Five Cool Things and a Merry Christmas

This week's cool things include one of Martin Scorsese's favorite films, The Last Jedi and lots of stuff I found on Acorn TV.
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Apologies for the absence of Five Cool Things last week.  I usually try to write them on Thursday night and last week I got a bit sick then.  Slept until 11 in the AM Friday morning and woke up feeling better.  But by then my day was so thrown off with work stuff that I had no time to play catch up with my writing.  Then we were invited to some friends that evening for food and games and the Cool Things got lost in the shuffle.  But here we are with a new week and I’ve still got cool stuff to discuss.

I gave up Filmstruck this month in order to try out Acorn Video.  Acorn specializes in British television with an emphasis on crime.  I’ve enjoyed quite a bit of their DVD output so I was excited about the streaming service.  Unfortunately, the design of their app leaves a lot to be desired. I found it very difficult to find anything specific and even after I’d watched an episode of a program I wound up using the search function to find it again, something that should have be shown to me right away.  I also found that most of what they offer is available in other platforms, namely Netflix.  But at five bucks a month, I think there is enough exclusive content to make it worth your while if its British series you crave.

And on we go.  

The Red Shoes

Before I cancelled Filmstruck, I watched this classic film.  Now I know diddly and squat about ballet nor am I familiar with any of the films from William Powell and Emeric Pressburger.  Martin Scorsese always names it as one of his favorite films and that always seemed like an odd choice for the creator of Mean Streets and Goodfellas to love, so I knew I just had to check it out.

It is a really lovely film.  It's about a young dancer who gets a job working for a premier dance company.  It's about ambition and love and how far you will go, and what you will give up for both.  It's beautifully directed and acted and it actually made me like the dance sequences, which is quite a feat in itself.

Victoria & Abdul

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It sags in its back end, turning from delightful light-comedy to a much more serious drama, but this story about the unusual friendship that developed between Queen Victoria and a muslim Indian is quite fascinating.  Dame Judi Dench as Victoria is fabulous.  You can read my full review here.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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I quite adored The Force Awakens.  It was exactly the sort of film Star Wars fans needed to be to let fans shake off the stink of The Prequels and remind us of why we were fans in the first place.  But as much as I love it I recognize that the complaints about it pretty much being a beat for beat rehashing of A New Hope were true.  Nostalgia is good to rekindle fandom but it only lasts so long and I was really hoping The Last Jedi would do something different. The ending of The Force Awakens had me worried, and the trailers didn’t do much to quell that fear as it looked like we’d get another young Jedi being trained by the old Jedi on an isolated planet, plus Daddy issues, and probably a big twist at the end.  In other words The Empire Strikes Back, Part II.

I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t get to specific here except to say that in the opening scene I felt a tinge of disappointment creeping in.  It really felt like they were just going to rehash events we’d already seen with a fresh sheen.  But then director Rian Johnson pulls the rug out, subverting all our expectations and created something fresh and new.  He expand the universe in interesting ways and really starts to dig into its mythos while still making a thoroughly entertaining and fun film.  The more I think about it the more I really like it.  I can’t wait to see it again.

Thorne: Sleepyhead

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I purchased Acorn because I’m a big fan of murder mysteries and detective stories.  I much prefer the British way of doing television with shorter seasons and longer episodes over the American way with their short episodes and long, often repetitive seasons.  

Thorne stars David Morrissey as the titular Detective Inspector.  He’s hot off of catching a serial killer who preyed on gays.  There is a new killer in town who is attacking young women by injecting them with something into the neck.  He’s killed several but one survived though she can no longer speak or move anything more than her eyelids.  


Slowly the two cases, one closed, one open, come together and Thorne’s past comes to haunt him.  It also stars Eddie Marson who has one of those faces you instantly recognize but can never quite place and a post-Wire, pre-Game of Thrones Aiden Gillen.


It can be a little sloppy with its plotting and it relies a little too heavily on the higher-ups allowing Thorne to do pretty much what he wants despite obvious reasons to stop him, but I enjoyed Morrissey’s perfromance and some of the secondary cast are quite entertaining.

Loch Ness

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Call this one Broadchurch: Scotland.  Much like that show, Loch Ness involves a murder in a  picturesque small town.  A big-time city detective is brought in much to the chagrin of the locals.  The townsfolk are an eclectic lot harboring some dark secrets.

I’m about halfway through and the plotting is already getting a little ridiculous but the acting is good (especially Siobhan Finneran as the big-city detective) and the twists are fun and the setting absolutely gorgeous.

Merry Christmas

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For most of my life I was a great big humbug.  But marriage and a daughter have mellowed me out a great deal and now Christmas is one of my favorite times of year.  I love the music and the food, the presents, and the general sense of hope that pervades the season.  It is a lovely time and I hope everyone has the very happiest of holidays and a very Merry Christmas.

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