Best of the Beast Summer 17
There might be a lot of things going on in the world that are getting you down right now – your Facebook feed is a battleground, you may have used up most of your vacation days already guessing you might be off to Canada soon, you may have sat through “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”, but friends, summer’s arrival should lift your spirits. Like the swallows returning to Capistrano and the drunken Parrotheads to the Florida Keys, some things are a harbinger of good things to come, and for the third year running, you can mark the start of the sunny season by the announcement of the Best of the Beast Summer 17 Preview.
Here are the movies, concerts, books, releases and events that the PCB staff is really excited about. Now, we’re not guaranteeing all of the following will be classics we will lovingly remember over New Year’s Eve champagne, or will be even be worth your admission money: these picks are like a wish list. As we all know, the future can be unpredictable, but our writers are excitedly gearing up for a wide range of summer treats that we want to be great, and we want to share with you. Enjoy.
Pop Culture Beast writers’ thoughts on Summer 17 – from comics to eclipses
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Tour
One of my formative experiences in middle school was discovering Mystery Science Theater 3000. The mix of absurdist humor, pop culture references (of which I’d catch maybe one in three), midwestern warmth, and old cheesy movies was too much for me to ignore. I was hooked, and have remained an ardent fan for two decades now. The first ever MST3k live tour is happening this summer, and likely coming to a town near you. One of the unsung joys of the modern age is that, if you’re lucky and wait long enough, everything old is new again. To see the new faces of the show, alongside creator Joel Hodgson on stage is going to be something to behold. I hope I see you there. www.mst3k.com
David Bazan is one of the finest songwriters working today, and in the past year or so, has released two outstanding solo albums, “Blanco” and “Care”. This summer he’s releasing an album with his new band, Lo Tom, which is made up of old bandmates (including from his most famous project, Pedro the Lion) and members of Starflyer 59. One song, “Overboard,” has already been released, and it is what you’d expect out of a Bazan project – it’s smart, melodic, surprising, and leaves you wanting more. www.davidbazan.com
“Deathstroke” from DC Comics
The best comic, hands down, that DC has published in the last year is “Deathstroke,” written by Christopher Priest and illustrated by folks like Carlo Pagulayan, Larry Hama, and Denys Cowan. The book is both a superhero comic, a story about bad fathering, a tour through the DC Universe, and unlike anything you’d ever read before. In July, the series is shifting to a new status quo, and one that looks legitimately fascinating. You could probably jump in there, but there’s more fun in catching up. www.dccomics.com
Postmodern Jukebox (Touring)
Love both pop music and vintage tunes? With a rotating cast of singers and musicians, Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox gives modern hits a twist by transposing them into a variety of old timey styles. All of the performers are terrific and there are a wide range of singers, each with their own flair. If that sounds like your cup of tea, you can catch them touring America and Canada this summer on the east coast and late summer into fall on the west coast. Postmodern Jukebox dates Twitter: @scottbradlee
More Best of the Beast… deaths, apes and spooky podcasts – keep reading
The Big Sick
Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, of The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail and The Indoor Kids podcast, might be alt-comedy’s cutest couple. The story of how they got together is recounted this upcoming Judd Apatow production, directed by The State alum Michael Showalter. As the title implies, their relationship was put to the test once Emily (played in the movie by Zoe Kazan) was hospitalized and ended up in a medically induced coma. In the abstract, this sounds a little heavy, but early word from Sundance and South by Southwest has it that the flick is a winning mix of humor and heart. It opens in select cities June 23, and goes wider in the following weeks. www.thebigsickmovie.com
It’s been four long years since director Edgar Wright’s last feature film (the truly excellent “The World’s End”) hit theaters, but the end result appears to be worth it. The fact that the film got its release date scooted up from August to June 28 certainly seems like a good sign. Ansel Elgort stars as a getaway driver whose technique revolves around the music he keeps constantly playing in his earbuds. The conceit reportedly allows Wright to create a car chase musical, with every sequence meticulously choreographed to the songs in Elgort’s ears. If anyone can pull that off, it would be a genre stylist like Wright. The unusual ensemble cast, which includes Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, and Jon Hamm is icing on the cake. www.babydriver-movie.com
WAXAHATCHEE – “Out In the Storm”
Katie Crutchfield writes and sings with the emotional openness of a ’70s folk songstress, but she rarely strums an acoustic guitar. With a background in pop-punk, Crutchfield tends to plug in and crank it up. Her fourth album under the moniker Waxahatchee reportedly arrives during the fallout of a romantic break-up, and the first single, “Silver,” is a catchy anthem about moving on from difficult memories. Out in the Storm is released on July 14. www.waxahatcheemusic.com
Thomas Patrick Maguire – “Irish Silence”
New York singer-songwriter Thomas Patrick Maguire bears his ’90s alt-rock influences proudly. His sound has been dubbed “acoustic grunge” and on early records his voice was the spitting image of Kurt Cobain. On “Go to Hell,” the new single from his upcoming seventh album, TPM appears to have pivoted from unplugged Nirvana toward a slightly more experimental Pavement- or Meat Puppets-type approach. I guess we have to wait until August, when Irish Silence is currently slated to be released, to find out if the rest of the album follows suit. Maguire on Bandcamp
Brian Wilson: Pet Sounds Tour and The 20th Anniversary of Princess Diana’s Death
My two go together in the field of weird curiosity about anniversaries. Both are going to be celebrations of a legend, one sadly not here any more, and one killed in a car accident in Paris.
All kidding aside, bless his cotton socks, Brian Wilson is thankfully still with us, and “Pet Sounds” is acknowledged to be a masterpiece. A 50-year old masterpiece. Let that sink in. How will the reclusive Wilson deal with a massive worldwide tour? Repeating yourself over and over each night is probably less satisfying than signing/sealing/delivering a work and after a period of seclusion, moving on to scratching a new creative itch. It will be interesting to see how Brian fares, but if he pulls it off, this is a no-miss night. www.brianwilson.com
Ten years ago, the youthful and single sons of the late Diana put on a concert to celebrate her life on the 10th anniversary of her death, but now they say they won’t repeat that public event. So what will be done? Here in the UK PCB office, we notice Britain is much less Di-mad than the US and other parts of the globe, The Queen is a dynamo, but in her 90s and never a big fan, the Diana-worshippers and conspiracy theorists also aren’t getting any younger, times seem to have changed, and we shall see if the world still cares this August.
In A Heartbeat
With only a :25 second trailer and a successful (nearly five times their goal) Kickstarter campaign, this class project is turning into a bone fide phenom. It hasn’t even been released yet and it has fans the world over, myself included. The official synopsis: A closeted boy runs the risk of being outed by his own heart after it pops out of his chest to chase down the boy of his dreams. The animation is superb and the character design is adorable. I cannot wait to see this short and best of all, it’s being released online for FREE. Be sure to share it the world over as this is a very important moment for animation and for the millions of LGBTQ kids out there. “In a Heartbeat” on Tumblr
Mary Lambert – Bold
An incredibly touching and relatable album. You probably know her best from her appearance on the Macklemore song “Same Love,” but Mary Lambert has a few albums of her own, the latest of which is the beautiful “Bold”. It is cover to cover wonderful. Poppy, infectious, heart wrenching, and just plain gorgeous. Mary Lambert’s “Bold” is a must listen. @marylambertsing
The NoSleep Podcast
Horror fans should be flocking to this show. Featuring top notch production of super creepy stories with stellar voice casts and the utmost care and love for the material. No Sleep is the best there is at what they do. I’m extremely proud to have two of my own stories featured on this series including “Eggs” in season 3, and “The Capacity For Evil” this summer (it might even be out as you read this!). @nosleepodcast
Rise Against – Wolves
Following up their critically acclaimed “The Black Market” from 2014, Rise Against is releasing the much anticipated “Wolves” on June 9th. The single “Welcome to the Breakdown” is available now. The outspoken band says the album is about “creating a space that’s dangerous for injustice.” www.riseagainst.com
Cheap Trick – We’re All Alright!
Off the heels of last year’s Bang Zoom Crazy Hello, Cheap Trick is back again with another (and hopefully better) album. This will be their second album on the Big Machine Label (famous for releasing Taylor Swift’s albums). “Long Time Coming” is the first single off of the album and it sounds great. Let’s hope the rest of the album sounds like this. Release date: June 16th. www.cheaptrick.com
I got to see a screening of this film and I have to say that I was blown away! It was really great and it just goes to show how good the on-screen DC Universe can be, as long as Zack Snyder has minimum involvement. It’s a major step up from last year’s abysmal “Batman v Superman” and the even worse “Suicide Squad”. That being said, I still don’t have high hopes for the Snyder-helmed Justice League film later this year. Enjoy this really well done summer action movie that seems more like a Phase 1 Marvel film than a DC one. Watch the trailer here.
The Lego Batman Movie
This movie is funny, fun, and great for the whole family. Perfect movie for a family road trip or a rainy summer afternoon. Blu-Ray/DVD Release Date: June 13th. Read my full review here.
DEFCON is a hacker/computer safety/technology convention, where you’ll find both white and black hat hackers, government employees looking to build on their security skills, and highly caffeinated people wandering around googling the latest shiny tech. DEFCON 25 runs 27-30 July 2017. It’s held at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas NV. The DEFCON website holds all kinds of information about the various speeches, panels, games, classes, films, sanctioned (and some unsanctioned) events, and musical experiences that all take place at the most tech -evolved conference. www.defcon.org
… and an addendum to that: if you’re there and lucky enough to listen to some aural treats, make sure to catch DJ Jackalope. She spreads her beats all over the world, but always comes home to Vegas. Get a preview of her on Soundcloud or at her website. And if you run into her, make sure to ask her “What’s New Pussycat” @djjackalope
The other thing on my plate is the total solar eclipse on 21 August 2017 – first in decades. Solar eclipses were once thought to be a great dragon swallowing the sun. The ancient Chinese would beat drums and shoot off fireworks to scare away the beast. Incan history says they’d immerse themselves in water, to help the sun struggle against the dragon. This year, we US Beasts get a special treat: the path of totality for this year’s eclipse covers a huge swath of the US, stretching from Oregon to South Carolina. This interactive map from NASA will give you geographical details. And, for anyone in the Northern Colorado, Eastern Wyoming, or Western Nebraska area, a group of us will be travelling up to see the eclipse, and would love to have you join us. We’ll be playing Ingress along the way, so preferential treatment will be given to Resistance players.
War for the Planet of the Apes
“War for the Planet of the Apes” will hit theaters on July 14. It is the third movie in the reboot series of Planet of the Apes movies that started in 2011 with “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”. “War” is the follow up to 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”. The two new movies have been praised by critics for its use of CGI motion-capture technology for the apes and for actor Andy Serkis’ performance as Caesar. The original 1968 movie spawned four sequels, along with a live-action and animated TV series. An attempt to revive the franchise was made in 2001 with a reboot directed by Tim Burton. Burton’s movie was met with mixed to negative reviews, which resulted in the movie not receiving a sequel. Luckily, “Rise” was a successful movie- which led to “Dawn” and now “War”. I personally love the original five movies. The original sequels were made on low budgets but what keeps bringing me back to those movies is the storytelling- which I think is some of the most underrated sci-fi writing ever. Planet of the Apes Official
Alice Cooper – Paranormal
Shock rocker Alice Cooper will be releasing a new studio album entitled “Paranormal” on July 28th. It will be Cooper’s 27th studio album overall (his first seven being with the original Alice Cooper band) and his first album since 2011’s “Welcome 2 My Nightmare”- a sequel to Alice’s debut solo album from 1975. The album will also feature a bonus disc with three new songs written and performed with the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper band. For these songs, Cooper has reunited with guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith. While the late Glenn Buxton will not be with them, this second disc will act as a “mini-album” by the original band- with some live tracks thrown in at the end. I’m a big fan of Alice’s and am looking forward to another album from him. www.alicecooper.com
And our readers have their own thoughts on the Summer Preview 17:
This second tip is referencing author Roxane Gay.
So, we’ve covered a lot here, but what are you looking forward to this summer, wherever you may be? Let us know in the comments and we might cover it in a later review.
Have a wonderful summer, Beasts!