Shorties #21

Since it's getting to the time of year to write out our best-of lists, I need to wrap up the mentions of what culture I've been consuming in 2016. By happenstance, this last Shorties entry of the year is a wealth of diversity, containing one title from each of the entertainment categories: Movies, TV, Books, Games, and Music.

#1: Bad Moms: I am emphatically not in the target audience of this 2016 movie about a trio of suburban moms who get fed up with the constant demand of perfection from their kids and the other moms around town, and who decide to let themselves enjoy life for once. That said, it's always a pleasant surprise when a movie that isn't trying to impress me does so anyway. Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell are very good as the moms who are cracking under their familial pressure, while Kathryn Hahn just about steals the entire movie as the foul-mouthed rebel mom who doesn't give a good goddamn what anyone thinks. Toss in Christina Applegate as an ice queen, and you've got yourself a pretty fun flick. (Grade: B+)

#2: Food Wars (Season 2): I've already described how I found myself drawn to the first season of this anime, and so I happily jumped into the second, released onto Hulu in 2016. Soma is still facing down his classmates in dramatic food competitions, and the food animation is still as droolworthy as ever. However something that sparked in the first season is missing now, and those are the sections where nobody's challenging someone else. I miss the interactions between Soma and his house-mates, as they build friendships that give them the confidence to be stronger cooks. This season is all about the battles. It also unnecessarily introduces a ton of new characters, at the expense of the ones we were still getting to know. Oh! They also changed the theme music, and I much preferred the original. It's still a fascinating show, and though the last episode felt awfully final, if they ever make another season, I'm on board. (Grade: B)

#3: The Witches - Salem, 1692: I do wish the morals and lessons America should have learned from the tragedy and horrors of Salem, Massachusetts didn't keep making themselves terrifyingly relevant in modern times. Yet, here we are. However, even though we all know the basics (people executed because a bunch of teenage girls accused them of witchcraft), I wanted to get a deeper understanding of just what in the hell happened in 1692. Stacy Schiff's 2015 book explores not only the people who found themselves at the end of a hangman's noose for the crime of being unpopular, but the society that allowed such hysteria to take root. A lot of non-fiction is taken to task for writing styles that are too dry, but I actually have the opposite request. Sometimes, Schiff's language is a little too flowery, and I just wanted her to get to the point and tell me what was happening. That said, it was an overall entertaining read from which I learned a lot, and that's all I ask when it comes to reading about history. (Grade: B)

#4: Jackbox Party Pack 3: We play all sorts of tabletop games at my friend's weekly game night, but this is the first time we've incorporated an interactive technological one. Sure, we all play video games too, but that tends to be a more solitary activity. This one involves the whole gang. 2016's Jackbox Party Pack 3 is made by the same folks who gave us You Don't Know Jack, which I used to enjoy (and dominate at!) quite a bit. They've upped their game, so to speak, by making this a video game that people play together from their phones. There are five games available, from "Quiplash 2", which is somewhat like Cards Against Humanity, as your friends vote for who had the best/funniest answer, to "Trivia Murder Party", in which you'd better answer questions correctly, or the homicidal host will tear your little stuffed doll avatar to shreds. We've been having a lot of fun with this game pack for several weeks now, so I can definitely recommend it for your next party. That said, bring a charger. Your phone's battery will be taking some punishment. (Grade: B+)

#5: "White Knuckles" - Boh Doran: It's going to be tough to narrow down a favorite song of 2016, but I do want to feature one of the runners-up, which is this 2015 jam that should give you a good idea of where my musical tastes lie this year. Here, have a listen. I could talk about how I relate to the lyrics, which allude to holding on to something (or someone) too tightly, as if you're afraid it's going to slip through your fingers at any moment. But if I'm being honest, I just really like the tune. (Grade: B+)


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