Going Clear + Pop Culture Notes

So, I watched the HBO  Documentary “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” last night. Boy. It was really something.

Now, let me start of by saying, I went in not knowing very much about Scientology. I mean, to me, it was pretty much just a punchline – people would joke about it on TV, on the web, and in podcasts. I didn’t really think of it as anything more than the butt of a joke – a weird 21st century cult, with strange beliefs, a couple of celebrity members, but ultimately harmless.

After watching the documentary, I don’t know what to think. I didn’t expect the documentary to be so serious – they really went on a deep dive into the so-called religion, and it was extremely informative. The documentary also made me really uncomfortable – it seems like there’s something off about a lot of the more devoted members. I mean, take someone like Tom Cruise. I’ve always just assumed that he’s kind of a vapid, weird guy who just happened to have enough charisma and good looks to make it as a big time movie star. But now that I’ve watched the documentary, I don’t know. It seems to me like there may be something darker lurking underneath his weird, glazed over eyes.

The documentary itself is more or less flawless – it’s utterly captivating, and even for someone like me, who has never really been interested in Scientology as a subject, found the doc interesting enough to watch all the way through without feeling bored. I’ve been reading a lot of reviews, and apparently a lot of the stuff in the documentary is not really new information, but as someone who was previously totally uninformed about the subject, I found it both entertaining and educational. Basically, I highly recommend it to everybody who hasn’t seen it – it’s not one of these dull documentaries that you watch only to seem smart. It’s genuinely both interesting and informative.

OK. On to other things. I’ve just a couple of pop culture notes for all of you:

  • Kendrick Lamar’s new album is definitely a challenging listen, but it’s totally worth it. It’s really quite incredible once you get stuck in. It’s one of those albums that gets better as you listen to it. Highly recommend everybody get it off iTunes (or wherever you get your music).
  • I’m really looking forward to seeing ‘It Follows’ – I’ve heard some incredible things, and you can always count me on board for any genuinely good horror film. The genre is filled with crap, but once in a while a really excellent horror film comes out and stuns everybody, and apparently ‘It Follows’ is one of those.
  • The new Netflix show, Bloodlines, is really not my thing. The reviews were alright, and a couple of people I know told me it’s good, but I just can’t seem to get into. I suppose it’s shot well enough, and the dark, brooding family drama might work for some people, but it’s not my thing.
  • The new iteration of the Late Late Show, with host James Corden, is just OK. I feel like the new batch of hosts are all incredibly enthusiastic and friendly, to the point where it gets on my nerves. I mean, we have Jimmy Fallon – we don’t need another puppy-human-hybrid on a late night show. Man, I miss Craig Ferguson. His show was the weirdest, most surreal, most original late night show for the entire time he was on the air. This new batch (Fallon, Seth Myers, Corden, and Larry Wilmore on Comedy Central) have thoroughly underwhelmed me. I like my comedy with a bit of bite, and these guys are all house-trained far too well to deliver it.

 

Furious 7 + Favorite Podcasts

So, I watched Furious 7 a couple of days ago. It was good. Same thing as the last movie, but a little more emotional because of Paul Walker’s death. If you liked the 5th and 6th movies, you’ll like this one. If you thought Fast 5 and F&F 6 were incredibly vapid, stupid, unnecessarily action filled pieces of trash, you’ll think the same of Furious 7. Personally, I’ve always been a fan of well made, well choreographed, BIG american style action films, so I enjoyed it quite a lot.

A few notes about the movie:

The Rock is a star. He’s not the best actor in the world, but he’s undeniably charismatic, and he’s incredibly watchable on the silver screen. I’m really confused as to why he hasn’t yet gotten his own franchise yet. My feeling is if Hollywood invested into a brand new, big budget action film franchise with The Rock at the helm, it’d do gangbusters. Something like Bad Boys or Die Hard, but with The Rock as the lead. A little humor, a lot of action. He’d be fantastic in that role.

This chick, Ronda Rousey – she’s not a good actress, but she really sells the hell out of the action scenes. If I were to pick between Gina Carano and Ronda Rousey as a casting director, I’d pick Rousey everytime. They both do the action stuff well, but Carano’s acting is incredibly wooden – she lacks the natural charm/charisma that Rousey has. I think she will do better than people expect in Hollywood.

The movie is reasonably good. If you like films like this, you should definitely go see it. It’s exactly what you expect it is. As far as deadly British villains go, Jason Statham does a bit of a better job than the last guy.

OK. Moving on. Here at Elitish we’re HUGE fans of podcasts. Pretty much all our writers listen to podcasts anytime their commuting. Here’s a list of of our favorite pop culture podcasts:

Pop Culture Happy Hour – This podcast by Linda Holmes (of NPR’s MonkeySee) is probably our favorite overall pop culture podcast. Each week, they have a roundtable discussion about something going on in the pop culture world – on the latest episode, they discuss SXSW and Geographical cliches. Lind Holmes is one of the better pop culture bloggers out there, and all of the regulars on the podcast are smart and reasonably well informed, but a special shoutout goes out from us to Glen Weldon, who always has a sharp, acerbic and often hilarious take on the world of pop culture.

WTF with Marc Maron – This one is plenty famous already, so we won’t talk about it too much. Basically, the narcissistic and self involved comedian Marc Maron sits down with a bunch of famous people and has a in depth heart-to-heart discussion with them. The best episodes are usually the ones where Maron has a chat with somebody he’s offended/mistreated in the past – its really interesting to listen to him try to be empathetic and apologize/explain his past behavior while he pretty much remains as narcissistic and self centered as ever. His awareness of his own shortcomings, and his constant battle to overcome them is what makes Maron an interesting interviewer.

Anything by Grantland – Grantland is the premier destination of sports and popculture writing, and the podcasts are equally exceptional. On the pop culture side, Grantland has a slew of podcasts – and we listen to all of them. If you’re interested in TV, check out Hollywood Prospectus. If you’re interested in music and movies, try Do You Like Prince Movies. If you’re a reality TV addict, The Right Reasons podcast is a must listen (one of our staff listens to it even though he doesn’t watch any of the shows because he finds Juliet Litman both hilarious and oddly attractive).

 

Welcome to Elitish.com – First post: iZombie

Welcome to Elitish.com – we’re a brand new pop culture hub on the connecting tubes known as the internet, and we’ll be bringing you updated pop culture analysis and discussion.

Our goal is to become an influential voice – to reach the heights of a Grantland, or NPR’s Monkey See.  We’re going to try our damnedest to be on top of everything that’s going on in pop culture, and our goal is to cover music, television/film, and books.

For our inaugural post, we’re going to be talking about one of our favorite new TV shows – iZombie, on the CW Network.

When we first heard about iZombie, we were skeptical. It seemed to us like a blatant cash grab attempt by the CW – clearly they were trying to capitalize on the popularity of the Walking Dead. Everybody’s tried it. FX had the Strain. The perpetually awful Syfy network had ZNation. Naturally, we were skeptical about yet another Zombie show being released from a hit-or-miss network like the CW.

However, after doing a little bit of digging, we started getting excited about iZombie. For one thing, Rob Thomas, the creator of the incomparably awesome Veronica Mars, was going to be the showrunner. Also, we discovered that iZombie was based off a comic book – and this particular comic wasn’t even remotely similar to The Walking Dead. In fact, after doing a little research, we learned that the whole Zombie thing in the iZombie comic was a bit of a red herring – it’s not really about zombies so much as it is about a superheroine who just happens to derive her powers from being a zombie. It’s as much about zombies as Superman is about aliens. Why was this exciting? Well, the CW has done tremendously well with their super hero adaptions. Both Arrow and the Flash are superbly entertaining. Right now, there’s 2 things that the CW is undeniably good at. Telenovela adaptions (Jane the Virgin is really quite excellent) and superhero shows.

So, fast forward a couple of months and here we are. The first episode of iZombie aired last week, and it was pretty much everything we hoped for. Don’t get us wrong – this show isn’t going to be in the pantheon of the GOAT televisions shows alongside The Wire, Breaking Bad and the Sopranos. But iZombie is a show with heart, and it’s well written, quirky, and all around fun to watch. It reminds us a lot of Veronica Mars (which we absolutely love here), and also bears some similarities to another one of our favorites, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

As far as pilot episodes go, we couldn’t really ask for much more – the premise was teed up and dispensed with in the first 5 minutes or so, which is definitely something we appreciate (far too many pilot episodes spend an hour setting up the premise instead of diving straight into the interesting bits). The episode itself was a tad procedural-y for our tastes, but we figure that will change as we watch more episodes. The lead actress, Rose McIver, is both quippy and attractive, and that’s almost always going to be a winning combination. The supporting characters seem a little thin for the moment, but we’re guessing that will change as we watch more episodes.

Overall,  we liked the pilot of iZombie a lot – and we’re eagerly looking forward to the second episode. Hopefully, this show can fill the Buffy/VMars hole that’s in our hearts – god knows its been empty long enough.

Paintball Culture: Get Splattered

Harrison Ford is brilliant at it. Angela Jolie and Brad Pitt play it with their kids. JaVale McGee spends all his down time pursuing it. Even Justin Bieber does it. What is this activity which has celebrities donning camouflage clothing and getting down and dirty? Indeed, they are joining millions of other Americans in the adrenalin-pumping sport of paintball.

A Sport for All Ages

Since the sport’s inception in 1981, when a group of friends developed the game in the forest outside New Hampshire, paintball has been the activity of choice for children’s parties, bachelor or bachelorette weekends and company team-building ventures. Whilst other extreme sports have come into vogue in recent years, the appeal of paintball lies in the fact that you can enjoy it regardless of age and fitness level.
Low Impact Paintball is played with smaller paintballs that shoot at slower speeds with about 70% less force than traditional paintballs. This option should appeal if you are organizing birthday parties or other special occasions for pre-teens and teens. Organizing a party with enough activities to sustain the interest of young people who would rather be playing computer games is a challenge. The interactive, competitive aspects of paintball resemble a real-life computer game. Unlike a computer game, your children have to fully engage mentally and physically to play.

Creative ideas to celebrate your last days of freedom before marriage are difficult to generate. Paintball can be a fun, off-beat way to mark this life passage without the expensive debauchery usually associated with bachelor and bachelorette weekends. In these tough economic times when lavish spending prior to the wedding is foolhardy, paintball offers an alternative that doesn’t break the bank.

Paintball continues to hold great appeal for corporations that wish to hold low-cost, high-involvement outings for staff. The ability to strategize and communicate effectively is the key to success in paintball. This means that all staff members, regardless of age, gender or fitness, start on a level playing field. As a means of relieving stress, cementing friendships and identifying leaders, paintball is the best corporate event available. Surely major companies like Amazon, General Electric and Starwood Hotels can’t be wrong.

Paintball as a Serious Sport

For the serious enthusiast, paintball is a sport that offers genuine competition. From the United States to Australia, professional paintball teams compete at every level from local to national to international. This requires more commitment than occasional visits to the paintball park and some financial outlay to buy equipment is necessary.

JaVale McGee’s mum reports that he spends $3000 annually on his paintball activities; however, there is no need for you to go to such extremes. Good quality markers, ammunition and safety clothing are the main expenses involved with competition paintball.Professional teams often seek sponsors in order to supplement these costs.

In 2014, the United States sent teams to international competitions in places as diverse as Malaysia, Australia, France and Taiwan. Most major tournaments are now played with inflatable obstacles which allows for unique configurations, improved viewing for spectators and easier judging. The importance of catering for television audiences is highlighted by the fact that some tournaments now only allow fluorescent-colored ammunition. Webcasting major tournaments helps garner further interest in this fast-paced, tactical sport.

Paintball is the perfect activity for casual encounters or serious team events. With paintball parks splattered across the country, there is no excuse for you to avoid this fun sport any longer.