The Pick Daily™

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Movies

FRIDAY FRIGHT

THE WRETCHED (2020) is the Pick Daily for your Friday Fright on 4/9/21. Some horror films can be dark and somewhat dour as they tell their harrowing tales, like last week’s pick DON’T LISTEN (2020). Still, others can be a bit more fun and still pack some pretty good scares. THE WRETCHED falls into the latter category. At times it feels like it might be a summer teen comedy; if it weren’t for the shocking prologue, that took place “35 years previously,” where something quite unpleasant is happening in the basement. Flashing forward to “5 Days Ago”, a teenaged boy comes to a small town to spend time with his father, and becomes concerned that the young boy next door is being tormented by something, well, wretched. The story behind the film’s monster and folklore don’t make a lot of sense and the film doesn’t take pains to explain much, but it doesn’t really matter much. It’s just a fun mix of monster-in-the-woods and Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a pretty clever twist thrown in. -Jeff. Not rated – minor nudity and language, the violence and gore is moderate, tending to be more slimy than bloody. Available on Hulu, or for rent.

S#!%HOUSE (2020) is The Pick Daily for 4/7/21, a sweet little indie film with a horrible name. I won’t say this movie blindsided me because I was somewhat aware of it from an NPR review. So I at least knew to ignore its profane and sophomoric title and to expect a comedy/romance in the vein of BEFORE SUNRISE (1995). But what I discovered exceeded my expectations. It is really good. Soon after the film starts, college freshman Alex (Cooper Raiff) attends a party at the legendary “Shithouse”, known for its awesome parties. Also there is sophomore Maggie (Dylan Gelula), the RA on Alex’s dorm floor. The two leave together and end up spending a sweetly quiet night involving long walks and talks and softball. Only this structure, which comprises the film’s first half, is what reminds you of SUNRISE. Otherwise, the movie charts its own course and is much more about how awkward and lonely the first year of college can feel, and how the aftermath of one-night stands can be so different for the two involved. Raiff is also the writer and director, and his style is unforced and natural. He and Gelula are excellent on screen and each manage to nail that boy or girl you probably had a crush on in college. The film being called “Shithouse” is unfortunate. The party scene there is brief, and we don’t get much sense of how “awesome” the house or the party is. After that, the house never appears again, and we are left with a wonderful indie film that risks being skipped by those thinking it’s a bad remake of Animal House. Don’t be swayed! – Jeff. Rated R for strong language, drug use, heavy drinking, and sexual content. Available on Showtime, or for rent.

TRAILER TUESDAY

The trailer for THINGS HEARD & SEEN is the Pick Daily for Trailer Tuesday 4/6/21. Netflix serves up a ghost story based on the novel by Elizabeth Brundage. Amanda Seyfried (a long way from Karen in MEAN GIRLS) is an artist whose husband (James Norton, LITTLE WOMEN) just purchased a new home, one that may reveal a sinister darkness about their marriage. The cast also boasts Rhea Seehorn (BETTER CALL SAUL), Natalia Dyer (STRANGER THINGS), and even Karen Allen (RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK). It is directed by wife and husband team Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who both also directed AMERICAN SPLENDOR (2003) and THE NANNY DIARIES (2007). – Jeff. THINGS HEARD & SEEN premieres April 29th on Netflix. Trailer on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/HCAaonjgDEA

THE WAY BACK (2020) is the PD for 4/3/21. As college basketball crowns its champions this weekend, here’s another basketball movie pick. The game is the backdrop in a story about a man struggling with addiction, grief and loss.  Ben Affleck plays a one-time high school basketball legend who’s recruited by his Catholic alma mater to coach their struggling team, which hasn’t been competitive for years. He’s a bloated heavy drinker who brings a box of booze to a family Thanksgiving, pays the bills by working construction jobs, and has a regular evening routine of  closing a local dive bar and getting carried home by a friend to his crappy apartment. He reluctantly takes the coaching job, and predictably, turns the losing team into a winner. Affleck has been nominated for several acting awards for this role, and what makes the film work is his close-to-home portrayal of the lead character. Affleck’s well-publicized struggles with sobriety help him effectively portray anguish and self-disgust, reminding you that he’s a better actor than he gets credit for. Also worth noting: he’s an Oscar-winning writer (GOOD WILL HUNTING) and Golden-Globe-winning director (ARGO). – Kevin. Rated R for language. Heavy alcohol use and abuse. Available on HBO and Cinemax

FRIDAY FRIGHT

DON’T LISTEN (VOCES) (2020) is your Friday Fright on The Pick Daily for 4/2/21. Netflix has become a truly global service in the production and acquisition of movies and shows from all over the world. And it has been exciting to have the exposure to genre films from countries from which U.S. viewers would previously only see art house fare. Horror has been a standout, with unique and scary films from places such as India, Brazil, and Japan. VOCES (Voices), translated to DON’T LISTEN for English-language audiences, comes from Spain. Although it’s a film with recognizable horror-film tropes: a haunted house, shadows in the background, figures in the windows, flashlights that just won’t stay on, wrinkly hands reaching from the darkness; unlike many of its lame Hollywood counterparts, it is actually pretty scary. A family of three are renovating an old country home, and the little boy keeps hearing voices. And while the elements of the film may not be wholly original, the production and acting are top notch. And there’s even a connection to something no one expects: The Spanish Inquisition. Also, look for sly visual references to classic horror films, including The Amityville Horror, The Omen, and The Shining. -Jeff. Rated TV-MA for violence and gore, frightening and intense scenes, mild language. Available on Netflix

TRAILER TUESDAY

Tuesdays are now Trailer Tuesdays on The Pick Daily, and the pick for 3/30/21 is the trailer for WRATH OF MAN. Director Guy Ritchie reteams with Jason Statham for a Los Angeles heist/revenge/shootemup/doublecross/action flick. We’d expect nothing less from either. Statham plays a new employee for an armored truck security firm who clearly has ulterior movies when he dispatches a would-be heist team with detached efficiency. The film costars Josh Hartnett and the underrated Holt McCallany (Mindhunters). Premieres in theaters on May 7th. -Jeff. Link to view: https://youtu.be/EFYEni2gsK0

KILL LIST (2011) is the PD for 3/28/21, from “Jeff’s House of Horror.” So, I’ve gotten more heavily into horror movies in the last five years or so. From great films like HEREDITARY (2018), to comically strange cult classics like SOCIETY (1989). Fair warning: anything appearing as a “Jeff’s House of Horror” entry is NOT for everyone. You have to be willing to subject yourself to the weird, the disgusting, and or the super scary. KILL LIST is the second feature from Ben Wheatley, who is proving himself unwilling to make a conventionally plotted film. From the upcoming ecological horror film IN THE EARTH (2021), to the Brie Larson shoot ‘em up FREE FIRE (2016), you are not sure what to expect from his films. KILL LIST starts off in the middle of a shouting match between husband and wife, and looks like it might be a drama about the stress unemployment puts on a family. A few minutes later you think, oh, it’s going to be a hitman thriller. That’s all I’m going to say, because part of the fun here is not knowing where it’s going. Suffice it to say it will get darker, bloodier, and certainly weirder. -Jeff. Rated R for violence and gore, nudity, language. Available on AMC+ or IFC Films Unlimited subscription services, or for rent. 

JUSTICE LEAGUE, THE ZACK SNYDER CUT (2021) is the PD for 3/23/21. Okay, so I know I kinda dissed this when I picked Snyder’s DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004) last week. But I DID end up watching it…. And no one is more surprised than I that I am now recommending it. Hear me out. The 2017 two-hour release was not good. It was a mess of a film with a muddled story and a feckless villain. Director Snyder had stepped down midway through production due to the tragic death of his daughter, and was replaced by Avengers director Joss Whedon. Many fans thought this is what ruined the film, and clamored for Snyder to release his own cut. Well, along came a pandemic, and in the Hollywood malaise HBO put up millions for it to happen, and here we have a FOUR hour version. And…. It worked! It is helped by a device that turns out to be more clever than may have been intended: it is divided into six parts and an epilogue. That helps segment the story for better comprehension, but it also gives you perfect break points to watch over multiple sittings. I watched it in three chunks over three days and came away with a full understanding of the story and stronger appreciation for ALL of the six actors playing superheroes. And the villains are fleshed out better with the addition of Steppenwolf’s “boss,” Darkseid, who had been completely removed from the 2017 version. So if you look at it as more of a miniseries, the four-hour runtime becomes less daunting. In the end, this is the second best DCEU movie to date, after the first WONDER WOMAN (2017). And the epilogue serves as an Easter egg hunt for DC-geeks, even featuring Jared Leto as The Joker. -Jeff. Violence with a little bit of gore, some strong language. Available on HBO Max. 

I USED TO GO HERE (2020) is the PD for 3/20/21. Kate is a fledgling novelist in her mid-30’s whose fiancé has left her and whose publisher has canceled a book tour due to tepid response to her first novel. She is invited to her alma mater to do a reading, and ends up finding herself awkwardly ingratiated with the students living in her old college house. That Kate is played by Gillian Jacobs is what makes this movie work. Jacobs is an indie darling who I feel could become a big star if she took roles in bigger films. But she gratefully sticks to smaller and likely better projects. She is classically beautiful but is always convincing playing dorky characters out of their depth. This movie is a perfect fit for her; a funny and sweet story about how reconnecting with your past can bring clarity to struggles in the present. -Jeff. Not rated. Some strong language and sexual situations. Available on HBO Max, Hoopla, and for rent. 

HOOSIERS (1986) is the Pick Daily for 3/19/21. March Madness starts today, and this year’s NCAA Tournament could be full of surprises after COVID made this an unprecedented season. It could be a year when a perennial underdog, an unknown, or a small school rises to the top of the heap. I certainly hope so. That intriguing possibility, along with the entire tournament being played Indiana this year, reminds me that I’m overdue to watch my favorite sports movie, 1986’s Hooisers, starring Gene Hackman. It’s based on the true story of a team from a tiny high school in rural Indiana toppling a much larger urban powerhouse squad to win the state championship in the early 1950’s. Hackman plays Norman Dale, a highly successful college coach from New York who for some reason comes to America’s heartland to coach the Hickory Huskers, the pride of an Indiana farm town. Hackman wasn’t optimistic about the film’s prospects, calling it a potential “career killer.” Instead, the film grossed $28 million at the box office and received mostly glowing reviews, as well as Oscar nominations. For both sports junkies like me and non-sports fans alike, I recommend this slice of Americana. -Kevin. Available on Showtime, Philo, fuboTV, Sundance, YouTube Premium, and for rent.

THROWBACK THURSDAY

DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004) is the Pick Daily for Throwback Thursday, 3/18/21. With the loud and plodding “Zack Snyder cut” of JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017/2021) clanging onto HBO Max this week (the frickin’ thing is 4 hours long!), I am reminded of a good Zack Snyder movie… one of his earliest. This remake of the shopping-mall-based George Romero classic is better than the 1978 original (if you disagree, I will FIGHT you) and came before the current zombie craze we are still mired in. It was even before “The Walking Dead,” which seems as if it’s been going on forever. And watching it now would be good prep for Snyder’s return to the zombie genre, with his ARMY OF THE DEAD coming to Netflix on May 21st (not a sequel, however).  After DAWN and his hit “300” (2006), the director went on to make a string of disappointments, including WATCHMEN (2009), SUCKER PUNCH (2011) and BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016). I don’t yet know whether to subject myself to his “original vision” of Justice League, a movie I did not like before and can’t imagine enjoying with two hours added. Snyder has never been a director for nuance, but DAWN doesn’t really need any. It starts out quickly with almost no exposition — a 10-minute thrill ride before the opening titles. And it was our introduction to the idea of zombies who can run. It was a terrifying idea first explored in 28 DAYS LATER (2002), but those weren’t technically zombies, so we can call this the first. -Jeff. Rated R. Graphic violence and gore, language, nudity. Available on AMC+ or for rent.

YAPHET KOTTO Is honored on the Pick Daily 3/16/21. Anyone my age grew up seeing this actor in some big roles, from a Bond bad guy in LIVE AND LET DIE (1973) to a space miner in ALIEN (1979, HBO Max). He held a commanding presence on the screen with his 6’4” frame and distinctive voice. He played an auto worker in BLUE COLLAR (1978), alongside Richard Prior in one of Prior’s few dramatic roles; also alongside Robert DeNiro in MIDNIGHT RUN (1988, HBO Max), Robert Redford on BRUBAKER (1980, Cinemax), and Schwarzenegger in THE RUNNING MAN (1987). Other films include ACROSS 110TH STREET (1972, Hoopla, PlutoTV), REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER (1975), and the title role in the 1972 comedy BONE (Prime Video). Still for others, he will be most remembered as part of the excellent cast of TV’s “Homicide: Life on the Street,” which ran for seven seasons between 1993-99. Easily one of the all-time great police series. Kotto died on March 15, 2021, in the Philippines at age 81. He will be fondly remembered. -Jeff

FREAKY (2020) is the PD for 3/13/21. Freaky slyly picked its name as a riff on Freaky Friday. This time, rather than switching places with mom, a high school girl switches bodies with a serial killer. That the killer is played by Vince Vaughn, and that he spends the majority of the movie as a teenaged girl, is what makes this movie so worth the $5.99 rental. Vaughn has been on a bit of a roll lately, albeit a bit of an underground one, appearing in a string of decent indie films such as Dragged Across Concrete, Fighting with My Family, Seberg, North Hollywood, and Arkansas. But this is certainly a departure. The movie has some typical slasher scares and gore, but it’s mainly a comedy. A scene where the 6’5” Vaughn flirts with the girl’s high school crush in the backseat of a Pinto is priceless. -Jeff. Available for rent on most platforms. Rated R for violence, gore, sex, and language.

PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN (2020) is the PD for 3/9/21 (from The Pick contributor Michelle Staley Mahoney). This film has spurred prismatic reactions from critics and my friends, which is all the more reason to check it out. Director Emerald Fennel and lead performer Carey Mulligan have described it as a study in the cycle of addition, which builds and builds to its tragic, yet predictable, end. And whether you love or hate this movie, it will stay with you long after the final shock. Aside from the distinct performances by this perfect cast, the gorgeous sets and dreamy pastel atmosphere are candy for the eyes, and Carey’s hair is an additional character in itself. Also, Bo Burnham is my latest Hollywood crush. – Michelle. Available for rent on your favorite streaming platform.  

Billie Eilish THE WORLD’S A LITTLE BLURRY (2021) is the PD for 3/6/21. We’ve been blessed with some great music documentaries in the past year, including The Go-Go’s, Beastie Boys, and The Bee Gees. The diversity of the styles in storytelling, and the differences in the stories the films tell have been invigorating. Joining the group, and perhaps being the best yet, is this extensive look into the making and subsequent success of Eilish’s first album. Recorded entirely in her bedroom by her and her brother, Finneas, the album already demonstrated unique artists at work. But this film shows how deep that goes, with amazingly supportive and inspiring parents and a shockingly mature (although sometimes bratty) teenaged artist. Unprecedented access into the construction of a pop masterpiece. -Jeff. Available on Apple TV+ (worth the free trial, and you can also watch Ted Lasso!)

NOMADLAND (2020) is the PD for 3/1/21. The Golden Globes may have flubbed and snubbed on some nominations, but they picked a winner here. Yes, it is slow, contemplative, and sparse… but I really think a film every American should see. Writer, Director, and Editor Chloé Zhao is masterful as she paints a portrait of nomads living in the beautiful (and often brutal) American Midwest. Frances McDormand is perfect in the lead, and most of the supporting cast are actual nomads playing themselves. I had put off watching this film, but I can say I was glued to the screen more so than anything I have watched in awhile. An important American movie, one of the best of 2020. Look for Zhao’s next film, “Eternals,” a Marvel superhero movie with Angelina Jolie, coming late 2021. She’s one to watch! -Jeff.  Available on Hulu, or for rent.

THE CAR (1977) is the PD for 2/27/21. Out of the Utah desert and into this 10-year-old’s nightmares came The Car, a horror tale from the 70’s that actually holds up. It may seem cheesy on the surface as a bad-ass and possessed black sedan is running over bicyclists and drifters, among others. Okay, well, it IS cheesy… but it’s actually got some style and some pretty creepy shots and scenes. James Brolin is the lead as the town sheriff. And yes, that’s Escape To Witch Mountain’s Kim Richards as one of his daughters. You’ll never hear a distant car horn the same way again. -Jeff Rated PG, violence is subdued, not bloody but shocking. Available on Netflix, or for rent. 

Introducing The Pick Daily. We’ll give you one Pick every day… a movie, show, song, album, artist, video, and more!  The Pick for 2/25/21: A Good Woman Is Hard To Find (2019) A taut little thriller with an unwieldy title. Sarah Bolger is excellent as a widowed mother who must protect her kids from local hoodlums. Although it is currently on horror channel Shudder, it is not a horror film, unless you count a grisly scene involving a hatchet. -Jeff Available on Shudder, also for rent. Not rated; language, nudity, violence, gore would warrant a hard R.

TV & video

THROWBACK THURSDAY

FREAKS AND GEEKS (1999-2000) is the Pick Daily for Throwback Thursday, 4/8/21. I know I am speaking to two groups here: those who have seen this series, and those that have not. The first group will likely be nodding vigorously as they read this. To the latter group I say: it has been over 20 years since this wonderfully conceived and critically adored series first aired on NBC, so it is high time you get on it! Created by Paul Feig before BRIDESMAIDS (2011) and executive produced by Judd Apatow before 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN (2007), I have always believed it is better than any other movie or show either has made. It is set at a high school in a 1980’s Detroit suburb, and centers on two groups: the Freaks, stoners and stoner-adjacent “cool” kids; and the Geeks, the uncool “A” students navigating the hallways and social awkwardness of their early teens. It is one of the funniest shows ever made, but its humor can be subtle, and always wrapped around relatable and heartwarming stories of youth; the struggle to define who you are and who you will become before high school graduation. But I may be burying the lead. This was the first significant appearance of a cadre of actors who are now established stars: James Franco, Seth Rogan, Linda Cardellini, Jason Segel, Busy Phillips, and Martin Starr. And guest appearances by Lizzy Caplan, Ann Dowd, Ben Foster, Kevin Tighe, Leslie Mann, Kevin Corrigan, David Krumholtz, Rashida Jones, and Jason Schwartzman. It was sadly canceled before a second season, but we are left with 18 wonderful episodes that make for one of the best TV shows ever made. -Jeff. Available on Hulu.

THE SERPENT (2021) is the PD for 4/4/21. The latest Netflix drama series is truly unique. It’s based on the true story of thief, grifter, and killer Charles Sobhraj, who menaced traveling hippies in mid-70’s Bangkok. It frankly would be too hard to swallow the story if you didn’t know it is mostly true. Sobhraj is played by French actor Tahar Rahim, and his French girlfriend by English actress Jenna Coleman. Both are excellent, and the episodes are tense. We jump back and forth in the timeline from the plight of several travelers who were his victims of either captivity or murder, and forward several months as a Dutch embassy worker investigates the disappearances of tourists from several countries. The series was coproduced by BBC One and Netflix. Without recognizable star power for U.S. audiences, this one might slip by with less notice, but it continues the Netflix trend of high quality drama production and I hope is not overlooked. – Jeff. Rated TV-MA for mild violence, drug use, profanity, brief nudity. Available on Netflix in the US and BBC in the UK.

SONG EXPLODER is the PD for 3/29/21. This is a popular podcast that Netflix picked up as a TV series, with eight episodes currently available. Each episode is under a half-hour, and sees creator and host Hrishikesh Hirway interview popular artists about the production of a single song. The members of R.E.M. are interviewed to discuss their biggest hit, “Losing My Religion.” Watch as Michael Stipe winces when they playback his vocal track without any of the instruments. And for a more current release, this year’s Grammy winner Dua Lipa breaks down the production of “Love Again” from her 2020 album Future Nostalgia. Another standout is Trent Reznor recalling the emotional resonance of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt,” and how it was later covered by Johnny Cash. The show spans decades and several popular genres, with episodes featuring The Killers, Natalie Lafourcade, Alicia Keys, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Ty Dolla $ign. It’s a unique approach to examining the diversity, creation and power of music past and present. — Jeff. Rated TV-MA for language and smoking. Available on Netflix.

THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER is the PD for 3/27/21. This is the latest TV series from Marvel Studios, part of its grand design to take over all of entertainment. Available on Disney-Plus, it follows the funny, strange and ultimately satisfying WANDAVISION (any Marvel-faithful should soldier through its first quirky episodes to get to the mythology laden latter half). FALCON wears the Marvel cred on its Vibranium sleeve as a big-budgeted cinematic continuation of the post-ENDGAME storyline. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan play up the unlikely-buddy roles with all of the Gibson/Glover magic they can muster. It also tackles race issues as Mackie’s Falcon turns down the Captain America job only to see a new great white hope wield the shield. Two episodes have aired so far, and while not amazing, it certainly delivers on the usual Avengers mix of action, humor, and comic book faith. After FALCON’s run, we get follow-up series HAWKEYE with Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld, LOKI with Tom Hiddleston, and even Tatiana Maslany as SHE-HULK!  And that’s only scratching the surface. That’s right supplicants: you are destined to subscribe to Disney-Plus for life. -Jeff. Available on Disney Plus.

GANGS OF LONDON is the PD for 3/21/21. This is a gritty and violent series about the fractured alliances of rival mob families in London. Someone has killed the patriarch of the most powerful crime family and the city will be turned upside down to find out who ordered it. The show’s creator (and director of the first two episodes) is Gareth Evans, the Welsh writer/director behind Indonesian action classics THE RAID: REDEMPTION and THE RAID 2. And he delivers hand-to-hand combat set pieces reminiscent of his earlier blood-soaked outings. But this is more mob drama than action series, with Game of Thrones veterans for good measure (Catelyn Stark AND Walder Frey!). I’m definitely hooked for the 10-episode run on this one; I think this could have the talent and grit to become your next obsession. The show premiered in the UK on Sky Atlantic last April. AMC is airing it the US and has partnered to produce the show’s second season. It will premiere on the regular AMC April 4th, and can be streamed now with an AMC+ subscription -Jeff. Brutal, graphic violence, language and nudity. Available now on AMC+; premieres April 4 on AMC.

DICKINSON is the PD for 3/15/21. Although this series focuses on the life and times and horniness of a young Emily Dickinson, I couldn’t stop thinking of Gossip Girl as I made my way through the first season. This is a frothy, shiny and scandalous ride with a literary bent, but one does not need to be a student of 19th century American poetry to enjoy—in fact, it’s probably better if you aren’t, as the show will cheerfully crumble under basic fact checking. Still, each episode focuses on one of DickInson’s poems, and they somehow feel freshly alive and new here. And, I’m there for the sweet and sexy love affair between Emily and her sister-in-law, Sue. -Michelle. Two seasons available on Apple TV+.

The new trailer for THEM, a horror series coming to Prime Video, is the PD for 3/12/21. A top-notch trailer for the upcoming series about a Black family moving to a Los Angeles suburb in the 50’s, and then bad stuff happens, including a cadre of Stepford-ish white neighbors. Not only does this remind me of Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and “Us,” but it also features Shahadi Wright Joseph playing the daughter, just as she did in “Us.” And although it shares the title (sans exclamation) with 1954’s man-eating giant-ant horror classic “Them!”, it looks like this series’ scares might linger… like that dude in the dark corner at the end. Whatcha goin do? -Jeff. Premiering April 9 on Prime Video. Trailer: https://youtu.be/TFmiaKEFqdc

GOMORRAH is the PD for 3/10/21. This is not an Italian version of The Sopranos. This is a dark and brooding series about the underbelly of the Naples drug trade. Humor is almost entirely absent, but the characters are as rich as the multi-season storylines are addictive. The series premiered in Italy in 2014 and has aired 4 seasons, with a 5th in production. HBO Max now has the first three seasons available, and the rights to stream the 4th and 5th, and a spinoff movie called “The Immortals” as well. This was a binge-watch for me. If you are subtitle-averse, the English dubbing is decent. Interestingly, my friend in Milan told me she had to watch the show with Italian subtitles, because the Naples dialect the characters speak is authentic and so thick that many Northerners can’t understand it! – Jeff. Available on HBO Max.

ST. PANTHER- TONIGHT’S SPECIAL: THESE DAYS is the PD for 3/7/21. My pick for best new artist of 2020, I cannot get enough of St. Panther’s EP “These Days.”  It only contains six tracks and leaves you wanting more. So until we get a full-length from the Irvine singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, we have this video of her performing at a small, sparsely populated club in LA. The camera follows her from her Uber, into the joint and through a 16-minute set, and then as she leaves, playing the saxophone to the ending of the EP closer “Something’s Gotta Give” as she walks down a Hollywood street. It may remind you of how much you miss live shows, and how anxious we are to see great new artists like St. Panther perform live again. Until then, watch this video. -Jeff. YouTube:  https://youtu.be/_WYOFg5x2mA
“These Days” EP on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/4diSmDkClyS8ZDaiidTYWZ?si=ND-WZxQMTrSkdSUDOdk6AA 

SUCCESSION on HBO is the PD for 3/5/21. Spent the last 2 weeks watching Seasons 1 & 2 of this critically acclaimed American comedy/drama/satire – and it was definitely worth it! Legend has it Rupert Murdoch and family are the inspiration for the Roy family, a spoiled, uber-rich, dysfunctional, powerful and often pathetic group. The Roys own of Waystar RoyCo, a global media and hospitality empire, and the four children are fighting for control of the company amid uncertainty about the health of their father, who serves as CEO. The writers pull off pretty impressive: keeping these misfits interesting and at times even sympathetic despite their over-the-top behaviors, vanity and unabashed cruelty. Much credit also has to go to the outstanding ensemble cast, led by Golden Globe winner Brian Cox as the family patriarch. Surrounding him are Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin, Matthew Macfadyen, Nicholas Braun and Alan Ruck. Also, look for guest starring roles from Holly Hunter and James Cromwell. HBO has renewed Succession for a third season, and it’s expected in 2021. -Kevin. Available on HBO and HBO Max.

TED LASSO is the PD for 3/3/21. A winning American football coach is recruited to be head coach for a struggling British soccer team by the ill-intentioned owner who got the team out of a divorce settlement. Little does coach Lasso know, she wants him to fail and lead her ex’s beloved team into irrelevance. That’s the set up for one of the best new shows of 2020. Jason Sudekis took home the Golden Globe for best actor, TV comedy, and it is well-deserved. But although his character is the show’s namesake and also its heart, one of the reasons for its strength is its stellar supporting cast. Other than Juno Temple, the lot are mostly unknowns to US audiences, but they elevate the proceedings far beyond its cheeky setup. It’s one of the strongest reasons to subscribe to Apple TV Plus, which still lags behind Netflix or Hulu but is slowly adding to its offerings. -Jeff. Available on Apple TV Plus.

LIZ PHAIR LIVESTREAM event is the PD for 3/2/21. One of my favorite artists since her 1993 debut album “Exile In Guyville,” Liz is still going strong and slated to release her 7th studio album, “Soberish”, in 2021. I know a livestream concert ain’t quite the same thing, but for the time being, it’s all we got. And $20 without parking or a ten-dollar beer ain’t bad.-Jeff From her website: Liz Phair’s her first ever streaming event! “Hey Lou Hey Liz”. In addition to new songs “Hey Lou” and “Good Side,” Liz will be performing classic songs from her catalogue with her first producer and longtime collaborator Brad Wood. The two will also discuss their long history of work together. Wednesday, March 3, 10PM EST / 9PM CST / 7PM PST.
For tickets: https://boxoffice.mandolin.com/collections/liz-phair
Latest single “Hey Lou”: https://open.spotify.com/track/3seYVj09zE4j5u5z665SND?si=652556ccf45f430f

Music

RECKONING by R.E.M. is the PD for 4/10/21, on (the day after) its 37th birthday. Released April 9, 1984, it was the second album from a then little-known band from Athens, Georgia. Admittedly, I was probably listening to something by Quiet Riot that day, as I was immersed in my high school rock and roll nirvana and unaware of the wonders that alternative music was exposing to the classmates I probably thought were weird. As I strutted around Puyallup High School wearing my AC/DC “Flick of the Switch” concert t-shirt, Michael Stipe crooned now-classics such as “Pretty Persuasion,” “(Don’tGo Back To) Rockville,’” and “So. Central Rain.” The album shot to #1 on the college radio charts, and despite scant radio or MTV presence, actually peaked at #27 on the Billboard 200. The album’s spine includes the phrase “File Under Water,” which Stipe has said is the album’s true title (water is a recurring theme in many of the songs). I wouldn’t discover the band until two albums later, with “Life’s Rich Pageant,” when I was expanding my musical tastes in, of all places, college. My favorite track is “7 Chinese Bros.” What’s yours? -Jeff. Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/1pSsHEkqT4hlvJWDBlpVKU?si=EvaNflj2SbKSynU3n_WP-g

PLUNGE /\ SURFACE (2019) is the PD for 4/5/21. This is the latest full-length release from the Los Angeles outfit GOLDROOM, who I admittedly had not heard of until the track Yellow Flowers rolled over my ears on streaming radio last week. I would describe it as dreamy, chill-infused dance pop. And the whole album follows through, with vocalists on most tracks, edging toward house but never getting overly repetitive or heavy. It’s a sunny LP released right before the pandemic, so maybe this year it will get its time in the sun. Standout tracks include Cocaine Girl, You’re Incredible, and I Think. It’s never too late to discover great music! Follow this account for a recommendation in music, movies, TV every day – Jeff Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/7vMwq73CmR2Q7MzTxcgz4H?si=tozCFi2VQh2OYYkC4D8_Ug

THROWBACK THURSDAY

LITTLE GREEN BAG by George Baker Selection is The Pick Daily for Throwback Thursday on 4/1/21. This was the debut single from the group, released in 1969. It became an international cult classic in 1992 when Quentin Tarantino, ever the musicologist for his film soundtracks, used it in the opening credit sequence for Reservoir Dogs. Also that year, it hit number 1 in Japan after being used in a whiskey commercial. As Wikipedia explains: “The track’s original title was ‘Little Greenback’, in reference to the colour of the US dollar. However, the single was given the erroneous title ‘Little Green Bag’, which some took to be a ‘bag of marijuana’… The “Little Green Bag” title was then retained for all subsequently released versions of the single, as well as the group’s 1970 debut album, also titled Little Green Bag.” – Jeff. Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/4DR5MStkWtDYf17jBUOo0V?si=f56842589f0947e2

SMILING WITH NO TEETH, the new album from GENESIS OWUSU, is the PD for 3/26/21. Owusu is a Ghanaian Australian artist and this is his debut LP, a powerful concept album which takes dual meanings from the term “Black Dog”. It’s commonly used to describe depression, but also can be used as a racist epithet. I have had the track “The Other Black Dog” on my playlist since its pre-album release last year, and love it. The album is an eclectic blend of funk, soul, hip-hop… once again a new artist who transcends traditional genres, creating a sound all his own. -Jeff. Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/7LI6T5cy6Et8RDZXCoCEtJ?si=5Fo3ds7OSzGV5gePt8C-mQ 

THROWBACK THURSDAY

TOURIST by ST GERMAIN is The Pick Daily for Throwback Thursday, 3/25/21. Ludovic Navarre, stage name St Germain, hasn’t released a ton of original music since his 1996 debut, but TOURIST from 2000 is his most successful and revered work. Navarre is a French musician who still performs and releases occasional singles or EPs. He was in the lineup at Coachella in 2016. The tracks “Rose Rouge” and “Sure Thing” from this album have been on my perpetual playlist since it was released. The music has been described as a combination of house and nu jazz. Always a great chill record for me. In January this year he released the remix album TOURIST 20TH ANNIVERSARY TRAVEL VERSIONS, which contains several versions of my two favorite songs plus a few others. But for my money, the original release from 2000 never gets old… and I don’t just mean that as the cliché that it is… the music sounds fresh two decades later. -Jeff. Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/0YqCvOMhp8enM01an9Nntj?si=p_9PaQawS3-Ety_IMiFL1Q 

BACK TO MINE by Digby Jones is the PD for 3/22/21. Jones is a British musician and producer who specializes in “chill” music.  His tunes are always a nice addition to the playlist, or for a relaxing afternoon in the hammock, this latest album from 2020 can do the trick. -Jeff. Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/79BwnjRgRxvuK3fzc5KrUD?si=an_INa60QnG3JVPno7Vjuw

“ANYTHING” by ALISON WONDERLAND is the PD for 3/17/21. I have been digging this dance track from the Australian producer/singer/DJ. She’s making a name for herself (a clever one, at that) down under, and although her two albums topped the U.S. Dance charts, I think she is poised to break bigger with her next album. Alison paired with LA producer/DJ Valentino Khan to release “Anything” as a single in 2020. It may be speaking to the isolation we have all been feeling (“I just wanna feel anything with you”) or, if you watch the video, maybe she’s just tripping. In any case, it’s a catchy dance number. And if you like it, you can check out some of her other even catchier tunes, albeit a bit poppier, such as “Peace,” “Church,” and “Easy.” (She seems to favor one-word titles). -Jeff.  Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/48fPdAwGVoSkGK8GSez9yx?si=W1gL2EyWSOeyNmjsaktFqg

BLACK PUMAS is the Pick Daily for Grammys Sunday, 3/14/21. Their self-titled debut album came out in June of 2019, but through the magic of qualification rules it is up for Album of the Year in tonight’s Grammys, and their single “Colors” is nominated for Record of the Year. “Colors” was one of the first songs we featured on The Pick podcast in our new music selections. The whole album is dynamite, and there’s a great extended video of a live studio session of “Colors” on YouTube. -Jeff. YouTube video: https://youtu.be/0G383538qzQ

THROWBACK THURSDAY

Throwback Thursday! KISS YOU ALL OVER by Exile is today’s Pick Daily. I was reminded of this song when it played at the end of the movie “The Big Ugly” (2020), which I watched last night on Hulu. The song has no real connection to the film or what happens in the end, but I think they just wanted to use it on their soundtrack. And it is a pretty good song, after all of these years. It was used in an episode of “Mindhunters” on Netflix as well, which is why it has been on my playlist for a couple years now. The song held the #1 spot for four weeks in 1978, and was the band’s only pop hit before they became a country band in the 80’s.  In 2010, Billboard ranked the song ninth on its list of “The 50 Sexiest Songs of All Time”. -Jeff. #kissyouallover #exileband Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/3FGcQkWQlkeB82RdZwlw8V?si=241a738735a545d6

BEING A WOMAN by Lake Street Dive is the PD for 3/8/21. I fully admit it, I am stealing the idea to pick this song to observe INTERNATIONAL WOMAN’S DAY from KCRW and their daily Top Tune…. A free song download every weekday. It’s one of the main ways I discover new music; both listening to the station at kcrw.com (or 89.9 in LA) and also downloading most of their Top Tunes. I already had a song by Lake Street Dive called “Just Ask” which I really like. This new one is good, too, so I need to check out more of this band. Their eighth album “Obviously” is due out this Friday (Mar 12). And hey, out of the 12 Pick Dailys so far, this is the eighth to feature a female-led or themed choice. It just goes to show how much great entertainment from women is out there right now. Happy IWD to everyone! – Jeff. KCRW download: https://www.kcrw.com/music/shows/todays-top-tune/lake-street-dive-being-a-woman Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/5gyOqh7CqJFudjLj9ElfPf?si=b46b5b11b474477c

THROWBACK THURSDAY

Throwback Thursday! SHE SELLS SANCTUARY by The Cult (1985) is the PD for 3/4/21. Many of us got into the Cult when they released their album “Electric” in 1987. But we also knew this standout single from their previous album “Love.” She Sells Sanctuary is often considered their greatest song. The band never became as big as many thought they would. -Jeff. From The A.V. Club (music.avclub.com): “The Doors are in there—Astbury’s voice assures that—but as with a lot of mid-’80s alternative rock, the beat is steady and walloping enough that “She Sells Sanctuary” could be played in dance clubs. Billy Duffy’s guitars alternate between grinding metallic riffs, Johnny Marr-like shimmer, and the kind of propulsive acoustic rhythms that peers like The Cure and Echo & The Bunnymen were also experimenting with. The Cult crammed it all into a recording that goes through simple changes throughout, from the soft build-up of the intro to the drama of its instrumental break. This was the band’s big swing: its crack at making a “River Deep, Mountain High,” or “Good Vibrations.” In its wake, the band narrowed. But for one moment, “She Sells Sanctuary” explored all The Cult could be.” 

THE LAST MAN ON EARTH by Wolf Alice, is the PD for 2/28/21. This rock band from London had a smash debut in 2015, and if you haven’t yet listened to that album, My Love Is Cool, stream it now. This new song is the first single from their upcoming third album, Blue Weekend. You’ll be hearing a lot on The Pick podcast about this band this year…. Kevin is a fan, too. – Jeff
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/3M0qr97OkPig7Ar9xSGL6p?si=W3aohKsTQjinpItxa6pbyw
Music Video: https://youtu.be/xzH6toY_EPw
Podcast website: https://thepickcast.com

PD for 2/26/21: LA NOCHE DE ANOCHE by Bad Bunny, a track that features flamenco/reggaeton favorite Rosalía, from his latest album EL ÚLTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO. Rosalía appeared alongside him on last weekend’s Saturday Night Live, sparking rumors of a possible romance. But since Bunny is dating Gabriela Berlingeri, the pairing is limited only to this track!  I am a fan of Rosalía and this adds to her long list of collaborations. This track and BB’s whole album is worth checking out. -Jeff
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/2XIc1pqjXV3Cr2BQUGNBck?si=0bc08de08754462c 
Their performance on SNL: https://youtu.be/7yb4HX5gwqI


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