Kareem's Weekend Boost (Dec. 17-19)
What to Watch, Read, or Listen to This Weekend
It’s crunch time for holiday shoppers, whether you’re doing it online or in stores. Plus, there’s all the preparation for families descending on each other. So, here I am this week with some de-stressing entertainment suggestions to help you get through it all.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
The only thing I love more than time-travel stories are multi-verse stories in which other possible worlds overlap into each other. There’s something thrilling in seeing a character confront different versions of themself and realize just how narrow our life path is compared to all the possible paths. That’s the basic premise of Spider-Man: No Way Home, the third installment in the latest Spider-Man movie series.
I recently rewatched the three Tobey Maguire versions and found they held up pretty well—better than the Andrew Garfield versions. Tobey’s Spider-Man was just the right combination of nerdy brain, socially inept dork, and insecure-but-committed superhero. But there was a little too much campiness in the side characters like J. Jonah Jamison, the landlord, and others that made it less compelling. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man hits some of those same Peter Parker character notes but everything is much more realistic and believable.
This time, trying to erase the events from the Spider-Man: Far from Home in which his secret identity was revealed to the world, Spider-Man enlists the help of Dr. Strange to hocus-spocus it all away. Of course, things go terribly wrong and the multi-universes collide, bringing back Spidey’s old foes like Dr. Octopus, Green Goblin, and more. It’s all delightful fun filled with nostalgic joys and exciting new twists.
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Jesup Wagon by James Brandon Lewis and the Red Lily Quintet
The gorgeous album cover alone hints at the magnificent work of art that awaits you from these seven tracks and two poems inspired by Black Renaissance Man, George Washington Carver. To create these tracks, saxophonist James Brandon Lewis read biographies of Carver, impressed by the breadth and depth of the man’s knowledge and interests, far beyond what we’ve been taught in school. Carver was also a passionate musician and artist as well as scientist and educator. I find the album bold, celebratory, and joyous.
Here’s “Lowlands of Sorrow” (couldn’t find a video from the album that would play here). The moment you start playing it, your body will begin to move in rhythm.
Here’s an interview with Lewis about the album:
Get Jesup Wagon here.
Joe Pickett (Spectrum)
Joe Pickett is based on C.J. Box’s series of mystery novels about a park ranger and family man facing dead bodies and hostile locals. I didn’t know what to expect from a Spectrum Original series but was pleasantly surprised to find the writing, acting, and production values first-rate. Pickett isn’t the lone wolf, strong silent type cowboy like Longmire (a show I also like), he’s more contemplative, troubled by his past with his violent father, and struggling to be a good father, husband, and get along with the locals, which includes a combative sheriff and his doofus deputy.
One of the best parts is how he and his very pregnant wife, a former lawyer, work together to solve the main murder mystery. Their relationship is realistic and charming. I like mysteries set in small towns with an eccentric population because it reflects how we all have to find ways to not just co-exist, but push ourselves to empathize with others.
Orphan X series by Greg Hurwitz
Prodigal Son is the sixth book in the Orphan X series about a retired government assassin who was part of a secret government program to train orphaned children to become ruthless operatives. Evan Smoak now operates like the Equalizer, using his skills to help those deserving people facing overwhelming odds. The premise is familiar, but Hurwitz is a superior writer who makes this work on several levels. Smoak’s desire to redeem himself for past misdeeds as well as start a normal life with a woman district attorney and her young son brings stakes and emotion to the otherwise exciting plots. In this novel, Smoak has to help is estranged mother, whom he hasn’t seen since being dropped on the steps of the orphanage. Riveting.
Here’s an interview with Greg Hurwitz about Prodigal Son.
Get novel here.
READ (graphic novel)
Saga written by Brian K. Vaughan
This is the fantasy/space epic version of West Side Story that is one of the best novels (graphic or otherwise) written. Every series Brian K. Vaughan has written is exceptional, from Y: The Last Man to Runaways to Paper Girls. This series is even better than those because it has a lot more heart to match the stunningly imaginative universe and highly original cast of characters. At its core, the story is about a man and woman of different species at war with each other who fall in love and have a child. They have to traverse the universe in order to stay safe from the bounty hunters and others who want to kill them. What really makes this shine is their relationship, as well as the voice of their child, who narrates the story (a brilliant touch). Also, the amazing art by Fiona Staples brings an intimacy to the story.
There’s no point in telling you more plot, you just have to experience it for yourself and delight in its originality and sharp, witty dialogue. I actually envy those who haven’t yet read it because you get to enjoy all nine volumes for the first time.
Interview with Brian K. Vaughan here:
Get Saga here.