We have reached a point in this world we live in where it feels as though the studios have used the majority of the A-list superheroes, so now it’s time to reach further into the grab bag of heroes and heroines to see whether or not they can profit from characters that are slightly deeper cuts. In the case of 14-year-old Billy Batson (Asher Angel), who is given the powers of the wizard Shazam and transforms into an adult, super-powered version of himself (Zachary Levi), it feels like almost any character can be given the silver screen treatment with the right cast and crew at the helm.
As a foster child hellbent on finding his birth mother, Billy refuses to adhere to the rules and regulations of the government child-care program. However, when he is randomly given magical powers that include multiple abilities, the only people he can trust are his other foster brothers and sisters, especially Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer). While becoming an internet sensation with YouTube videos showcasing his superpowers and charging for selfies with strangers on the street, Philadelphia’s latest spectacle attracts the attention of Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), who has spent his entire life craving the powers of Shazam. This obsession has driven the doctor to absolute insanity and he, along with assistance of the demons of the seven deadly sins, will stop at nothing to garner all of the magic available in this universe.
In the same mindset as Ant-Man and Black Panther, director David F. Sandberg has taken a relatively unknown character and made him engaging, enjoyable and enlightening. While some scenes contain scenarios which might be a tad too much for a younger audience, the film’s message and delivery is a win for the entire family. The look and tone of the film is on par with classics such as Big and The Goonies, and be sure to keep a look out for multiple Easter eggs that reference other D.C. superheroes and nods to other cinematic influences. The warm-hearted nature of the film’s core comes from Billy’s positive embrace of his abilities, which is something many characters do not establish. This production is a great addition to the DCU, because it steps away from the dreary and drab environment they continuously push toward audiences and actually lighten up a bit. It’s a welcome feeling. –Jimmy Martin
It saddens and sickens me that in the year 2019, popular criticism sites had to change their policies about users posting negative comments about a film that has not been released in theaters yet. What are people afraid of witnessing? Why does the idea of a female-led superhero adventure in the Marvel cinematic universe terrify so many? When it was a revealed Oscar winner Brie Larson would take on the role of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel and she would also be the most powerful being in that collection of films, I was waiting with a bated breath and full of excitement.
The film initially reveals Larson as Vers, a human being on an alien planet with a forgotten past and no idea about her origins. During a rescue mission to uncover secrets about her planet’s enemies, The Skrulls, and led by her mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), our protagonist is captured and eventually makes her way back to Earth. Clearly, a super-powered visitor in a space suit is going to attract government officials, and that is the cue for a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and young Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) from S.H.I.E.L.D. to attempt to assess the situation and discover the truth.
The greatest aspect of this film is young girls now have another superhero they can look up to and identify with, which can only lead to a positive outcome. Danvers upholds strong morals and refuses to let the negative individuals in her life keep her from accomplishing her goals. As for the film’s setting, the time trip back to the 1990s is quite delightful. Watching our heroine crash land into a Blockbuster Video conjured up so many fond memories. Larson is a perfect choice, and she is wonderfully assisted by an incredible ensemble cast. The only actor who gives Larson a run for her money for pulling focus is the wildly hilarious Ben Mendelsohn as the film’s villain.
The action, while entertaining with shape-shifting aliens, could use a touch-up on the cinematography and choreography. The ’90s greatest-hits soundtrack will certainly send many viewers back to their childhoods, but in some instances, it pulls audiences out of the film—just like a Stan Lee cameo (R.I.P.). All in all, this is a great setup of things to come, and it would not surprise me if Ms. Danvers takes the helm in future endeavors and leads the Avengers. –Jimmy Martin
The Salt Lake Valley area sits in a dome of smog that residents can visibly see as they drive in and out of it. It’s been covered nationally by (Popular Science and Forbes), and referenced as Smog Lake City on social media. Locals are warned casually on morning news programs each winter, to keep pets indoors and to drive with their windows up. The smog isn’t going away and the need to keep this in the public eye is important. This Saturday at the Urban Arts Gallery the SLC Air Protectors are having a fundraiser to raise awareness on this issue and have a little fun.
Veteran activist and award-winning artist Cat Palmer advocates for this issue. Palmer has spent the last 16 years in art activism, and her gas-mask photography has become equal parts iconic and foreboding. When speaking with her, I sense an enthusiasm that’s not always present in her art. Palmer’s candor while we speak shifts between a sense of urgency and the sharp laugh that I imagine came from the first time she was told she couldn’t do something. She says, “It’s so simple to get involved now … [with] email [and] social media. It takes a handful of minutes—reach out to your representatives.” Palmer says and explains the lobbying she has been involved with and the recent success of the hundred-million-dollar allocation from the state government toward clean air. “This is start,” says Palmer. It’s an encouraging start, as she went on to mention that the support is “more than it has ever been.”
Palmer, who has lost two friends to smog-related asthma, also knows that much of the damage has been done. Congestive heart failure and asthma-related smog deaths in the Salt Lake Valley are now traceable by a simple Google search. The hay fever–like symptoms (runny nose, slight headache, sneezing) and consistent allergy concerns are experienced to some degree by everyone. In this we also see its weakness. If everyone has experienced this, then everyone has something to say. The Salt Lake Community has an effective voice because it’s the affected voice. Any step in the direction of clean air gets you involved. If you need help finding out who your local representative is, try www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative.
Palmer explains that this year, Utah has a lot of new representatives on the hill which means creating awareness is critical. Do you know who your local rep is? So far, this year we have seen events like the Clean Air Solutions Fair at the Gateway and a legislation overview at the Downtown library creating conversations. This Saturday, that dialogue will continue 6 p.m.–9 pm. at the Urban Arts Center. The SLC Air Protectors fundraiser will feature Native music being that The SLC Air Protectors’ organization itself is Native led. An auction featuring unique local art and Palmer herself is bringing her elaborate collection of gas masks to take pictures with. “I want people to see how easily you can get involved,” says Palmer, “and to have fun … This will be fun.”
Click images to view captions and in full-size. Photos by Jennifer Thayn.
Standing well over six feet tall, with dark eyes, prominent features and a striking aura, it’s undeniable that Brook Neilson is a remarkable being to behold. A self-taught artist, performer, DJ and filmmaker, she has made her way in a world that hasn’t always saved space for her. So, she made her own.
Brook has spent years working to understand herself and has continually pushed herself to connect with others through her art, the unique way in which she experiences the world. But growing up in Burley, Idaho, in an orthodox Mormon family wasn’t the easiest place to do so. After spending time studying graphic design in Idaho, she moved to Utah County where she studied creative writing at Utah Valley University. In 2011, she decided she would move to Chicago after visiting a friend and realized it was, “the first time I felt like a normal person,” she says.
Living in Chicago was a life-changing experience for Brook. She had been making visual art out of trash and found items for years, but it was in the Windy City that she really fell in love with drag and performing. In the four years of her residence, she met some truly inspirational DJs, performers and artists. After returning to Salt Lake in 2016, Brook began establishing herself not only as an artist, but a live performer and DJ, using mixed media, gender fluidity and a lot of Chicago house music to back her onstage.
Brook has always turned trash into treasure, and even classified her own style of drag initially as “amateur garbage.” Her most recent work was an event called Festive Agony on Dec. 28, 2018, at the vacant Build-A-Bear space in the Gateway Mall. In it, she created her own costumes (she played the sadistic owner of a candy-cane factory of enslaved Christmas elves), produced her own soundtrack and created a backdrop video collage featuring some wild, adult holiday cheer. One of the things I admire most about her is her ability to include so many layers in her art. “I want my work to exist in multiple forms,” she says. “I like the idea of making work that exists in the physical and digital realm. I like the idea of my art having different lives.” She also submitted a film to the 2018 Slamdance Film Festival titled Reunion 1, a beautiful film featuring images of old Idaho haunts, a spooky self-crafted soundscape, and her mom in a swimsuit. Brook has always been bold and unapologetically herself. Recently, she has been submitting her art and films to more festivals and shows, hoping to present more of Brook to the world.
Brook recently came out as a trans woman. I ask what that was like, coming from such a religious background and also residing in Utah. She tells me she was initially surprised by the support she received. We discuss that there are, unfortunately, certain expectations people have regarding what it means to be trans. She says it’s important to not negate a trans woman’s experience simply because she may not be cis-passing. “A lot of people assume that a trans person does very specific things, such as surgery or hormone therapy, and that’s pretty reductive,” she says. “There are women who have beards or big muscles or no boobs. There’s so many intersex people that we would assume are women who have testicles inside of their body. So, it makes sense that transgender people would exist.”
Coming out had its own difficulties, she admits. “Things that were already so difficult to navigate are so much more difficult to navigate in some ways,” she says. But she says that on the other hand, coming into her trans identity has really helped her as an artist. “To be an artist, you have to be the center of your universe. If you don’t know where that is, everything is unanchored and ungrounded,” she said. When I ask her how we, as a community, can better support her and the rest of our trans brothers and sisters, her answer is simple—listen and make an effort to use preferred pronouns. “It just makes you feel like people see you. If people don’t use your name or pronouns or even try, it makes you feel like you don’t exist.” She goes on to say that this is a primary factor for increased suicide rates among our trans brothers and sisters. We both agree that it’s imperative to continually respect and support whoever people want to be. “When you are around those people who can use your chosen name and preferred pronouns, it’s like having air,” she says. “All the times when people don’t consider those things throughout your daily life, they start to pile up on you. So it’s something I think people should keep in mind.”
Brook Neilson is an inspiring and enlightening individual whom I encourage you all to get to know—be it through her art, music, performances or conversations. Support our sister by following her on Instagram@brook_neilson. Also, be sure to check out her upcoming performance at the event Tinfelnane on Jan. 25, at the old Build-A-Bear space at the Gateway Mall. Trust me: You won’t regret letting this one into your heart. She deserves the space.
There’s passion and then there’s “get in line at 2 for the open-mic” passion. The second one, that’s Robbie Brooks. While some people get into comedy for fun, some get into comedy for a career. Brookswas born for comedy, quite literally. Brooks dabbled in stand-up from a young age, but it wasn’t until a chance conversation at a comedy club in New York City that he decided that comedy was where he was meant to be. You see, he looks like a comedian, and he decided at that point that he couldn’t possibly be anything else.
Since he was a kid, he was an admirer of Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Lewis and Gary Shandling. Like them, he says, “You don’t have to pity me, I’ll do it myself.” In 2014 he found himself in New York City, and “I wanted to go to Dangerfield’s,” Brooks says. “Comedy had always been in the back of my mind.” He was just excited to get in and see a show. “The guy at the door starts talking to me and says, ‘You look like a comedian’.” Brooks does look like a comedian— jovial, quirky, like a well-adjusted and sober John Belushi or Artie Lange. “I get everybody,” he says. “How am I supposed to feel about this?” The door guy insisted it was a good thing, he had after all been hanging out there since the ‘80s, so if there is anyone who is an authority on it, it’s going to be this door guy. Brooks decided to give it a shot, but had to get out of New Orleans, where he was living at the time. “I decided to move to Utah and found Wiseguys,” he says this was when he decided it was time to finally just do it. The first time he hit the stage was June 2016. “I’ve been sick ever since. It’s a sickness,” Brooks explains. Now, you’ll see him doing a variety of shows from Ogden to St. George, showing up in line to get on an open mic list at 2.
He currently works with high school kids as a tracker, a kind of mentor. But his sights are set on comedy full-time. “I want to do this as a career. There’s nothing else. I didn’t go to college.” He’s a man with a plan, and a passion to execute. “I’ll be happy if I’m just working clubs, touring. I want to keep it down-to-earth, keep it fun. I’d love to be on TV , but I can be happy doing on the road stuff. It’s what I love. It’s my passion,” he says. He’s learned a lot from that first step on stage to now. “One of the things I’ve had is that I have a speech impediment. I used to talk really fast. Now I kind of stop and take a breath.” He puts the work in and pounds the pavement when it comes to being serious about stand-up, “there’s no short cuts,” he says.
Comedy can be a little ugly at times, “a little two-faced,” he explains. But he’s found his comedy family— a group of great comics and as he describes “awesome humans.” His advice to all new working comics: “Find your comedy family. Don’t just look for friends.” The difference is while friends can help you get on a show, “it’s best to find your comedy family and grow with them.” This family of his consists of several long time hard-working local comics: Eric ‘EK’ Kepoo, Matt Turner, Allen Carter, and Bryce Prescott. Together they do a monthly show in St. George at the Hilton‘s Office Lounge.“I would’ve never experienced that without them,” he says. He says that the word “family” fits his group well. “I think it’s because some of the older comics feel like older brothers (or sisters). EK and Matt are like big brothers.” He says, “We go through a kind of war together. Like brothers in arms, we are brothers in mics.” His approach to a show is to just get up there and have fun with it. “We have a job to do, and that’s make these people laugh. But at the same time, you don’t want to take it too seriously. You want to enjoy it,” Brooks says, “for us, it’s about having fun.”
He doesn’t do serious topics, no politics. He’s all about Comic-con, being single, and his mom. “I want the audience to get their minds off of things.” He simply wants the audience to have fun. “I want them to enjoy these few minutes with me and I want them to laugh. I don’t want them to worry about something,” Brooks explains. “We have an oasis of comedy where we’re like ‘come laugh, come enjoy us, see what we can do and just have a blast. Have fun with us.’” Everyone in his ‘oasis’ brings something different to a show.“I bring goofy to it,” he says. “You always have to be yourself, you can always tell when someone’s lying on stage.” His self-deprecating humor is catharsis for him, not a cry for help, though. “Comedy comes with a lot of depressed people, a lot of us are depressed. But why beat yourself up over the one thing you can kind of use that depression as an anchor and use it as fuel for something good like comedy?”
You can see Robbie Brooks perform January 29th at Wiseguys From the Far Side of the Mic. The show is only $5 at Wiseguys, Downtown at the Gateway. Show at 7, doors at 6. 21+.“It’s going to be goofy, it’s gonna get weird,” he says.
Looking for something to do on New Year’s Eve? Bar X and Beer Bar will each be hosting NYE parties—no need to choose, you can go to both! Join this guy December 31st, from 8 p.m.–1 a.m at Beer Bar and from 10 p.m.–1 a.m. at Bar X.
If someone asks me what they should see or do in Salt Lake to get a sense of our city, I’d suggest half a dozen or more things that anyone else would also likely suggest. Anyone will tell you to go to Temple Square—and you should. Though, if you’re asking me, I’m going to insist you’ll find some of the most interesting texture of Salt Lake in a place like The Dayroom, a small coffee shop on Capitol Hill.
Elaine Sayer walks me through the foundational tenets of The Dayroom. She handles beverages and curation while Milo Carrier does food, and Emily Gassmann owns and operates the building. In fact, The Dayroom directly connects to Em’s, a full restaurant equally worth visiting. Gassmann approached Sayer in May to spearhead taking the space over from Alchemy Coffee, who moved locations in October. Sayer and I are talking in late November, before the shop’s first full month has even finished, but any concern I might have had over how green The Dayroom might be is assuaged by my meal and my wine—my wine in a coffee shop! One of the benefits of operating under the umbrella of Em’s is The Dayroom can serve alcohol with any food. The menu features bagels and empanadas made by Carrier. The tacos and egg dishes are vegetarian, and Carrier is working toward vegan offerings. Drip coffee comes from Blue Copper, and espresso is a revolving guest roast. But, at the end of the day, The Dayroom stands out in its small, curated details of the space it occupies.
Curation may sound like an odd word to apply here, but the more I speak with Sayer, the more convinced I am that it’s appropriate. “I was 19, my car got stolen, and I ran out of money,” Sayer tells me. This was in L.A., where she got her coffee training. She moved to Salt Lake, worked at coffee shops and managed Kilby Court. Between learning coffee and renovating the space at Kilby, Sayer learned how to craft a certain environment. “Working on a space is very interesting,” she says. “I can create a space, but not for me. I will never be a stranger who comes [to The Dayroom] to read, you know? When I come here, I’m the boss. I felt the same way about Kilby—I could never experience a show [in the same way.]” As we talk the details of the shop—the chairs, tables, plants and art—come into focus. I notice Sayer’s cup is nearly identical to one my grandmother had. These details add up to a quotidian warmth, the kind whose exact source is always hard to put a finger on. Between Sayer’s stewardship, the homey glassware and the succulents lining the walls, the vibe feels distinctly young and feminine.
“I see a lot of women and feminine people stepping up, ready to make their own spaces,”
Sayer says. “Emily [Gassmann] did it 20 years ago, and it terrifies me. I go places now, and people still don’t take me seriously. They’re like, ‘You run a coffee shop? You look like you’re 12,’ which is fair because sometimes I think, ‘Oh god, I run a coffee shop? I’m 12!’” But Sayer impresses on me her keen instinct for this exact task: A fundamental goal for The Dayroom is to foster community art. Monday and Tuesday nights, The Dayroom will be hosting art and artist events from readings to open mics, and Sayer encourages artists of any kind and any skill to reach out if they’re interested in bringing their own artistic energy to the space. It’s hard to understate what that kind of encouragement toward informality of structure or process does for young artists, but at the very least, it’s obvious from Sayer’s own handiwork that hard work and quality can be unassuming.
The Dayroom sits just off 300 North on Center Street, a street you will likely never have another reason to run across unless you, like me, live or at a time once lived on Capitol Hill itself—aka the Marmalade District. Its small homes and winding, narrow streets seem cut apart from the city that sprawls below. At times, the hilly neighborhood feels perched in the heavens, as though you somehow won’t have truly been in Salt Lake until you’ve come down from above and walked its wide streets and long blocks. Instead, the opposite is true: Until you’ve walked the hills and spent an afternoon inside with The Dayroom, you’ll lack an appreciation for how Salt Lake has sprawled from its beginning. That a space like The Dayroom exists how it does where it does—it’s comforting.
From 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. you can experience it yourself, with additional food options during brunch hours on Saturdays and Sundays, 9 p.m. to 1 p.m. Visit www.dayroomandems.com for a full menu or to book a private event.
Who doesn’t like Christmas? OK, let me rephrase that: Who doesn’t like Christmas as experienced with a steady, carefully—and in some states, legally—maintained buzz throughout the final weeks of the year? Your mumbled approval is noted.
Christmas TV shows and movies are an industry unto themselves. What other holiday has so much content churned out in its name? Until the inevitable establishment of Handsome White Jesus Day under decree of President Pence (so, spring-ish), Christmas is the “King of All Media.”
Here are eight oddities in a holly-jolly ocean of Christmas programming to stream over the next few weeks of jingle hell:
Based on the Image comic, Happy! follows ex-cop-turned-alcoholic-assassin Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni) and Happy (voiced by Patton Oswalt), a blue cartoon unicorn who needs his help rescuing a little girl kidnapped by … Santa Claus. Violence, insanity and a gonzo-command performance from Meloni ensue. Oh, and it’s by the creators of Crank!
While 1974’s Black Christmas is the original holiday horror flick, 1980’s Christmas Evil took the Kringle carnage to a whole other cult level. A beleaguered toy factory worker (Brandon Maggart—Fiona Apple’s dad!) has a psychotic break, dons a Santa suit and starts slashing all the way. It was anointed by John Waters as “the greatest Christmas movie ever,” so there.
In this 1959 Mexican import (which you’ve probably seen heckled on Mystery Science Theater 3000), Santa Claus lives in a space castle with wizards and gods, lording over a child-labor toy sweatshop. Then he has to save Christmas by battling Satan, who’s had enough of Santa’s shit. Santa Claus is tequila-spiked nightmare nog—watch with the kids!
The Hebrew Hammer (Adam Goldberg), who defends the local Jewish community while dressed like a Hassidic pimp, faces his nastiest villain: Damian, the evil son of Santa Claus, who’s out to destroy Hanukah and Kwanzaa, leaving only Christmas. Upon release in 2003, The Hebrew Hammer promoted holiday unity by offending Jews and Christians equally.
Alicia Witt stars as a single, workaholic TV exec who produces holiday movies (how meta) who just doesn’t believe, you guys! When she’s knocked unconscious by a snow globe, she wakes up in the idyllic snow-globe town with a husband, kids and, natch, a guardian angel. Will she go back to her manless/childless TV-exec life? Did she … produce this movie?
A big-city advertising exec (Claire Coffee)develops a strange attraction to a holiday window mannequin. When she’s knocked unconscious by a falling icicle, her psychosis redlines, and the handsome dummy comes to her as a real, if personality-free, dude. It’s an only-slightly-creepy Christmas miracle! Executive ladies: Please wear helmets around the holidays.
Drea de Matteo and Ice-T have spent years on TV (she on The Sopranos; he on Law & Order: SVU), but both shined in Abel Ferrara’s 2001 crime flick ’R Xmas. Matteo plays the ballsy wife of a heroin dealer, held for ransom by Ice-T’s thugs. She has to make the money drop and get her kid a sold-out doll by Christmas. It’s like Jingle All the Way, with smack.
While hiding out from the cops in a mall-Santa suit (just go with it), a millionaire bodybuilder (Hulk Hogan) hits his head and wakes up believing he really is Claus. Meanwhile, an evil scientist (Ed Begley Jr.) plots to shut down an orphanage in order to grab magic crystals (yep). Spoiler: Santamania saves the day. You’re intrigued, admit it.
Every year, we celebrate that apocryphal time in history when the Native Americans came together with the immigrant Pilgrims for a meal of thanks and communal gratitude. That turned into one of the greatest genocides of our young country’s history, so it should go without saying that it’s a pretty miserable day to remember. We as a nation have struggled to maintain any actual openness and support for outsiders. Salt Lake’s LGBTQ+ communityis trying to reignite the communal flame that once existed somewhere on this earth, with events such as Transgiving. This event is currently in its second year, and caters primarily toward the trans youth who need support and love. Its creators, Sofia Scott and Wade Leavitt, aka The Harlot,hope that their event can provide a safe space where the trans youth of SLC can come together with a chosen family on a day when they may not feel as included by their blood families.
Transgiving was created as a fundraising event to help a friend, Sam Bingham, who needed financial assistance for a much-needed top surgery. After deciding that food was a must-have, it was also suggested that music and performance art be included in the event, thus providing trans and other LGBTQ performers a space for their voice and art to be seen. After Sofia Scott, aka the Rock Princess, reached out to The Harlot to assist with rounding up drag performers to bring their unique magic to the stage, they both decided it would be the perfect place for all ages to spend time together during the holiday. Sofia says, “We really wanted overall to have a place for not only trans performers to have a platform to use their voice, but to make a place for trans youth to come and celebrate that stupid holiday with us and have a place to go.”
Creating a safe space where our trans youth can feel included is crucial in today’s current political climate. Trans people are belittled, attacked and murdered for simply attempting to live their truth. Providing a safe space for them is what our community needs. “The suicide rate for trans youth is really high,” Sofia says. All the facts back up her statement—particularly here in Utah. “Our overall goal is to make that lower. We want to make more trans-oriented functions and events to they can know they’re not alone,” The Harlot chimes in with a quintessential Cancer line, saying, “We can be your family when they’re not available!” I know she means it.
Sofia and Harlot both tell me that this event, while centered on the trans community, is for everyone. Whether you’re trans or simply a trans advocate, they both hope (myself included) that our community can show up, bring a snack or some good energy, and simply encourage those who need encouragement. Sofia says, “It doesn’t even matter if you’re trans or even trans-supportive; just come and educate yourself, and know that there’s more trans people out there than you realize.” She even goes on to say she hopes to bring out lots of kids (the event is all-ages), since you never know when a nugget might need that kind of encouragement during their formative years to help find their own identity.
Transgiving will be showcasing multiple bands and drag performances across two different stages. There will also be spoken word performers, poets and political and trans activists who will be there to share their knowledge. It is Sofia’s intention to have predominantly trans performers gracing the stages—“for the people by the people,” as Harlot so eloquently puts it. “Our main objective,” Harlot says, “is that we do drag performances that are very celebratory of who we are. We want to provide a very loving and positive message, that it’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK to have all these emotions, and we just want to create a general atmosphere of coming together and creating support … It’s a buffet of queer!”
The event will take place at The Beehive Collective on Nov 24 at 2– 8 p.m., and is free of charge. Food will be served immediately, and there are some incredible sponsors catering the event such as Rye, Bambara and Mark of the Bistro. If you would like to sign up and contribute to the potluck, there are signups on the event’s Facebook page, Transgiving 2018, along with other volunteer options if you’re feeling extra charitable this Transgiving season. There will also be donations taken at the event, and all proceeds will go directly back to Transgiving’s sponsor, The Pride Center. So come with an open heart and an open mind, get yourself some good grub and listen to some good-ass rock-and-roll and watch (and tip) your favorite local drag queens. Most importantly, regardless of your identity, get down and show support to the kids, show them that their voices matter. Help our trans youth know they are safe and loved, especially during this holiday season.
Admit it: You’re dreading the same-old home-for-the-holidays, family Thanksgiving dinner with the same old question, “How’s your job going?” To which you’ll have to mumble the same-old answer between bites of turkey and slugs of Wild Turkey discretely hidden in a Coke Zero can: “You mean my soul-sucking 9-to-eternity corporate Power-Pointed hellscape? Fan-damn-tastic, you MAGA-hatted motherfuckers!”
Now, imagine how cool it would be if you could reply with, “Actually, I’ve embarked upon an exciting new career path as a contract assassin—as you can clearly tell by my white tuxedo and Bentley parked out front. Pass the cranberry sauce?”
Movies tend to paint the life of a hitman as glamorous—TV, not so much. Here are seven killer-for-hire series to stream over turkey sandwiches and 101-proof sodas:
Ex-Saturday Night Live square peg Bill Hader struck dramedy gold in the 2018 debut season of Barry, wherein he plays a skilled but disillusioned hitman who discovers his “calling” to be an actor while infiltrating a middling improv-comedy troupe (aren’t they all?). Barry’s sweetly absurd to brutally bloody shifts are masterful, as is Hader’s performance.
Like Hader, longtime ensemble player Sandra Oh blew away all dramatic preconceptions in 2018’s Killing Eve. As brilliant MI5 agent Eve, she’s left alone to pursue her “crazy” theory that a European serial assassin is a woman, and soon develops a mutual obsession with daft fashionista executioner Villanelle (Jodie Comer). Smart, twisty and utterly unexpected.
Good year for assassins: Australian import Mr. Inbetween premiered quietly in late September 2018, starring unlikely leading man (and show creator) Scott Ryan as blue-collar killer Ray Shoesmith. He’s a blunt object of a man who does dirty deeds for shady characters, like a trailer-park Ray Donovan—but he’s also a sympathetic family man. A short but addictive series.
Maybe you’ve heard of this one: Russian spies Elizabeth and Philip Jennings (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) are embedded in 1980s Washington D.C., posing as a married couple by day and pulling off hits (and a dazzling array of wigs) by night. The Americans gets deeper and darker from there, and its 2013–18 run cemented its rep as one of TV’s greats. Sound familiar now?
The CW’s 2010–13 Nikita was different from ’90s cable series La Femme Nikita in that it wasn’t a broody slog—and even more unlike the various Nikita movies in that it didn’t suck. Junkie-turned-assassin Nikita is hell-bent on destroying Division, the shadow government agency that made her, and star Maggie Q sells the action and the pathos with smoldering ferocity.
Grifter Letty Dobesh (Michelle Dockery, miles from Downton Abbey) is fresh out of prison and low on prospects when she hooks up with a hottie hitman (Juan Diego Botto) who’ll obviously derail her already shaky plans for getting straight. Good Behavior is a Southern-fried crime noir that doesn’t always play out as expected, and Dockery and Botto are a magnetic Bonnie & Clyde.
Obscure 2013–14 series Cleaners takes ’90s Quentin Tarantino rip-off films, says “hold my vodka-soda,” and vacuum-packs every QT cliché into a tight, sexploitation-lite series. Hitwomen Veronica (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and Roxie (Emily Osment) are crossed by their boss (Gina Gershon); gunplay, squealing tires and snark ensue. No overthinking allowed.