Welcome back to What’s the Buzz, 25YL’s feature where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. In our internet age, there is so much out there to think about watching, reading, listening to, etc., that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, filter out the noise, or find those diamonds in the rough. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do that thing I just described with three different metaphors. Each week a rotating cast of writers will offer their recommendations based on things they have discovered. They won’t always be new to the world, but they’ll be new to us, or we hope new to you. This week’s entries come from: Laura Stewart, J.C. Hotchkiss, Paul Billington, Anthony Divers, Bryan O’Donnell, Martin Hearn, and Brien Allen.
Laura: This week I have been mostly listening to “Lux Prima” by Karen O & Danger Mouse. It is the first track to be released from their forthcoming joint album of the same name, which is to be released March 15th. If the rest of the album is anything like this beauty, we’ll be in for a treat. With lashings of Pink Floyd-esque riffs and Air like synths that swarm around your brain, plus hints of Portishead and Goldfrapp, it is quite majestic. This tune should be the theme to a movie—an Argento would work perfectly, a Lynch without question, or maybe even a Bond film. Karen O really shows her vocal versatility here. To be honest on first hearing I had no idea it was her, but after further listens her unique voice shines through but with such sweetness. The second single from the album was released this week. “Woman” is much shorter than “Lux Prima” and Karen O’s voice is far more what we are accustomed to hearing from the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s singer, but it holds the same ’60s feel—foot stomping drums that could be taken from Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” and backing singers to rival The Shangri-Las. If “Lux Prima” is Lost Highway, then “Woman” is Mulholland Drive, which is pretty, pretty good.
Anthony: I recently binge watched Titans on Netflix, a modern take on a classic DC theme. I was put off this initially after losing all hope halfway through Gotham. That show had such potential and started really strong, but eventually it got ridiculous and I had to walk away. I love Batman too much for that nonsense. So when I heard about Titans I thought, “Oh great. Another DC story ruined for TV.” How wrong I was. Titans tells the story of a disillusioned Dick Grayson, no longer Batman’s sidekick, and now working as a detective in Detroit. At night he still dons the Robin suit and takes to the streets for vengeance, but he no longer works for Batman or his rules. Dick is violent, dangerously so, and clearly has a lot of anger for the Bat. As the show progresses, he joins forces with a handful of other DC legends, including Starfire and for a short while his replacement, Jason Todd, the teenager chosen by Bruce Wayne to be his new Robin.
Reaching the finale of Titans, I found myself not wanting it to end yet. The show does have it’s downsides—some questionable CGI, some wooden acting, and an issue I had personally with the closing scene (I recently found out there was another episode that was cut which partly explains why I disliked the ending)—but overall, Titans was a fun ride, and as a Batman fan I found the first 90% of the finale a lot of fun. The show has drawn some negative feedback from some fans who don’t like that Starfire was cast as a black woman. I don’t personally know Starfire’s backstory in the comics, but in the show she was my favourite character and I thought the casting was spot on. Most of my favourite scenes included her with a kick ass soundtrack backing her up. She was the best actor, had the best costumes, and also had the best special power. I don’t want to spoil anything as I went in only knowing Dick Grayson’s back story, and I found it satisfying to learn about the others as the story develops. So if you’re a fan of DC or even just Batman, I think you’ll get a lot out of this show. It’s dark, mysterious and stylish. And the soundtrack is awesome. What more can you ask for?
JC: Lately television has been more my medium than film. Actually television has always been my choice of medium. Having a five-year-old, I have wanted to set a good example to make sure he won’t become the couch potato I was as a child. Luckily he likes to play more games and is not hooked to the tube as much as I was at his age. Finding anything new and original can be madding with all the different channels and streaming services out there, so color me crazy that when I sat down in front of my TV on Sunday night and found a highly enjoyable program on PBS, I was shocked. Not because it was PBS, I love PBS.
A little show called Stories from the Stage happened to be on. Storytellers are given a topic, and then speak to that topic in front of an audience. There is also a pre-stage interview with the host so you can learn more about the storyteller. The episode that I happened to see was called “Wanderlust” and it was from Season 1 of the show. The three storytellers varied from a trip to Ohio to realize the depth of a mother’s love, a wacky ghost haunting trip to Kentucky, and a musician finding grace on stage in Des Moines. There are two seasons so far. It’s a wonderful half hour of storytelling with people from all walks of life, sharing a little piece of their life stories. It felt like an updated A Prairie Home Companion type show. It was truly an enjoyable piece of television that you should check out.
Bryan: Last weekend I found myself sucked into watching Valley of the Boom, a new National Geographic show that focuses on the Gold Rush-like frenzy that surrounded the tech industry in the early 1990s. Half documentary, half drama, Valley of the Boom stars Bradley Whitford, Steve Zahn, and others reenacting the origins of three tech companies: Netscape, TheGlobe.com, and Pixelon. Splicing real interviews of tech employees with reenactments is a bit odd, and at times cheesy (e.g., the ’90s-style “rap battle” and an interpretive dance), but I give the show points for trying. It’s only a six-episode run, so I intend on sticking with it, if mostly to see how and why the three companies eventually fall. Also, Zahn as Michael Fenne is unpredictably crazy and I want to see how much havoc he creates before he crashes and burns. If you were a fan of the subject matter and era of Halt and Catch Fire, you might enjoy this show. But don’t expect it to be as good.
Paul: The Haunting of Hill House. So, I didn’t miss all the buzz surrounding this one, but with other shows vying for my attention it didn’t become a priority. Plus, I am perhaps not the greatest fan mainstream horror ever had. I prefer the David Lynch way of building fear and hitting you in the gut (BOB anyone?) or the psychological chill of The Silence of the Lambs or perhaps Seven..So I did kind of resist this show. We even covered it here and I avoided everyone’s work on it till now. But with so much positive word of mouth, I have finally taken the plunge.
So The Haunting of Hill House has scares, yes, but it also has a wonderfully well considered narrative, and some great character-driven drama that almost eclipses the whole ghost-littered backdrop. But as the title suggests, these characters are haunted by more than spectres—by the past, by their own demons, by words unsaid and deeds denied. It’s fascinating, captivating and devastating.
Two quick things…Everyone talked about “that car scene,” and even though I had heard about it, it still completely turned my hair temporarily white! And the best episode? For me, it’s Nell’s story. That final string of images, the Bent-Neck Lady…Chilling, and one of the saddest endings I’ve seen for a long, long time. That’s the one that remains with me at 2am when I can’t sleep. That sadness and that revelation.
Brien: My latest obsession at work has been to peruse the halls of YouTube for full album playlists from the 1970s and ’80s. We’re talking here about bands like Queen, Styx, Erasure, Book of Love, etc. A bit of a wide net perhaps, but eventually my course veered off into soundtrack territory and I wound up on Xanadu. The movie came out in 1980 and featured Olivia Newton-John as one of the Greek muses, coming to life to help an artist restore an old night club into a disco dance hall/roller rink. Probably the most 1980s thing you’ll ever see, but it didn’t fare well then and it probably hasn’t aged well since.
But the soundtrack. Oh, the soundtrack. When released on vinyl, the concept was that one side featured ONJ, and the other side featured Electric Light Orchestra, who just happen to be one of my all-time favorite bands. Where the movie flopped back in the day, the soundtrack soared, hitting #4 on the Billboard’s album chart (#1 in several other countries) and sporting 6 of its 10 songs as chart topping singles worldwide as well, including “Magic” (#1 in the US) and “Xanadu” (#1 in the UK). On the ONJ side, she also featured Cliff Richard (of “Devil Woman” fame), the Tubes, and Gene Kelly (yes, Singing in the Rain’s Gene Kelly, who played the final film role of his illustrious career in this movie). The ELO side is like this perfect little mini-album and features some of my favorite ELO songs, like “I’m Alive” and “All Over the World”.
I’m not done with this particular rabbit trail; not until I’ve rewatched the movie (I just have to now) and managed to hunt down the album on vinyl (I think this is one I’ve got to have, as long as it’s not too expensive). I don’t want to overhype it; it’s a solidly good album and it reminds me of that time in my childhood. Clocking in at just over 41 minutes, it’s worth a listen while you’re sitting there writing that TPS Report.
Martin: It’s been over 20 years since the original Resident Evil 2 launched on the PS1 and this week we get the remake we’ve all been yearning for as it releases on next gen consoles this Friday. Resident Evil is the game series that launched the survival horror genre and few other games have come close to matching this amazing series. I’ve played every game in the franchise to death and pretty much know them—the lore, the puzzles, and more—inside out, so I cannot wait to get stuck into something new. Despite being a remake, the main story is being retold in a new way, new areas have been added, old puzzles have been given an update to stop us original fans from solving them with ease, and it looks absolutely stunning.
It’s been a while since we had a new Resident Evil game, especially a remake of an original, and considering how positive the early reviews are I just know I’m going to come away from this one really happy. Hopefully it leads to them remaking other favourites such as Nemesis and Code Veronica. Give it a try and see how the Raccoon City outbreak actually began.
So those are our recommendations this week! What are yours? Let us know what you’ve recently discovered in the comments, or on social media!