Welcome back! (I’m just going to assume you read this feature every week). On a lark, we’ve decided to change the name. As always, though, what you’ll find in this space are recommendations from members of our staff (all of whom have impeccable taste). Sometimes these will be things that are new to the world, but often they won’t be. Either way, they’ll be things we think are worth your time, from TV shows to films, books, podcasts, games, music, and whatever else our writers are in the mood to recommend. This week, Brien’s been sucked into That Dirty Black Bag, Tim delights in Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Paul recommends Sword of Trust, and Jay enjoys the creeping terror of the music video for “The Half Rising Man” from Absent in Body.
TV Recommendation: That Dirty Black Bag
Brien Allen: I love when I stumble onto a great series by total accident, especially when that series is airing weekly and hasn’t wrapped up yet. A random post in my feed from a Preacher group popped up last Sunday, recommending this show called That Dirty Black Bag. Weird name for a show, I thought, and the poster didn’t really say anything more about it, but I decided to check it out. Turns out the show is amazeballs.
That Dirty Black Bag is a spaghetti western airing on AMC+, which has a strong tradition of westerns. In fact, they seem to be relying on that fact alone to promote this series. I’ve seen next to no chatter about the series—no podcasts, no Facebook groups, one (maybe two) YouTube reviews, and a single Reddit sub that was hastily stood up the week after the premiere episode aired. More people should be talking about this show.
The Preacher connection is Dominic Cooper, who played the title role in that series and here plays the sheriff of an inappropriately named town of Greenvale. This classic old West town used to be a farming community until a gold rush swept through five years prior. Now, both the gold and the rain have dried up, making water a more valuable commodity than whiskey. The series also stars Douglas Booth as bounty hunter Red Bill, Niv Sultan as business owner Eve, Paterson Joseph as land baron Thompson, and Travis Fimmel (from another favorite of mine, Raised by Wolves) as Civil War veteran/bounty hunter Anderson.
If this were just a run-of-the-mill western, I wouldn’t be much interested, but there is so much more to this show. Four out of eight episodes have aired as I’m writing this, and each one peels back another layer of the onion on a show that clearly has a rich mythology. The pilot alone ends with three different substantial reveals that leave you going “wow.” There is definitely a supernatural element to the goings-on, with just a touch of steampunk thrown in for good measure.
The showrunners promise a three-season arc for the show, though I have no idea how committed AMC is to that plan. This is why more people need to be watching and talking about it. This series cannot be allowed to die on the vine! So, you have your homework, go watch it now and get hooked like me.
Gaming Recommendation: Kirby and the Forgotten Land
Timothy Glaraton: While my colleagues (and seemingly everyone else) might be losing hours getting wrapped up in FromSoftware’s Elden Ring, my gaming tastes at the moment have led me to slightly greener pastures.
The Switch era has been somewhat of a hot streak for Nintendo’s first-party titles. Games like Pokemon Legends: Arceus, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Super Mario Odyssey are all pushing iconic IPs in exciting new directions, and Kirby and the Forgotten Land is so far looking to be another strong entry in this same vein.
If I only had one word to describe Kirby and the Forgotten Land, it would be “delightful.” It might take place in the ruins of a mysterious, seemingly post-apocalyptic world, but just about every aspect of this game so far has brought a smile to my face, whether it’s the happy little dance that Kirby does at the end of each successfully completed level or the section where I consumed a roller coaster car and rode it around a track in order to free one of the many captive Waddle Dees you’re meant to free. The game is practically stuffed to the brim with these whimsical touches, and each new one you discover is its own little reward.
In gameplay terms, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is closely related to Super Mario 3D Land, a Wii U title that thankfully made its way onto Switch recently—unlike some of the more egregious absences that still remain in the Switch’s lineup (seriously out of all the Zelda titles to bring to Switch Nintendo decided that SKYWARD SWORD was the one we needed instead of Twilight Princess or Wind Waker COME ON). Back on topic, both games follow a similar flow of shorter, self-contained levels, with a heavy emphasis on exploration while making use of a multitude of power-ups to make your way through the world.
I will say it’s been a remarkably easy game so far—even on the harder difficulty, I made it through two entire worlds without perishing once, and even when I did it was simply a loss of some coins and then I was back on my merry way. The low difficulty will be a knock for some, but it’s something I can personally appreciate as someone who no longer gets particularly excited about hours-long gaming sessions or difficulty levels that make me want to pull my hair out at times. Like most of Nintendo’s games made for the Switch, Kirby and the Forgotten Land feels like it was designed with the idea of working around my time instead of consuming it—a level or two before work, fifteen minutes or so when I need a break from writing for the day. I’m certainly having a grand old time exploring this new world, but the game never feels like it’s trying to push me into getting lost in it for hours on end—even though it’s one that I expect I’ll be going back to time and time again.
Film Recommendation: Sword of Trust
Paul Keelan: Here’s another underseen indie gem. It also deserves posthumous recognition—given it is the final writing and directing credit for Mumblecore-queen Lynn Shelton. The zany and metaphorically rich plot involves a pawnshop owner, Mel (Marc Maron), who becomes embroiled in a series of crazy shenanigans after a couple, Mary (Michaela Watkins) and Cynthia (Jillian Bell), try to sell him an antique sword.
The crux of the predicament is simple—the sword is purportedly a family relic inherited from General Sherman of the Civil War and was passed down with a letter arguing the Confederacy was victorious. Mel doesn’t buy the story but finds a YouTube clip of a conspiratorial figure proselytizing that the South won the war. They reach out to this figure hoping to exploit the generous sums of money he’s supposedly willing to dish out for Confederate-related Civil War artifacts.
Sword of Trust is led by a brilliantly acerbic performance by Marc Maron. His signature cantankerousness mixed with incisive sarcasm and honesty is on full display. The setting and farcical plot developments pair perfectly with Maron’s cynical political stance. Set in Birmingham, AL, and yet somehow believable (jaded hipsters like Maron are in every city these days), the film works well as a thinly veiled parable on the post-truth insanity of modern-day America.
Everyone in Sword of Trust essentially wants to make a buck. The sophistry and clever machinations deployed in the name of this craven pursuit are hilarious. In the end, Sword of Trust is about how far down the far-right rabbit hole one might go under the spell of transactional economics (hustling, grifting, pawning). And as the everyday greed of normal citizens devolves into chaos, duplicity, misinformation, and real-life danger, the pitfalls of a profit-based mentality become all the more conspicuous.
Music Video Recommendation: Absent in Body, “The Half Rising Man”
Jay Rohr: Absent in Body recently unleashed the music video for “The Half Rising Man”. An unsettling nightmare dripping with cosmic dread, it cements a place in the pantheon of videos that are truly haunting. From the first out-of-focus frame to the final clear image of a figure hanging from hooks, it stirs the soul on a variety of levels, not least of which is fear. Some will likely scoff saying they don’t find it scary, but not all terror is readily apparent in the moment. “The Half Rising Man” is a horror seed that infects the mind, and those not bothered by a viewing may soon find their dreams poisoned when it blossoms.
The solid thud of a single drumbeat opens the scene. However, there’s nothing to see except dingy white and fuzzy grey. Images resolve into focus like some cursed witness awakening perceiving glimpses of something disquieting. Shredded filthy cloth wraps a deformed figure. Eventually, the disturbing living statue is revealed. Large hooks hold open the being’s mouth, while wires woven throughout this strange entity attach it to hanging bones. And this is only the beginning.
“The Half Rising Man” isn’t like the frenetic fever dreams unleashed by Darko US, where hideous surreal imagery overwhelms like a bad acid trip during a meth bender. What Absent in Body have conjured here is a more subdued yet haunting horror. It lingers long after one stops watching, tempting another glimpse. Furthermore, the absence of any perceivable narrative compels the imagination to compose its own nightmare which is always more disconcerting.
At the risk of using anecdotal evidence, I was watching this music video on my phone at a dive bar. Some stranger seated next to me glanced over. After a moment of watching “The Half Rising Man”, they got up and moved several seats away.
The fourth video from Absent in Body, part of the buildup to the release of their debut album Plague God, “The Half Rising Man” is an atmospheric onslaught of industrial post-metal sludge. Though that said, no labels can prepare for the dread inherent when the abhorrent living statue, portrayed and designed by artist Louis Fleischauer, moves its mouth as if reciting lyrics. The slow build of the song is akin to nerves set aflame like fuse wire burning down to an explosion. This is the kind of single that ensnares audiences.
Absent in Body is an international supergroup amalgamating the skills of several heavy metal powerhouses. Combining the talents of “Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Mathieu Vandekerckhove (Syndrome/Amenra), Colin H Van Eeckhout (Amenra/CHVE) & Iggor Cavalera (Ex-Sepultura)” they’ve crafted something special. Each individual shines in their role, especially the thought-provoking lyrics provided by Eeckhout. When the living statue sings, “I am chosen but broken,” then later, “Our days to come and feel free decide the depth of my grave” it gives each listener their own glimpse through a glass darkly, seemingly courtesy of some abyssal entity.
Have recommendations for us? Let us know in the comments!