Jon and Melissa Matos unpack their feels about fringe fiction, comparing and contrasting modern, commercial fiction with cult classics, fan favorites, or ancient allusions. The show celebrates the art of good storytelling, and the positive impact stories have on our everyday lives.
How do you solve a problem like Tolkien? The young poet and artist grew up an isolated orphan, but longed to share his love of language with the world. Melissa and Jon Matos review Tolkien (2019), a biopic about love, fellowship and the fantasy that makes reality more meaningful.
Seventy years ago, if you walked into the right bar in Oxford, England, you might have heard J.R.R. Tolkien reading an epic poem, about dwarves searching for lost gold, a love beset by evil times, or a great Ring of Power that conquers men's hearts. Maybe you'd scoff at it, and join the likes of C.S. Lewis in yelling out "nay," if just for a laugh.
You have joined a meeting of the Inklings, a group that included Lewis, and other writers, like Owen Barfield, J. A. W. Bennett, and more. Tolkien stands out as a titan in the group: a writer whose created stories within stories, languages and cultures, and brought history to life through age-old symbols, creatures, and epic poetry. INKLINGS MONTH is our celebration of this historic writing group, and the legends they created that would influence a generation of readers, writers, and storytellers in every medium.
Tell us your favorite Tolkien tome, tale, or trope on Facebook or Twitter! Inklings Month is about connecting with fans like you. And don't forget to join as on Melissa's YouTube channel, Momtoast, for our discussion of "On Fairy Stories."
The sun sets on a decade of dynamite entertainment, with the definition of blockbuster bliss. Melissa and Jon revisit the start of their superhero fandoms and review the latest chapter in the Marvel saga, Avengers: Endgame. Maybe you'll laugh, maybe you'll cry, or maybe you'll roll your eyes: but you will feel something. Commemorate this moment with us by sharing your thoughts with us on Twitter (http://twitter.com/unboxingstory) or Facebook (http://facebook.com/unboxingstory)
If brownface could kill, would it murder your movie-watching experience? Melissa and Jon stumble upon a problematic piece of history watching 'Lawrence of Arabia.' The overlong epic's 3 hour and 45 minute run-time led them to read Ray Bradbury's short story, "Sun and Shadow," and opened a broader discussion of the pitfalls and pathos of writing fish out of water fiction.
Does injustice end with one hand-out? Richard Wright questions "pay-it-forward" morality through his novel, 'Native Son,' where an awkward racial encounter turns deadly, virtually setting Chicago on fire. Jon and Melissa struggle through a story even more dense and depressing than their previous entrées into Greek tragedy and the southern Gothic. What they find are harsh truthes, baked into a well-written but bleak look at class, sex, and race in the 1930's.
"You are about to enter another dimension, not only of sight and sound, but of mind." So began the most iconic sci-fi anthology series in history: 156 episodes over 5 years, and everyone has a favorite. Melissa and Jon reflect on the show's history, as well as the recent reboot's pilot episode, "The Comedian." What ensues is more Jordan Peele fangirling, some Kumail Nanjiani love, and a tribute to the small screen sci-fi of yesteryear.
Reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter, and log onto Momtoast.com for more sci-fi / fantasy stories.
"A new nightmare" from screenwriter, director, and comedy giant Jordan Peele invites uncomfortable laughter and thoughtful thrills. Jon and Melissa offer (non-spoiler) thoughts on the how Jordan's sophomore movie fits into the horror genre, and what they expected going into 'Us.' But beware, all ye who listen past the mid-roll ads: your co-hosts spend the back-end of the podcast diving into the lore of this socially-conscious thriller, as well as their favorite sequences, scenes, and spooky extended metaphors. Thou hast been warned.
Check out Momtoast.com for more female warriors, or get Jon's creepy 90's nostalgia novel.
Chivalry lives on in Knightfall, a series set in the twilight of the Knights Templar. These warrior monks seek to find and protect the Holy Grail, as powerful individuals seek to use or abuse it. Melissa and Jon praise this high watermark in holy war historical dramas, for its set pieces, costuming, and organic inclusion. Also, are period pieces too grimdark for their own good? Let us know your thoughts @UnboxingStory or unboxingstorypodcast(at)gmail.com!
Gender-bent homages and femme fatales have fallen. From the rubble, Marvel re-envisioned classic characters to better represent their readers. Captain Marvel is the latest adaptation, and the perfect Rosetta Stone to decipher what makes a female hero tick. Melissa and Jon review the film, discuss common tropes, and define #comicsgate. They also discuss the difference between harassment and critique, and how publishing and politics intersect.
The classics and modernity clash in 'Song of Achilles,' a critically-acclaimed crossover of Greek myth, romance and historical fiction. 'Achilles' Trojan-horsed an Illiad prequel on your friendly neighborhood hosts, who expected an updated retelling of an ancient epic. Jon and Melissa interpret the fatal flaw in Madeline Miller's debut novel, divining the difference between disliking her writing and disliking coming-of-age romances.
Absurdist director Terry Gilliam met his match when Robin Williams walked on the set of 1991's 'The Fisher King.' Few actors embody the chaotic creativity Williams brought to this Arthurian comedy, as well as a dozen other farcical films. After a few drinks, Melissa and Jon recount the plot of 'Fisher King,' discuss the meaning behind it, and celebrate late comedian Robin Williams' unrivaled legacy.
Ceremonies matter to film fans young and old, but social media has made 2018's carnival of controversies its own sideshow. Jon and Melissa eschew hot takes for a conversation on how style and substance clash. The most controversial show since 2018 will pit politically-charged biographies and musicals against a grind house comedy, period dramedy, and a comic book blockbuster. Find out our picks and humble opinions, and tune in Oscar Sunday for our first Fan Frequency, featuring friend of the show Trevor Davis and a deeper dive into Black Panther and Green Book.
M*A*S*H meets Sedaris in this slice-of-life short story about being Jewish in World War II. Can you be an American soldier and keep kosher? Does army life mean no life at all? Jon and Melissa interrogate the text, and ask if a story can be political without being polarizing.
"Bullets solve everything," or at least they do at the Mexico border, according to our bad boy antagonist. Ismael Cruz Córdova plays a gang leader and captor of our lead heroine played by Gina Rodriguez. Their cat-and-mouse relationship sparks conversations about cinematography, sexist film-making, and how cultural context effects criticism. Listen as two sorta Rican siblings debate the merits of a middling Hispanic shoot-em-up based on a Spanish-language film.
Grab your synth cassettes and the keys to the Mustang. Nicholas Winding Refn's Drive updates crime noir all the way to the 80's, creating a new generation of retro thrillers that has invaded films, TV, and video games. Do the neon lights and electro-pop make it style over substance? Does Refn say something with a scorpion jacket you couldn't say in a 40's speakeasy? Join thriller author Jon Matos and his noir fan sister, Melissa, on a wild ride through the underworld of L.A., into the core of the crime / drama genre.
Click here to preview or purchase Cane and Able.
Meet the kooky criminals at the center of 'Glass,' the third in a genre-bending trilogy including 'Unbreakable' and 'Split.' This superhero-thriller closes with a conflict between a vigilante, a mastermind, a man/beast, and a cynical psychologist. Fanboy (and -girl) Jon and Melissa team-up to explain their post-modern reading of 'Glass,' and how each major character adds to this story's epic conclusion.
"Soul" is used to describe jazz music if the 20's and 30's, but it also fits the melodic poetry of Langston Hughes. Jon and Melissa try to express what makes Hughes poetry so accessible, despite it's contrast to today's turbulent racial politics. Is Langston's voice, established before the dominance of Civil Rights rhetoric, no longer relevant, or do his allusions to the Nile and the Civil War still ring true?
Alt-right Rush?? Say it isn't so! Before "progressive" was a political label, the band Rush were "prog" rockers: composing symphonies of screaming guitars and soulful ballads. But how did their space opera earn them a comparison with Nazis? Is "2112" just one of many half-baked sci-fi concept albums, or does it set the standard for 70's space jams? Jon and Melissa continue to investigate stories set to a soundtrack, by way of ancient aliens, jukebox heroes, and shrugging off Ayn Rand.
The nightmare after Christmas is Southern-fried with racism on the side. Melissa and Jon explore the imagery and irony in Flannery O'Conner's short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find," and compare it to Gothic writers and modern art theory. Does O'Conner's scathing satire conflict with her Christian worldview? Do difficult characters distract readers from a story's deeper meaning? Languish in the self-indulgent, but self-aware world of the Southern Gothic with us, and find out how far pathos can be pushed.
What if history had a three-act structure? For Vikings, the gods enacted the biggest blockbuster of all, with frost giants, comedic cross-dressing, and a bloody finale. Join Melissa and Jon as they use Neil Gaiman's book to discuss the wisdom of Odin, the cunning of Loki, the bravery of Thor, and much more.
The furnace burns, smoke billows, and Peter Jackson's mega machine gobbles up a YA series, just to spit it back onto the silver screen. Did Weta Workshops create the steampunk dystopia of Melissa's dreams? Meanwhile, Jon asks why ads for an adventure film (re: Star Wars) felt more like commercials for Disney's Avatar theme park. Also, some spoilers, but not really? Explore the creative decisions behind the book jackets, teaser trailers, and game announcements that either sabotage or sell our favorite stories in our new series, "On Brand."
Perception is everything: in romance, in religion, and in storytelling. Pi Patel's love story was a middle grade game changer, landing on required reading lists and becoming a cult classic coming-of-age film. But does the story of a shipwrecked Hindu-Christian-Muslim bear the same meaning to two born-again Sorta Rican writers? Venture into the forest with us, to find the meaning inside the lotus flower...
Fan gatherings are common today, but it wasn't always that way. Explore the humble beginnings of convention culture on an unconventional episode about fandom and how it's changed. Learn first-hand how the Melissa and Jon discovered their favorite conventions, Penny Arcade, and the burgeoning PAX Empire, as well as what they did over the weekend at PAX Unplugged.
Fear comes in many forms. Directors often rely on disgust as a method of scaring the viewer, but Guillermo del Toro uses it to intrigue his audience. Del Toro's fans, us included, love 'Hellboy,' 'Pan's Labyrinth,' and 'The Shape of Water' for making monsters into heroes, tricksters, and romantic leads. Join us as we explore the many worlds of Guillermo del Toro, and his pandora's box of likable beasts.
A life is haunted by death, despite great success, in today's story by Ernest Hemingway. Globe trotter, big game hunter, Nobel Prize winner, and Hemingway still felt stalked by misfortune and misery, expressed in the tragic beauty of "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." Join Jon and Melissa as they separate the pastiche from the real life wordsmith, and pay tribute to another literary legend: co-creator of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee.
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"Sinful" isn't just a kitschy dessert descriptor: it's a literary genre! Transgressive fiction introduced the world to Patrick Bateman, Humbert Humbert, and Tyler Durden: misanthropic avatars of disaffected masculinity. Do these bad boys protest too much, or do their cautionary tales speak to us? I am Jack's unbridled anticipation.
Hot off the heels the Queen biopic 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' Jon and Melissa analyze the princes of alt rock, Twenty-One pilots. Are they Jesus freaks? Are they rappers? Who is Blurryface and does he need a tissue? That and more in our first episode deconstructing concept albums. Please e-mail suggestions to email@example.com or @UnboxingStory on Twitter!
Sink or submerge? Despite Hunter Killer's 36% on Rotten Tomatoes, it took us deeper into our love of political and tactical thrillers. Melissa and Jon detail the dryness of the war genre, how Hunter Killer tackles common overused tropes, and whether it can be considered a spiritual sequel to 'The Hunt for Red October.'
Horror comedy: it's alive! But before the racial satire of 'Get Out' and the meta-humor of 'Scream,' Abbott and Costello paved the way for the marriage of humor and horror. Join co-host Melissa and Jon as they discuss their favorite Universal monsters, as well as the frightening and farcical film featuring the Big Three: Frankenstein, the Wolf-Man, and Dracula. They speculate on the recent ill-fated reboots of the Universal monsters, compared to this cult classic comedy, beloved 60 years after its premiere.
Lose yourself to find yourself in a labyrinth of mind-bending mayhem in the maze. Join Jon and Melissa on a journey into the mysteries of King, Kubrick, and Mark Z. Danielewski (House of Leaves), as they discuss symbolism and subtext on the silver screen and beyond.
Heroism has changed. The box office is booming with foul-mouthed mercenaries and feral mutants with a heart of gold, and those are just the ones in tights! In light of the release of Venom, (but in lieu of discussing the film,) Melissa and Jon shout out anti-heroes from literature, TV, and movies. Along the way, we give our takes on which tales of revenge, redemption, or irreverence resonate with us, and which have us clutching our pearls in disgust.
Don't call it a comeback, but Shyamalan has had a rollercoaster of a career. Two fans discuss the hits, misses, and misunderstandings surrounding his work, and why we're excited to see more from this prolific genre iconoclast.
New wave feminism meets new wave sci-fi in the bold but bleak dystopia of 'The Handmaid's Tale.' And this time, the revolution IS being televised! Jon and Melissa mill over the difficulty of separating their own beliefs from an unorthodox novel turned cultural milestone.
Is the golden age of British cerebral crime dramas influenced by the golden age of detective fiction? Jon and Melissa contrast the classic murder mysteries of Agatha Christie with contemporary TV from across the pond. What do modern adaptations of Christie's work teach us, and how do American and British crime dramas differ? Join our investigation!
Brotherhood is forged in the fires of captivity... sometimes. Jon and Melissa discuss their favorite prison escape stories and the novel, Papillon. Topics include bravery, male hubris, and the bonds created by corruption and suffering.
Distractions are deadly in storytelling. That's why Russian playwright Anton Chekhov stated that if a gun is hung on the wall in act one, it should be shot by act three. This week, Jon and Melissa use the sci-fi shoot-em-up KIN, as well as other films and books, to discuss the rules and risks of foreshadowing.
Darkness reigns in the "golden age of television," including must-watch sci-fi shows, like Black Mirror and Westworld. Melissa and Jon challenge the genre of "new wave" sci-fi, via Harlan Ellison's mind-bending short story, "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream."
Not all warlocks mentor hobbits, knights, or vampire-slaying cheerleaders. Some, like Harry Dresden, save the world all on their own, while others chomp cigars or try to kill God. Melissa and Jon discuss this new brand of heroism that mixes the magical and the mundane.
Who likes dystopia? We like dystopia! But did 'The Darkest Minds' revive the YA dystopia genre, or put the last nail in its coffin? Jon and Melissa use the plot of this latest book-to-screen adaptation to discuss common YA tropes and what predecessors give them hopes for upcoming films.
Aah! We've been invaded by meta-humor anime girls on acid! Or... maybe we're just not hip anymore? Those theories and more as Jon and Melissa discuss modern animation (i.e. Adventure Time, Steven Universe, and the upcoming ThunderCats reboot,) and how they clash with the Saturday mornings of our youth.
Can films have agendas, or is everyone overreacting? Also, a guest! Writer / editor Will Ford-Conway (@wafcstudios) gives his take, and commemorates over a decade of comics and superhero movies with his high school chum.
Mexico jumps from the headlines to the silver screen in Sicario 2, and the man behind the movie is screenwriter Taylor Sheridan. This episode, we discuss how the political and personal drama in Sheridan's screenplays set him apart.
It's hard writing one character; try seventy-six! (...and 10 years of film history ...and over 75 years of comic book history...) Explore the "text" of Avengers 3 with your friendly neighborhood podcasters!