Entertainment High Points of 2017

I don’t consume nearly enough content of any one form of entertainment to properly do a 2017 “Top 10” for it. However, I do consume enough content across all forms of entertainment to compile a list of those that were some of the definite high points of 2017…and here they are.

Wonder Woman 

She came, she saw, and she conquered. Three movies in, and DC Entertainment’s attempt to grab a piece of the cinematic universe pie that Marvel has been gorging on for close to a decade now was still less than well-received by both fans and critics. The dour, gritty and grim DC “extended universe” trifecta of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad did well enough at the box office, but weren’t getting movie-goers hyped up to see any more doom-and-gloom adventures from their favourite DC icons. Enter Diana of Themyscria—princess of the Amazons, in a tale filled of hope, triumph, and yes, wonder (not to mention one that was far removed from the era of previous DCEU films, by about nearly 100 years). Gal Godot brought charisma, honesty, strength and humour to her portrayal of the Amazing Amazon and the world responded. With a global take higher than even the most optimistic predictions ($821 million), Wonder Woman bested all other DCEU films at the box office, including the surprisingly under-performing, Justice League (which exceeded meager expectations and deserved better than to have made less than Suicide Squad).

Will & Grace 

When rebooting a series, the key to capturing the magic of the original is simple: Don’t change a thing. Will & Grace reappeared after an 11-year absence and it was like they’ve just been here all along. Welcome back, gang.

Dynasty 

File this remake under “guilty pleasures”. The 80s smash that brought to the masses shoulder pads, catfights and royal wedding massacres well before Game of Thrones, was given a fresh start with via deliciously enjoyable CW makeover. Still focusing on the uber-rich Carrington clan, the action has moved from Denver to Atlanta, the cast is more diverse, and mogul Blake Carrington is now years away from becoming a silver fox (but is still a fox nonetheless, as he’s played by Melrose Place alum, Grant Show). Unfortunately, it’s ratings have it languishing near the bottom of CW’s current roster. Here’s hoping Nicolette Sheridan will help pull in some more viewers when she arrives on the scene as the new Alexis (aka the role that shot Joan Collins into the celebrity stratosphere).

Astonishing X-Men 

Years ago, Marvel was miffed that they didn’t own the film rights for the X-Men and Fantastic Four (which they sold when they were in the throes of bankruptcy) and decided if they can’t play with their toys on the big screen, then they aren’t going to play with them at all, and effectively slid the X-Men and Fantastic Four to the back burners of the Marvel Universe while they tried upping the profiles of their lesser-known, but wholly owned entities (namely, The Inhumans and Guardians of the Galaxy). So, it was a bit of a surprise when they recently re-launched their mutant comic book line-up with 8 new titles. The line-up is a mixed bag in both quality and content, but the clear standout is Astonishing X-Men.  This 12-issue limited series is a welcome return to form that features a classic, throwback cast consisting of Rogue, Psylocke, Gambit, Archangel and Bishop (along with wild cards Fantomex, Mystique and Old Man Logan) who join forces with their deceased mentor Charles Xavier to wage battle in the otherworldly realm of the Shadow King, with nothing less than the fate of the whole world as we know it at stake (or in other words, just another Tuesday in the MU).

“Bad Liar” – Selena Gomez 

I’ve been pretty indifferent when it comes to the musical output of Selena Gomez. It’s there, I don’t mind it, but I’m certainly not going out of my way to listen to any of it. That all changed with “Bad Liar”. Mature and hypnotic, this brought a new side of Gomez to the forefront – I had actually heard it a few times before finding out it was her, and was pleasantly surprised when I did. The only drawback? The accompanying 70s suburbia slice-of-life video, which places Selena in multiple roles that range from sublime (her ultra Farrah-esque gym teacher is a joy to watch) to downright skeevy (babyfaced Selena in full crotch-grabbing male drag, porn-stache and all, is just unconvincing and unsettling). Thankfully, the music has enough merit to stand on its own.

Now before I wrap this up, I’d like to give a shout-out to a couple of podcasts. While both of these actually premiered prior to 2017, they nonetheless brought such joy to me throughout this year that they couldn’t go unmentioned.

Who? Weekly 

Bobby Finger and Lindsey Weber keeps the chuckles coming with this twice-a-week podcast where they dish about the pseudo-famous (and Rita Ora) by giving you “everything you need to know about the celebrities you don’t”.

Bitch Sesh 

Casey Wilson and Danielle Schneider’s humourous podcast where they, along with a bevy of brilliant guests, examine all things Real Housewives (with a hilarious helping of all things Casey and Danielle as well).

And now for my highest high point of 2017…

“Cut To The Feeling” – Carly Rae Jepsen 

It’s an injustice that Jepsen’s post-“Call Me Maybe” output hasn’t been embraced even half as much as her career-making #1 smash (although I place a big part of that blame on the video for what should have been the big hit lead single off her sophomore album. Having Tom Hanks lip-sync nearly the entirety of “I Really Like You” while riding in a cab and doing other mundane things is definitely not something that encourages multiple views on YouTube). However, this track, originally left off said sophomore album only to find a home in Leap!, the little-seen animated ballerina flick featuring the voice of C-Rae Jeps herself, is something that demands attention. Energetic, exuberant and contagious, it was the perfect counterpoint to all the things that made you go “ugh” in 2017.

 

Happy New Year everyone!

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Halloween Treats: Creepy Podcasts

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There’s no better time of the year for scary stories than Halloween. And now, due to the ever-growing popularity of podcasts, you no longer have to huddle around a campfire with friends to hear a scary story be told – you can creep yourself out right in the (dis)comfort of your own home! So, if tales of the mysterious, eerie and unexplained are your thing, I’ve put together a little mixed bag of creepy podcast treats you may want to check out.

Casefile

Creepy True Crime

“Fact is scarier than fiction” is the tagline for Casefile, a  podcast that details in chilling, mysterious true crimes of a murderous nature – both solved and unsolved. Like the anonymous host, the majority of cases discussed hail from Australia, but are regularly interspersed with cases from other countries such as the U.S., Canada and England. But, a creepy tale is a creepy tale no matter where it’s set, and these crimes definitely have that creep factor. Notable episodes include “The Eriksson Twins” (about two strange-acting sisters who get involved in a traffic altercation which suddenly takes a frightful plunge right off the deep end) and “The Weepy Voiced Killer” (about a spate of attacks on women in Minnesota that were followed by pleading calls to 911 – calls that were made by the attacker, himself). Of key note to these specific episodes – they both managed to incorporate actual recordings of the incidents depicted – and hearing them will definitely give you the shudders.

Unexplained

Creepy Mysteries

On Unexplained, host Richard MacLean Smith guides listeners through tales of mysterious happenings and strange incidents. Leaning heavily into events with a strong paranormal or supernatural feel, the common thread is that they have all defied explanation to this day. Oh, and that they’re also creepy as hell. For an episode that will have you both scratching your head in puzzlement as well as checking nervously over your shoulder, I’d recommend checking out “When The Light Fades”, about the mysterious disappearance of the secluded lighthouse keepers of Eilean Mor.

Scared?

Creepy Crowd-Sourced Stories

Think of Scared? as your virtual campfire tales. Host Phil Holmes stokes the fire, but the fuel is brought by listeners themselves, who call in to share their own personal brushes with the paranormal. Tales of ghosts, UFOs, hauntings, strange creatures and other unexplained phenomena can all be found on the bill here. The stories are generally short in nature, so usually there are multiple stories presented in each episode.

While having the tales told by those who actually experienced them does generally work in the show’s favour, it also works against it at times. Basically, some people are just better storytellers than others. But also, since these are crowd-sourced tales and not known incidents that have been researched or vetted by a third party, you can’t help but occasionally feel some lingering doubt as to whether someone is being entirely truthful with the tale being spun. However, if you can push aside those thoughts and just want to hear some good ol’ creepy campfire tales, then huddle close and dig in!

So, there you have it, a small sampler of scares for those of you looking to download or stream a spooky pre-Halloween fix!  (All podcasts can be found on iTunes or downloaded from their respective websites). Enjoy!