Recommendation Roulette – January 2021

New year.

New movies.

New you.

We at Random Movie Roulette hope you all had a spectacular transition and wish happiness on all your futures. While our recommendation roulette segment is about what we enjoyed over the past month it’s also to share what we believe is worth anyone’s time. So relax, recline, and bathe in stress free environments found in entertainment.

To the future!

Jack’s Pick:

Better Call Saul – TV (AMC)

Usually I think half the fun of this blog, and our show, is to prop up things that people may otherwise have never watched. So why would I recommend Better Call Saul

The successor to Breaking Bad’s legacy must certainly have such a pedigree and acclaim that nobody else needs to sing its praises, right? And yet, as we all cheer on Breaking Bad almost a decade after it has ended why does it feel like nobody is watching Saul? It’s not in danger of dying out certainly. Far from it, it is set to surpass the length of Walter White’s saga into crime with its upcoming sixth season. And yet it’s not exactly something EVERYBODY has watched. 

That could be because like me, most people didn’t watch Breaking Bad until it was all over because then we could plow through it as one epic saga. But at the same time how crazy must it have been to have watched BB as it closed out and to witness the fallout firsthand. And now comes the declaration that you may roll your eyes at, but I beg you to hear me out. I like Better Call Saul more than Breaking Bad. How? Why? The first season takes a minute to get used to, and I can absolutely see how it was easy to fall off when it was airing. I fell off after the finale in 2015. Ready to return once the story kicked into a higher gear. Now the first 4 seasons are on Netflix and the fifth is complete. Now is the time to jump on because season 2 and especially season 3 are where things get juicy. 

The strength of Better Call Saul comes from its seamless ability to play to Bob Odenkirk’s strengths as a comedian and yet give him drama and a character that audiences came to love in BB, and that could blow something like Adam Sandler’s turn in Uncut Gems out of the park. Walter White was also a great protagonist/antagonist but ultimately he was surrounded by a less engaging supporting cast. Not his criminal counterparts like Gus and Hector who are also in Saul at full force, but I mean Skyler, Hank, Marie, and even Jessie were all kinda beneath Walt at some points, they belittled him, took him for granted, and ultimately could feel just as cancerous as his actual cancer. The secrecy of Heisenberg and Jessie’s carelessness got annoying and largely stayed that way. 

In BCS, while Gus and especially Mike, (Who returns with all the hitman badassery and sneering of Lee Marvin in “Point Blank”.) are in top form. New supporting characters like Kim Wexler, Nacho Varga, and Chuck McGill shine as allies and adversaries in Jimmy/Saul’s life. They’re never a nagging hindrance. If they don’t believe in him they’re an enemy, and if they work with him there’s nothing short of remarkable that can’t be accomplished. And rest assured that it is the legal stuff in the show that is far more dramatic and interesting than any criminal/meth related storylines. The feud between Walter and Gus has nothing on the drama between Saul and a character not to be named here. It’s just a faster and more involving show which is a tough act to pull off against Heisenberg. 

Mike’s Pick:

Euphoria – TV (HBO)

Finding a new show to get obsessed with is especially difficult for me, because I usually tend to find most prestige drama television that I come across to be drawn out, boring, and more concerned with the long haul than telling actively engaging stories on an episode by episode basis. Maybe it’s my short attention span, but I find most drama television to be a chore to get through. HBO’s Euphoria is the first show in a long while to absolutely grip me from the first episode and keep me wanting every little drip that comes out of this show. Euphoria is about a damaged, drug-addicted teenager Rue, played by Zendaya in an Emmy-winning role, as she struggles with addiction and relapse, while also navigating complicated relationships with her family and with her new girlfriend, Jules (Hunter Schafer). In addition to the hypnotic first season, which left us with a real breaking point between the characters’ relationship, there are also two special episodes that were shot during the pandemic which severely limit the range and scope of the cast of characters and locations, but delve more intimately into the two characters’ perspectives. The second special episode in particular, which focuses solely on Jules’ perspective in a therapy session as she expresses the personal complications that she has been dealing with in regards to her identity as a trans girl, her relationship with Rue, her parents, and her insecurities that stem from all of these external factors. This sobering, stripped down approach has allowed one of the most raw, hard-hitting looks into a character’s most interpersonal thoughts and feelings which sets up a lot of possibilities for emotional arcs and payoffs for season 2, whenever that may be. 

Cody’s Pick:

Deathtopia – Manga

Growing up there was a time that I felt uneasy with the world…for different reasons than what’s been going on for the past year. Back then, I always thought the supernatural were around every corner and in this manga they are. In their world there exists ‘humans’ who are referred to as “Cheaters.” Beings that have special powers and an unruly urge to kill and torment. Many serial killers turn out to be them.

After an accident, Kou Fujimura’s powers awaken where he can see and differentiate these Cheaters from regular humans. He is quickly enlisted into a special task force with other people around his age who have also awakened, though to a lesser degree, and together they hunt down serial killers and terrorists while unraveling a complex plot of deep seeded revenge that could change the face of humanity forever.

The manga lasts 8 volumes and is digitally available from Kodansha on Comixology. The first 4 volumes is fairly procedural but the mystery and intense stakes that are ramped up with each case keeps you invested until shit hits the fan. If you’re familiar with Tokyo Ghoul, this is similar to that but will thrive in your nightmares like an earwig.

A must read for horror fans.

Louis’ Pick:

Persona 5 Royal – Video Game

When COVID-19 first hit and everyone hunkered down and stayed inside for a few months (not as long as you should have), I was losing my fucking mind. Seriously. I was a wreck. My wife (then fiancé) was still going into work and I was home with my dog, extremely bored. I also suffer from crippling depression; the kind that makes doing anything, even the simplest task, almost impossible. As you can imagine, the state of the world only made those matters worse. I missed my friends. I missed going out and doing things. I missed my friends. I missed having some sort of structure and routine. 

Lucky for me, Atlus finally got their shit together and released Persona 4: Golden on Steam. I got hooked. I became wrapped up in the JRPG, the team of high school detectives, and the mystery of who was throwing people into a world inside the TV. I sunk about 80-hours into it. I thought I’d never invest that much time into one game ever again….then I bought Persona 5 Royal.

Persona 5 Royal is a rerelease of Persona 5 but with about 30 additional hours of content and some great QOL (Quality of Life) improvement that more than justify double-dipping for owners of the original. I had tried the original and just couldn’t get into it. However, with an appreciation of the Persona series, P5R became one of my favorite games.

In P5R you play as a high school junior who recently moved to Tokyo after running into some legal trouble in his hometown. Boarding at a coffee shop owned by his gruff and unfriendly guardian, he and his first friend, Ryuji, discover the world of Personas. Personas are kind of like Pokemon, except they look horrifying and sometimes are just giant penis monsters. Taking the moniker of Joker, your character and Ryuji form the Phantom Thieves, a group of like-minded Persona-users who are determined to take down the “shitty adults” that are making their and their friends’ lives miserable. Adventure ensues, etc.

That adventure is awesome, thrilling, surprising – everything you would want in a JRPG, but that’s not what hooked me. See, whenever you’re not dungeon crawling and battling you are responsible for most aspects of Joker’s life. You have to go to school every day, build relationships with your friends, get a part time job, study for tests, and go the gym. The game runs on a calendar so how you spend your time is important. Everything you do makes time pass and you’re only given so many days to take down your target (the shitty adults), but taking them down is made easier by developing relationships with the characters you meet around town. 

So, during a time that I felt adrift, P5R gave me structure. It gave me goals, friends, a mystery to uncover, and a million different things to do in that world. We were all stuck at home, movies stopped coming out, and it started to feel like time was at a stand still. Planning out days in weeks in Persona was the closest thing I had to normalcy. It kept me sane for the 120 hours I put into it (I even got the platinum trophy for this one). I will never forget my experience with this game and what it did to keep me afloat.

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