Here are a few of the films, books, and other things I enjoyed this summer.
An open-world indie gem from HopFrog starring the cutest little marshmallow man you've ever seen. Explore the world, harvest resources, make stuff, make more stuff, make ridiculously overpowered stuff(!), unlock new lands, find treasures, kill some demons, solve some puzzles! I waited anxiously for it to come out on Nintendo Switch (also available on Stream) and played every day for 2 weeks straight. I'm nearing the end of the game and have enjoyed it all the way through. I look forward to seeing what HopFrog does next!
FILMS AND SHOWS
I feel like one of the last people in North America to have watched this film. It has status as a cult favourite, and it's frequently referenced in film reviews and pop-culture journalism. I borrowed it from my local library on the Hoopla app one evening when I was looking for something to do, and did not expect what I was in for. The film is darkly funny, and stars a young Winona Ryder and Christian Slater (like, really young, I barely recognized them). I really don't know what else to say about this movie but it's dark. I enjoyed my time watching it, but I know 21 year old me would have loved it.
John Wick 2
If you've seen John Wick, you know what you're in for in John Wick 2. Unbelievable fight choreography, stylish sets and lighting, and some cool world-building. It's a smart action film franchise and I can't wait to watch #3.
Jane the Virgin - Finale
What can be said about a finale of such a beloved show? It's like the end of a fairy tale - characters get their happily ever after (but is it the one you were hoping for?), lose ends are tied up, and there's a little magic. I won't say much more to avoid spoiling the roller-coaster of the series' 5 seasons, but I will recommend you give it a try. This story is about so much more than romantic love, it's about family and supporting each other through hard times (and there are many of those). And did I mention that it's funny?
I love the way they played with the format of the telenovela, and centered around a trio of Latino women, while creating a story that can be enjoyed by everyone.
I somehow missed season 2, and when season 3 came out on Netflix, I had some catching up to do. Season 1 was fun and established a gang of quirky characters who were fun to watch, but seasons 2-3 really allowed many of those characters to grow. I went from disliking Debbie to cheering for her professional growth, feeling conflicted about Ruth's relationships, and wishing for all the good in the world for Sheila (by far my favourite character). I love that 80s fashion and culture has a starring role in this series. It's a lot of fun to revisit a decade that I feel tied to but can barely remember (I mainly recall the cartoons, and the spill over into the early 90s). Cant' wait for season 3!
If you're not familiar with this Netflix series, it is based on a series published by Dark Horse Comics about a family of 7 super-powered individuals, all born on the same day, to different unexpecting mothers. They each have a unique ability which they used to fight crime when they were younger. They are brought back together years later after each going on with their lives in various ways.
I started watching this series when it first came out, but put it on the back burner for a while. After introducing the characters and the world, episodes 3/4 felt like a major slow down and I struggled to sit through the episodes. Picking it up again at episode 5, things seemed to accelerate and by the last 3 episodes, I was glued to the screen. I felt that episode 9 would have made a great end to the season, and would have felt more suspenseful to me than the end they went with on episode 10, but I understand why they did it as it moves the story ahead a notch, and season 2 can focus on the next chain of events.
The series is filmed mainly in nearby Hamilton, Ontario and I've heard of lots of cast and crew sightings in recent weeks, so I expect we'll be able to enjoy more of the story in the near future.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
I was obsessed with this mind-breaking series when it first came to North America in the late 90s. I watched every episode multiple times, owned the OSTs for the series and movies, and even cosplayed as my favourite character, Misato Katsuragi. When Netflix announced they would be acquiring the series, I knew it was time to revisit Tokyo 3.
The first half of the series felt familiar. New translation gave a different understanding of a few situations, and watching it in Japanese instead of an english dub like my first time around was an interesting change, but the second half of the series really threw me for a loop. Not sure if I had blocked it out, or just forgotten over time, but the series is DARK and puts the young protagonists through hell. I was expecting a nostalgic rewatch and got more than I bargained for. It's an incredible series and I'm impressed that it still holds up over 20 years later.
Turtles All the Way Down - John Green
John Green is well known for his young adult fiction and film adaptations. I loved The Fault in Our Stars, but was disappointed by An Abundance of Katherines as I struggled to relate to the characters (ok, full disclosure - I'm not exactly in the demographic, but heck, I love a good coming of age story).
I picked up Turtles with the intention of a quick summer read, and was immediately impressed. I believe the mark of a good author is the ability to write realistic characters that are different from oneself. Not only is the protagonist Aza a teenager, but female, and someone who struggles with her mental health. I found the mystery that the characters were trying to crack took a back seat to the interpersonal relationships and internal struggles, but I didn't mind one bit. I would also like to say that it's refreshing to read a story with a female lead that doesn't focus undue attention on her body, or how she's going to get the guy.
I can't help but wonder if we'll see a film or TV adaptation of this book, and hope that they can portray Aza's struggles in an effective and sensitive way.
The Prince and the Dressmaker - Jen Wang
I first discovered Jen Wang's work when I picked up a copy of In Real Life, a graphic novel that she had illustrated, written by Cory Doctorow. I immediately fell in love with her design aesthetic and characters. The Prince and the Dressmaker, written and illustrated by Wang gave me more of what I was looking for, along with a touching story about friendship and identity. Jen's expressive line work brings a lot of warmth to her illustrations, and I found myself lost in the pages of this book on numerous occasions.
One of my favourite ways to start the day is catching up on my podcasts during a long walk. A few weeks ago my earbuds stopped producing sound in my right ear, and I had to admit that a $10 pair of wired headphones probably wasn't the way to go anymore. I picked up a set of JLab bluetooth earbuds, and happily resumed my podcast listening the next day. It wasn't until a few days later when I listened to a song on them that I noticed the difference. The bass sounded so powerful and the instruments so crisp! I don't think I'll ever go back to $10 earphones.
Cricut Explore Air 2
I had always passed on getting one thinking I wouldn't have a practical use for it, but when a received a Michael's gift card for my Birthday I decided to take the leap figuring I could start printing my own stickers for my etsy shop. I was intimidated at first, but the included demo product showed me just how versatile and simple it was to use. Watching the blade slice intricate shapes, and the pen attachment write a flawless cursive greeting, I was fully on board. The best thing I've made with it so far is a retro-inspired logo for the marquee on my boyfriend's home made arcade machine (there's a mini fridge in the bottom so you don't have to stop playing to get a refreshment).
Corn on the Cob and Fresh Fruit
If I had to pick one thing I love about summer, it would be long afternoons and evenings spent on the patio with good company and fresh food. One evening this summer stands out vividly in my mind for the laughter and the corn on the cob. Each kernel was bursting with sweetness - I can't recall anything ever tasting that good!
At that same barbecue, we enjoyed some of the most flavourful watermelon and pineapple! For once I was happy to have too many leftovers, as I got to enjoy that fruit for breakfast for the next few days. Although I love Autumn, I feel sad to think I may have to wait almost a year to enjoy summer fruit that fresh again.