Friday, November 25, 2016

November 2016 Pop Culture Roundup

Five items for November...

1. Of course, I've been watching season 7 of The Walking Dead the past month and a half. There are still several episodes to go, but the show has definitely made a significant pivot from the prior seasons of Rick and his group meandering around the countryside trying to find a safe haven while fending off the occasional human antagonist. Now we have multiple established communities, one of them a significant threat to the others. Having kept up with the source material, I knew this shift in storytelling was coming, and I wasn't sure how it would translate to the screen. So far it's been enjoyable--the events of the first episode notwithstanding--but at this juncture I'm starting to wonder how much further the show will go before deciding it's time to reach a conclusion. Not that I'm pining for an ending, mind you. I'm just starting to ask how many more seasons the show has and how they'll proceed. Then again, some TV dramas go on for 12-15 years, so maybe we'll be at this for quite a while yet.

2. We saw Doctor Strange this month, the latest chapter in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Benedict Cumberpatch is the title character, a talented, intelligent, and arrogant surgeon whose hands (and career) are damaged in a car accident. His search for healing eventually leads to the Ancient One, who teaches him how to bend reality, travel dimensions, and cast spells with the power of his mind. As his powers grow, he finds himself needing to help fight a group that worships the Dark Dimension and wants Earth to become a part of it. As MCU movies go, this had the usual hallmarks of top-notch effects, humor, and a Stan Lee cameo. I wouldn't list it among my favorite offerings, but it was still excellent.

3. I watched the Netflix original movie Mascots this month, the latest offering from the cast that brought us mockumentaries Best in Show and A Mighty Wind. This time around, we get to follow around various characters as they prepare for a big annual mascot competition, complete with plenty of absurd, offbeat humor kept just believable enough for maximum ridiculousness. Still, I thought it was a few steps below their previous work. In particular it seemed to follow a similar formula as Best in Show with diminishing returns; when you do the same thing a second time it loses its effectiveness. Still, there were plenty of laughs and cringe-worthy moments, even if it doesn't quite measure up to what came before.

4. I've been excited about Abney Park's newest album, Under the Floor, Over the Wall. They bring more of the same eclecticism to this as in previous efforts. The song I've been most captivated by is "His Imaginary World," which is a boy who finds escape from harsh realities through his imagination. The video is just as beautiful as the song:

5. It took me long enough, but I've been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack quite a bit this month. I first heard it months ago and was very impressed by it, but didn't get into it at the time the way others have. With the news of Lin Manuel-Miranda releasing a Hamilton Mixtape featuring a lot of artists covering the songs, I revisited it and now it's much more absorbed into my brain. I like the original cast recording, but from what I've heard I'm really looking forward to the Mixtape as well. Here's the Mixtape version of "My Shot" featuring The Roots, Busta Rhymes, and others: