’s third original Marvel series after Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Mike Coulter as Cage was introduced in Jessica Jones. He has an affair with Jones’ private investigator until he discovers something from her past that connects them. I loved Jessica Jones but Luke Cage was a show I got lost in. Daredevil had Hell’s Kitchen. Cage has Harlem and it is not just a setting but a character. Every person is motivated by their place in Harlem. They love their music, their history, and their place in it. And I did too.

Like most superheroes, Luke Cage is a good man made extraordinary by life’s circumstances. He leads a quiet life in Harlem. He helps Pop (Frankie Faison) in the local barbershop, which is a go to place for all its residents, including the gangs of Harlem and their illegal deals. These crimes lead to Luke trying to save kids who have gone down the wrong path. This turns into a war between Luke and Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali) and his councilwoman cousin Mariah Hillard (Alfre Woodward). Cottonmouth runs guns and drugs but not because he wants to. He is a classically trained pianist who was put in this life at a young age and knows no other way. He will not be disrespected and his anger leads him to make bad decisions and put his club Harlem Palace at risk. Shades (Theo Rossi, aka Juice from Sons of Anarchy) steps in to help Cottonmouth. He is the true villain of this story as emotion does not affect his actions. He radiates cool. Helping Luke are two strong female characters: Misty (Simone Missick), a cop who knows there is more to Luke than he lets on, and Claire (Rosario Dawson), a nurse from Hell’s Kitchen. Both are smart and not damsels in distress, which is refreshing.

Harlem is a proud and strong city, just like Luke Cage. Historical figures such as Crispus Attucks, Jackie Robinson, and Walter Mosley are mentioned throughout the 13 episodes as reminders of what everybody is fighting for. It doesn’t matter if you are a criminal like Cottonmouth, or the much beloved Pops, or hero Cage, it is known that history is a big part of who they are and they need to always fight for it.

The scenes where we are reminded that Cage is a bulletproof is when he is being shot at by the bad guys or the guys we have come to known as good guys, the police. This is a black man in a hoodie who keeps his head down. In this day and age, that is regarded as suspicious behavior. The irony is not lost that he is trying to save the people of Harlem and is initially attacked for it.

The music of Luke Cage stands out due to its part in Harlem Palace. Cottonmouth’s club is not only a place for people to come to dance, drink, and listen to music. His dealings are done in his office that overlooks the acts performing, with his portrait of Biggie always behind him. Faith Evans, The Delfonics, and Charles Bradley are all a part of the musical lineup. My favorite cameo I won’t give away but I knew I could use it to make my husband watch the show later on.

Do yourself a favor and check out Luke Cage as your next binge. It has a story with purpose, characters that are not just black and white, and music with history. And a superhero.

I hope you have a go to list of things that make you happy and you get to enjoy them over the weekend. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Posted in Pop Culture

The Dark Knight: The Best Superhero Movie

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is my favorite superhero film. It’s what one should expect from a Batman movie: gritty, dark, worthy heroes, and scary villains. But what sets it apart from Tim Burton’s cartoonish version and Zack Snyder’s just plain ridiculous take is that it breaks your heart into a million pieces and you walk away changed.

I was not into superheroes as a kid, save for my daily Spiderman read in the local paper. When Tim Burton came out with Batman in 1989, I loved it. Burton’s use of grape purple, stark white, and kelly green against the gray bleakness of Batman’s home dare you to ignore it. Michael Keaton is a soft spoken but matter of fact Bruce Wayne. Robert Wuhl is a wisecracking reporter who works along side Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger). Jack as the Joker is immortalized (in my mind at least) as he sits next to his love Alicia Hunt (Jerry Hall) and has her put on a mask to cover up the scars he gave her. He walks the line of sanity, putting the audience on edge. I loved him for it. With Prince’s BatDance as the soundtrack, Batman is a classic 80s film.

Zack Snyder took over for Christopher Nolan after 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises was released. I was hopeful. I had seen 300 and Watchmen. Both had haunting sights and solid, dark story lines. Then Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released. The reviews were bad. Not Batman and Robin bad, but worse than Batman Forever. I love Ben Affleck. I really do. But it says something when you keep reading that his performance is the best thing about the movie. But it did give us this:

Suicide Squad was equally terrible and silly (Just NO Jared Leto, NO). Snyder produced the film. He produced the upcoming Wonder Woman and helmed this November’s Justice League. All of these have made or will make a shit ton of money. Why does it matter that the stories are borderline stupid??**

This brings me back to The Dark Knight. When it first came out I would ask those who had already seen it how it was and they would shake their heads with emotion and say, “It’s really sad.” I felt like I was prepared going in. My husband and I went with our sleeping 11 month old. For 2 ½ hours we witnessed not a great superhero film but a phenomenal film PERIOD (screw you Oscars). You come to expect good vs. evil in these type of movies. But watching our heroes break under a mad man hurt me as an audience member. It has been nine years and I can remember the third act in vivid detail like I’m still sitting in those theater seats.

Michael Keaton’s Batman with Burton’s bright and deranged setting. Nolan’s grittiness and heartbreaking storytelling. These are the elements I miss in Batman. Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) is attached to direct The Batman with Affleck starring. Now if they can just keep Zack Snyder’s mitts off of this one, maybe they could give us back a hero we can root for?

**sarcasm

Posted in Pop Culture

Friday Favorite (aka Where I blabber about what I love): WonderCon

WonderCon is Comic Con’s little brother. It doesn’t have Hall H panels of epic proportions. It doesn’t have celebrities walking the floor in Iron Man masks. WonderCon doesn’t have 130,000 attendees. You can get a hotel before it comes to Anaheim at a discounted rate, no problem. There are an abundance of cosplayers to admire and take pictures of. Artists come out to showcase their work and sell you stuff. There are smaller panels that have casts from upcoming shows and tributes to a certain princess. These are some of the reasons that my family and I attend WonderCon.

Cosplaying at WonderCon means Scarlet is poking me three days straight because of all the people dressed up as Harry Potter characters. It annoys and delights me at the same time. One, being poked. Two, it’s because she LOVES HARRY POTTER. The amount of effort they put into their costumes shows how much love they have for the character and how creative they are. We as a family spend the whole weekend pointing out all the different superheroes, Disney characters, and the Marios, Luigis, Princess Peaches, and Creepers. Scarlet even participated by wearing her Rey costume:

When we first went to WonderCon four years ago, we were treated to movie panels like The Maze Runner. Director Wes Ball, author James Dashner, and the cast all gifted us a sneak of the movie, ancedotes from being on set, and answered questions from audience members. This year we got a clip from Annabelle 2 presented by director David Sandberg (Lights Out) and footage and a chat from Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins (Monster). After sitting in WonderCon’s version of Hall H, the arena, for six plus hours hoping to get a glimpse of Gal Gadot; it was disappointing at best. We walked out feeling like an afterthought of the movie studios.  They had films coming out before Comic Con in July but didn’t care enough to promote it. Sadness aside, we did go to a panel for the CW show Riverdale. My favorite part was seeing Dylan McKay himself, Luke Perry, discussing his part:

Luke Perry

On Sunday we went to a Princess Leia tribute that was put on by the 501st Region (a super awesome organization). It consisted of fans talking about encounters they’ve had with Carrie Fisher and how she affected their lives. Everyone was heartfelt and I may have shed a few tears. Wesley said it was his favorite part of the weekend.

Leia Tribute

Walking the floor at WonderCon was Scarlet’s favorite part. Walking the floor to her means spending money (we seriously spent $22 on buttons at one booth). I love seeing all of the artists’ interpretations of pop culture. There are the usual Disney, Marvel and DC pictures. This year we found Hamilton pictures and postcards. Scarlet tried to convince me to buy a six foot tall picture of Lafayette riding into battle (nice try kid). Brian Kesinger is a Disney story artist who created the Star Wars/Calvin and Hobbes mashup last year. We have a couple of his prints and were able to tell him at WonderCon how much we loved his work. He was incredibly nice, humble, and took pictures with us.

Brian Kesinger

In addition to what all WonderCon has to offer, we love staying at a hotel for a couple of days. My kids would live in the pool if we let them so as soon as we check in they are asking to get in their bathing suits. Eating out, not having to make beds, and looking out the window where we had a Superman’s view of the cosplayers and food trucks make it a mini vacation that prepares us for summer.

WonderCon 2017 was fun. We got what we have come to expect (cosplay, good food, smaller but still entertaining panels). The best part for me is hanging out with my favorite people. We yell, Wesley’s allergies gave him the worst case of sniffles we all had to endure at night, and we sometimes let negativity drag us down (Never figured out what the hell the red stain was on our hotel room wall). But I love them with everything I have and it is always a blast, no matter what.

WonderCon Family

I hope you have a go to list of things that make you happy and you get to enjoy them over the weekend. Thanks for reading!

Posted in Word Therapy

Happy Birthday You Sexy Bitch

Dear You,

Today you are two 21 year olds. You don’t feel any different. When you hit 40 it started to feel like you were running out of time and two years later you are still fighting that battle. The jowls are coming in as fast as the facial hair. Acceptance is slow coming despite all the damn Buzzfeed articles that say it is inevitable once you hit the four O. You still feel like a bad mother at the end of the day but always tell yourself tomorrow is a new day. You are writing more and that helps with the anxiety. And you have finally started to not be so hard on yourself because you know that is key to not being so hard on your kids.

It’s never been about how pretty you are.  But these days it’s more about how healthy you are and less about how  you look.  Sunscreen and baseball hats are non negotiable when you are outside. The stretchy jeans are starting to get a little tight so you might want to cut down on the 9 pm cookies. You considered retiring your bikini this year but decided that as long as you work out five days a week, you’re going to rock it. And don’t forget that yoga and meditation fixes everything.

Self awareness is a wonderful thing, positive or negative, it doesn’t matter. You can’t seem to hold onto female friendships and that’s okay. Don’t blame yourself for every little thing. You’re loud, opinionated, and strong. Not a lot of people can handle that. It’s not that you’re too much, it’s that they’re not enough. You have accepted that anxiety is a part of your life. But it will not control you. Don’t forget that, especially when you feel it trying to take over.

Motherhood is still and always will be hard. One day you will feel like you didn’t do something that your kids will talk about in therapy when they are older. You love your kids so much more than you ever thought you could. They are becoming their own persons and letting go of the control is becoming easier. Imperfectly made beds, wrinkled laundry from little hands folding it, and bedrooms cleaned but not to your Monica Gellar standards are all fine. They fight nonstop, as expected. This week’s spring break is a 5K and a sign of what’s to come. Summer will be the marathon and you can do it. It will involve a lot of swimming, deep breaths, and focusing on the end game: the first day of school (keep that vodka chilled).

Writing is still going. You reach for your notebook more than you don’t and that is a good thing. Don’t stop. You know that it helps. You know that you are meant to be a writer, even though you are always fighting those voices who tell you it’s too late. Keep going. It will be worth it.

Your goals before your next birthday are simple. You want to be paid to write. Hike more and learn to speak Spanish seem reasonable. And to certify your old lady status, you want to plant flowers and thrift furniture to refinish.

Happy birthday lady. You’ve come this far. Keep going. It will be okay.

 

Love,

Birthday picture

Me

Posted in Health, Wellness

Friday Favorite (aka Where I blabber about what I love): Hiking

The weather is hot and dry. The grass is making the girl’s eyes water and her throat itchy. She pulls on her grape bubblegum shorts. Her paper white unicorn shirt with rainbow hearts and cap sleeves doesn’t have dirt on it yet. She looks at the ladybug crawling up a dandelion. “Stephanie! Look alive!” The girl “humphed” in reply. Her coach signaled at her, pointing to the middle of the field. God she hated soccer.

I was not sporty or athletic growing up. I sucked at soccer as a child even though I played for eight years. I think it was a combination of being awkward, clumsy, and not wanting to play. Like Danny Zuko, I am not a team sports person (this also could be said about life in general). I was the cliché student that got picked last for P.E. If there was a game going on and I was walking nearby, there was a 99.99999% chance that a flying ball would hit me in the head. I still duck at sporting events.

Fast forward to my late 20s. I decided to try yoga due to carpel tunnel syndrome in both of my hands. It worked and I found that I loved pushing my body by stretching. Five years after that I started cardio. I don’t love it but it helped me maintain my weight after I had kids. Add running and Pilates as a last ditch effort to stop aging before my 40th birthday and I now have a well rounded regimen of exercising.

All of this has helped me become strong and fit. But I don’t clap my hands in glee when I am about to workout. When my family and I went hiking behind our neighborhood last October, I thought it would be a small workout and I would have to still run and do yoga after wards. But we all found that we really liked it. We all came home filthy and I didn’t care (okay, maybe a little). We have gone to Joshua Tree and Walker Canyon since then and I find myself wanting to vacation at National Parks like Yellowstone and Zion (preferably before the current dumbass administration destroys them).

Joshua Tree 1

I hope you have a go to list of things that make you happy and you get to enjoy them over the weekend. Thanks for reading!

Posted in Pop Culture, Word Therapy

Woman Crush Wednesday: Elisabeth Moss

Zoey Bartlet. Peggy Olson. Robin. All of these ladies are characters that Elisabeth Moss has brought to life and left an impression on viewers of The West Wing, Mad Men, and Top of the Lake. She has also stood out in films like The One I Love and Queen of Earth. With her new Hulu TV show The Handmaid’s Tale based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel debuting at the end of April, I want you to see why Elisabeth Moss is one of my lady crushes.

I discovered Miss Moss when I watched Aaron Sorkin’s political drama The West Wing. The show chronicled Martin Sheen as President Bartlet and his administration. Elisabeth played his daughter Zoey. Her part was not a large one but every time she was on camera she demanded your attention with her toughness and intelligence. When she began a relationship with one of her dad’s staff members, Charlie Young (Dule Hill), I fell in love with him and rooted for their relationship because of her.

I didn’t watch Mad Men along with the rest of America on AMC when it aired from 2007-2015. I binged it the summer of 2015 and kicked myself for waiting so long. Jon Hamm is the dreamy but kind of an asshole Don Draper, Christina Hendricks is the gorgeous and standoffish Joan Harris, and Elisabeth Moss is our every girl Peggy Olson. We watch Peggy start at the bottom of ad agency Sterling Cooper as Don’s secretary. By the time we say goodbye to her at the end of the show it is the beginning of the 1970s, Peggy is a well respected ad executive and she finally admits to herself that she is in love with Stan (Jay R. Ferguson). Moss made Peggy a woman that we could relate to but also admired. When she stumbled we cringed but understood when she made the wrong choices. When she stood up in a room full of men and made her voice heard, I wanted to pump my fist in the air. When I first tried to watch the show when it aired, I couldn’t get past how Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) talked to Peggy in the first episode. His chauvinism made my skin crawl. I now know that Peggy only put up with that for so long and showed him how fierce she could be.

In Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake, Elisabeth plays Robin. She is a police detective who has come home to take care of her sick mother. The show is set in New Zealand and Moss nails the subtlety of the accent. The story is a dark affair with her getting involved on the case of a missing pregnant teen. Robin’s personal life is crumbling around her so she does what she shouldn’t: She ignores her estranged fiance and falls back into the arms of her ex, Johnno (Thomas M. Wright, unrecognizable from his role on The Bridge), fights with her mom, and takes on the local family of criminals who are connected to the missing girl. Robin’s face disguises everything she is feeling but her eyes can’t hide the pain she is enduring. Top of the Lake is a showcase for the actress and she gifts us with a performance that even outshines fellow cast member Oscar winner Holly Hunter.

Two movies of Elisabeth’s that have flown under the radar are The One I Love and Queen of Earth. The One I Love is about a married couple having problems and getting away to a cabin at the recommendation of their therapist (Ted Danson). Elisabeth plays Sophie and is married to Ethan (Mark Duplass). What happens shortly after they arrive at the cabin would give away the twist so I will just say that the story has stayed with me since I saw it last year. Moss’s Sophie is hurting and reacts by being bitchy and pushing Ethan away. Anybody that has been in a long term relationship can relate to the moments these two endure. Queen of Earth I found on many best of lists and decided to give it a try after seeing that it had a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. When I saw that it had a 1 star rating by a user on Netflix, I realized this wasn’t going to be a fun weekend with best friends kind of movie. And that is an understatement. Elisabeth and Katherine Waterston play Catherine and Virginia. Their friendship is toxic. Their conversations are mostly them hurling insults or calling each other out on bad behavior. Catherine has just lost her father to a car accident and her boyfriend has dumped her. Virginia’s family is never fully explained except that they are not good people. Catherine looks like a doll with a shaggy blonde bob, crystal blue eyes, and a small eagle nose. She is cute and sexy. Virginia is her opposite. She is tall and thin with straight long brown hair. She gives ominous stares that remind you of Samara from The Ring. They are at Virginia’s family’s cabin. The aesthetic has a 70s glow but it is meant to unnerve, not comfort. It is reminiscent of Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock. The film follows Catherine’s breakdown and begs more questions than answers. Moss’s performance is what kept me watching as the film can be tedious and sometimes painful to watch. Nobody is likeable (even co-star Patrick Fugit, who I still adore from Almost Famous). I know all of this isn’t a ringing endorsement for the movie but I can honestly say I experienced it because of  Elisabeth.

Elisabeth Moss has gone from Zoey Bartlet to her new role as Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale over the past 18 years. She can play sexy, smart, bitchy, quiet, etc. All of these women have one characteristic in common: They are all powerful. I can’t wait for April 26th to watch her bring to life the main character from one of my all time favorite books. And I hope this makes you want to check out at least one of her many roles.

*All of these shows and both movies are available on Netflix

Posted in Pop Culture, Word Therapy

March is the New July (Throwback Post)

You guys. I know a lot about movies. So much that I don’t mind be called a movie snob. I have watched enough that if Blockbuster was still around, I would be THAT person approaching customers and telling them what they should be watching. I want everybody I talk to to feel the joy that I experienced watching Sing Street. Or the heartbreak that came with The Dark Knight (my most favorite superhero film). Or the terror I felt when the hubby and I watched Babadook. I like to feel the gambit of emotions when I watch film. It’s an addiction.

Four years ago I decided to write a post about how March is the New July. More and more the month of the beginning of Spring was featuring films that could be blockbusters outside of summer. The Hunger Games debuted in March of 2012, continuing the YA film craze that Twilight started. Other films such as Alice in Wonderland and Watchmen made a lot at the box office, defying predictions.

Movies premiering in March of 2013 showed a lot of promise. Oz the Great and Powerful with James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Michelle Williams showed fantastic visuals, some humor, and a spin on a classic story. Jack the Giant Slayer was directed by Bryan Singer and starred Nicholas Hoult. And last but not least, The Host. The Host was a YA book written by Stephenie Meyer of Twilight fame. I had read the book and loved it. I was excited for all three films and predicted they would do great. I should have kept my big mouth shut.

Two of the three films ended with awful reviews. Jack the Giant Slayer currently has a 52% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making it Rotten on the Fresh/Rotten Scale. The Host is at 8%. The final summarized review for The Host said it had “moments of intentional hilarity” in it. OUCH. Oz the Great and Powerful fared the best at 59%. Oz was the only one I dared to watch. It was also the only one that did well at the box office. Mila Kunis is a little too over the top, James Franco is just not strong enough to be Oz, and Michelle Williams is at her meekest (but looks gorgeous in the costumes). It was disappointing at best. I tried watching Jack the Giant Slayer on cable and it didn’t hold my attention. And I didn’t even attempt The Host for fear that it would ruin the book for me. Since then I haven’t tried to predict what movies will do well other than the obvious: Marvel, Star Wars, and DC (no matter how awful it is).

When I saw the March line up for this year, I was excited. But I didn’t want to get TOO excited. Logan looked like a completely different type of X-Men movie, but in a good way. Kong: Skull Island showed potential. Beauty and the Beast is directed by Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) and stars Miss Hermione Granger herself, Emma Watson. And at the end of the month is Power Rangers.

I so wanted to do a new post but didn’t want to jinx these movies. Logan got awesome reviews and kicked ass at the box office. This past weekend Kong also made a lot of money. I have no doubt that Beauty and the Beast will do great. But the movie I am excited for the most and also worried for is Power Rangers.

Remember how awful the Power Rangers show was? I do. I never thought in a million years that I would be excited for a movie about them. But then I saw the trailer. It looked fun, the cast are cute and charismatic, and Bill Hader and Bryan Cranston are with the good guys. But the best part? Elizabeth Banks as villainess, Rita Repulsa. She looks campy and scary, Effie Trinket’s evil alien twin sister. The more over the top she is, the better.

So I will be sitting here with my fingers and toes crossed, waiting for that move review embargo to be lifted and hope that Power Rangers gets the love I want it to receive.