Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A prison drama, a gaming book, and a Jet Skiing Kurt Braunohler

Starred Up

This British prison drama was fabulously well reviewed, with a rare 99 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an A-minus from our own Ignatiy Vishnevetsky. But it’s the kind of movie that ends up vastly underseen despite that praise, because of a limited theatrical release and not much push on the home-video front. (It’s streaming on Amazon Prime now, and available on disc and for digital rental.) Though it’s pitched as “ultraviolent”—and it’s not not that—Starred Up is really about the relationship between a son (Jack O’Connell) and father (Ben Mendelsohn) who end up in the same prison. Needless to say, the two have issues: Dad is in for life, and settled into his role, while his son is wild-eyed and itching for a fight. (Which he gets, several times, with plenty of blood.) Homeland’s Rupert Friend plays a rebellious prison counselor who’s actually able to reach some of the hardened inmates, but the story really belongs to the relationship between an estranged father and son, their difficult, ugly histories making it nearly impossible for them to connect. It’s like they’re speaking different languages. Speaking of: Watch Starred Up with the captions on, or risk missing about half the words to the dialect barrier. [Josh Modell]


Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works

There was a brief stretch at the beginning of the 1990s when, at least in the United States, it looked like Sega’s Genesis would rule the 16-bit era. Known as the Mega Drive in Japan and Europe, the Genesis had more speed and power than Nintendo’s NES, and Sonic The Hedgehog was a hipper counterpart to Mario. Although it was released two years after the Genesis, the Super NES would eventually overtake Sega’s console—not just in sales but also in the variety and quality of its software library. Still, the Genesis’ reign is a cultural moment that deserves to be remembered, and this coffee table book does so with elegance. A remarkable archive, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works documents the console and its games with character illustrations, storyboards design documents, and a diverse showcase of in-game pixel art. It’s a definitive visual history of the Genesis. The book also includes a breezy history of the console’s development and almost 30 interviews with the creators and planners who were central to the Genesis’ success. It’s a classy, beautiful tome, and every time I open it up, I find another treasure. [John Teti]


I’m a big fan of Kurt Braunohler’s but an even bigger fan of funny people doing incredibly stupid and inane things, so when I heard Braunohler planned to Jet Ski from Chicago to New Orleans in an attempt to raise money to send 500 goats and 1,000 chickens to Africa, I was 100 percent in. (Even more so when The A.V. Club got asked to help bring people to his kickoff show in Chicago, but I digress.) And while the resulting Comedy Central web series, Roustabout, is funny and packed full of amazing guests like Wyatt Cenac, Jon Daly, Kyle Kinane, and Kristen Schaal, the best part of the show is just how fucking bleak it manages to make Braunohler’s herculean task look. Sure, Jet Skiing might seem fun, but the actual banality and mechanics of traveling thousands of miles on what’s essentially a wet, bucking, gas-guzzling horse will take you right out of that whimsical mindset real quick. Add in a bunch of awkward mid-day comedy shows at BBQ restaurants and biker bars along the mighty Mississip, and—well, let’s just say things get awkward. Coming in at just nine brief webisodes, Roustabout is a must-watch for anyone interested in awkward chafing, stupid water sports, or exceptionally dumb ideas. [Marah Eakin]


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