Pandemic Picks: Waco

In 1993, the ATF raided the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX. Tipped off by the media and terrified after a similar situation in Ruby Ridge, ID that left a child dead, the Davidians started a firefight. Eight cult members and four ATF agents were killed. The FBI came in to handle the situation and commenced a 51-day standoff that ended in a horrifying fire that killed 76 people, including 25 children who lived on the compound. Waco, the six-episode miniseries currently available on Netflix, originally made for the Paramount Network, covers the events that lead to this standoff and the horrifying outcome. 

It’s hard to find anyone to root for in this situation, but Michael Shannon as FBI negotiator Gary Noesner grounds the story, helping us to see the humanity on both sides. Taylor Kitsch is incredible as charismatic Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh. He’s as magnetic as he is reprehensible, and it’s easy to see how he amassed a following, even if he was bent on martyrdom. One of my faves, Shea Wigham, makes an excellent turn as militant FBI agent Mitch Decker. He is so bent on getting the job done that he’s willing to use PSYOPS against American citizens and tear gas toddlers, even after killing a woman and her child at Ruby Ridge.

Waco is a shameful chapter in American history, and I’ve seen a lot of documentaries on the situation. But it wasn’t until I got to see it played out as drama made it somehow more real for me. Telling these stories, however difficult it might be, is important, especially when they are dramatized. It allows us to connect with the players as characters, creating some distance from their bad actions and giving us a glimpse of the souls underneath. Writers and actors get to the genuine emotion behind people who are likely nowhere near as eloquent or uncomplicated in real life. 

It’s a tough watch, but a rewarding one, and since most of us still have nothing but time, I suggest taking a look at Waco. 

Pandemic Picks: The Martian

Ridley Scott was shot into the mainstream with his 1979 Sci-Fi thriller Alien, he cemented his position as a visionary director of Science Fiction with 1982’s Blade Runner and then he moved onto other genres. In 2012 he returned to Sci-Fi with the mediocre Prometheus, audiences felt like he had lost his touch when it came to Sci-Fi. Thankfully he proved everyone wrong with the exceptional 2015 Sci-Fi drama The Martian.

Based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by Andy Weir, The Martian follows astronaut Mark Watney as he tries to survive alone on Mars after he is accidentally left behind when his fellow astronauts perform an emergency evacuation of the planet during a storm. The film has a lot of elements to it that make it such a wonderful film, the acting is superb and the characters themselves are deep and believable. The realism in the film is interesting because everything feels like it is something that not only could exist, but will exist in 2035. The realism is due to the fact that the filmmakers consulted NASA in the elements of space travel and Mars.

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Pandemic Picks: Deadpool

So, I was wracking my brain to think of what Superhero movies would I be recommending people to watch now that they have time and immediately of course I thought about the whole MCU because, you know, we have time to watch them all now. But I wanted a single film I could recommend, a lot of Superhero films these days have the problem of, “Well before you watch this you need to watch that first, but you also have to watch this before you can watch that.” I just wanted one film that a new viewer could pick up and enjoy. Then I thought, Deadpool.

And why not? This is a film that was a labor of love for Ryan Reynolds. It took him eleven years to get the movie made and the amount of love he had for the project shows on screen. The film is a very faithful adaptation of the comic character, even down to the fourth wall breaking and the fact that the character knows he’s in a comic book. Having recently gone back and read some of the old Deadpool comics the characters that are in the film are all taken from the original comics which I had no idea about at the time.

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Pandemic Picks: A Simple Favor

Paul Feig has become my go-to director for a good time. Spy is an all-timer for me, and last week, I clicked on his 2018 entry, A Simple Favor. It did not disappoint. This twisty-turny little mystery starring Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick does a great job balancing a solid mystery plot with a biting sense of humor. 

I love when a villain is just smart enough that I find myself rooting for them, and Lively’s Emily is the wry, well-dressed suburban mastermind of my cinema dreams. Although I’m no great fan of Anna Kendrick’s, she’s used here to great effect as Stephanie, an annoying, insecure single mother with a sordid past of her own. I enjoyed getting to know these women, flaws and all, and I like that their friendship clouded their judgment as much as their respective romances. The social web these two women manage to weave made the movie stick with me even after credits rolled. 

The movie is currently streaming on Netflix, and if you’re looking for a fun popcorn flick, you should give it a go.

Pandemic Picks: The Big Nerd Pub Quiz

A slightly different Pandemic Pick for me today. This is something I’ve been playing with some of my friends for the last couple of weeks. It’s a Pub Quiz that you live stream through YouTube and answer the questions in a Google document. Lots of fun and great for getting a group of friends together to participate in.

It’s run by Mark Hughes who live streams from his bedroom in Rostrevor Co Down, Ireland. So far there have been five of them, I missed the first one which I’ve heard was very nerdy. After the first one Mark took some feedback and it became a little more of a traditional pub quiz and less nerdy with a sports round and general knowledge rounds. The audience is growing with each quiz and the sixth one is scheduled for Saturday 11th April at 20:00 BST. On top of these there are also some specialist quizzes coming soon including a Star Trek and a Star Wars one. The Star Trek one I am most looking forward to as if you’ve read my previous articles on my trips to Star Trek conventions you’ll know.

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Pandemic Picks: Stargirl

I first read Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli when I was in middle school. I remember loving it. When Disney+ announced that they would be adding a Stargirl movie to their lineup, I decided to re-read it. I initially couldn’t remember what intrigued me so much about this book, but as I read on, I remembered. Spinelli created something beautiful out of what could be any ordinary high school setting. The story is told from the perspective of a 16 year old, Leo, who is a perfectly normal kid. He observes the mannerisms of a new student in their school, who goes by the name “Stargirl.” I can’t put into words what a refreshing, beautiful, inspiring soul this Stargirl turns out to be.

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Pandemic Picks: Airplane!

Today’s Pandemic Pick is the classic comedy film Airplane! Surely I’m not serious… I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley. I promise that is the only time I’ll say that in this article… maybe. Airplane! is one of those films that everyone has either seen or at least knows some of the jokes from. It’s considered by many to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, comedy films of all time. But what is it that makes it such a great comedy?

The film is the brainchild of the writing team of brothers David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams, they based the film on a real disaster movie that they had caught on late night TV called Zero Hour about the pilots of a commercial flight getting food poisoning and a ex-World War II pilot is forced to take over. Sound familiar? Because that is pretty much the exact plot of Airplane! It’s hard to imagine that there is a film out there with the same plot as this zany comedy that played it straight.

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Pandemic Picks: Schitt’s Creek

With the final season wrapping up, I hope that you are unlike me.  You, the clever viewer, have been watching and enjoying this gem of a show for years.  You’re not a crazy person like me. Schitt’s Creek is, of course, your favorite show. No?

WATCH SCHITT’S CREEK

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Pandemic Picks: Bon Appetit

Bon Appetit was already the best YouTube channel, but forcing our favorite test kitchen chefs to work with what they’ve got in their own kitchen has both upped their creativity and their charm.

If, for some insane reason you weren’t already on the Bon Appetit train, the popular food publication has found new life by letting camera crews into its test kitchen and turning its staff of chefs into TV personalities. Because they were already writers, turning their kitchen experiments into easily accessible recipes for home cooks, it was a perfect marriage of old and new media, leading to charming series such as “Gourmet Makes,” in which Claire Saffitz attempts to recreate mass produced snack and candy, “It’s Alive with Brad Leone,” which follows the titular chef as he does fermentation experiments and learns where his food comes from, and other amazing regular programs.

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Pandemic Picks: The Expanse

I’ll be honest, I was of two minds on whether I would do a Pandemic Pick on The Expanse or not because I know at some point it’s going to be the subject of one of my deep dives. Probably when it’s all over and I can do a proper retrospective on the series. However, this is what I am currently watching at the moment and I’m absolutely loving it, more so on the second viewing as well.

Whenever I recommend this show to anyone the first thing they ask me is, “What’s it about?” Well, that’s difficult to explain without spoiling it because the way the story unfolds is you are thrown into this world and are basically left to catch up with what is happening. I love that about a series though, it treats us like an adult, it says here is the world that you’re going to be in for this series but don’t worry you’ll catch up. The way the story unfolds sets up more and more of the events and situations that govern the world this story takes place in. It feels weird referring to it as a world when the series setting is the Solar System, not one specific world.

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