Things We Love is a place for the contributors of Really Late Reviews to let you know what we’ve been enjoying in pop culture this month. From new films from favorite directors to innovative video games to genuinely well-written shows on Lifetime, Things We Love is a way to discover some new gems and re-discover some old favorites.
“Beyond The Lights”
I’m on the record for saying that “Love & Basketball” is one of my favorite films of all time, full-stop, but I somehow missed Gina Prince-Bythewood’s latest film, “Beyond The Lights,” until last week. “Beyond The Lights,” which Prince-Bythewood directed and wrote, tells the story of Noni, a mixed-race pop star whose sudden rise to fame has come with some emotional scarring. Kaz, a policeman hired to guard Noni, saves her from a suicide attempt and the two develop a deep connection as the film progresses. Noni confides in Kaz how complicated it is to be a woman in the music industry, and how much she longs to be a real artist, as he encourages her to find and express her true self. Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker are effortlessly matched as Noni and Kaz, and the beauty in the film is seeing these two characters be truly vulnerable with one another. “Beyond The Lights” is another Prince-Bythewood gem, a film that tells a story about people of color that is filled with reality and truth. I hope that Prince-Bythewood continues to make movies that challenge dominant narratives and tell creative, important stories.
“Pop Culture Happy Hour” and “The Popcast”
June was the month I finally got into podcasts. I started incorporating them into my life after I heard how much my book club enjoyed them (the most popular choice was “Serial”). I have been listening to two podcasts so far: NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour” and “The Popcast.” Both podcasts discuss TV, film, and books and are easy to follow. “Pop Culture Happy Hour” is more of a roundtable discussion, with several people discussing a topic. The podcast focuses more on the art than the personalities and has an underlying intellectual (e.g. highly analytical) yet still entertaining tone to it. One recent podcast was all about romance novels, while another one on “Tomorrowland” discussed how our perception of the future depends on the current era’s values. “The Popcast” has two funny and relatable hosts who also discuss shows and films but also incorporate discussions on actors and artists. I’m currently listening to an old podcast from April, “Best Binges and Forgettable Early Roles,” and couldn’t stop chuckling at their remarks. They talk exactly how I would talk with my friend: discussing what we each like and then debating and teasing each other about these choices. I highly recommend these two podcasts, which are perfect to listen to when doing chores or during a morning commute.
Mortal Kombat X
Mortal Kombat X. PS4. Need I say more? For those of you who do not know me, I love playing video games. When I heard a brand new Mortal Kombat was coming out, I was stoked! The graphics are incredible: I can see the wrinkles and pores on these characters faces, it is so detailed. The story is short and easy to navigate; my sister and I took turns playing and we finished the game in about 6 hours. What I liked most about the story is that you’re able to play several characters, not just one, and fight various villains. Overal Mortal Kombat X is an awesome game that you can play with friends, online or by yourself.
“UnREAL” on Lifetime
The conversation started like this:
Me: “So there’s this new show on Lifetime…”
Coworker: “Wait, Lifetime?!”
I had the same thought, but I pushed past it, tuned in for Lifetime’s newest drama “UnREAL,” and now I’m hooked. The show is about the relationship between Rachel, a reality television producer who returns to work after a breakdown, and her boss, Quinn. The women work on the set of Everlasting (basically “The Bachelor”) and “UnREAL” offers a unique perspective on what goes on behind the scenes of popular trashy reality television shows. My favorite thing about “UnREAL” is that if it is indeed an accurate portrayal of life in reality television, the show could potentially change the way the genre is viewed going forward. Altering the television landscape is the last thing you’d expect from the network that created the Aaliyah movie, but it’s a big reason why I can’t wait to see what happens on this season of “UnREAL.”
Do you agree with the things we love for June? What are you all enjoying this month? Let us know in the comments below!