It has been a weird summer. June was filled with torrential rains, flooding most of the area for weeks on end. It was for the most part unusually cool. Oh sure, we had several days in the mid-90s but I don't think we ever broke 100 degrees, which is super weird for Oklahoma. We mostly stayed in the upper-80s, which is quite warm but nothing like the horror show summer usually is. Now that it is the middle of September, when temperatures should start cooling off, we are back in the mid- to upper-90s. Who knows what the winter will have in store?
The summer did allow me to consume a lot of cool stuff and I'm still working my way through the things I didn't talk about during my hiatus, as well as finding new things each week to talk about. So here we go.
The second season of this Netflix dropped a couple of weeks ago and I binge-watched it pretty quickly. I’ve been a fan of serial killers for about as long as I can remember. Is "fan" the right word? I hate to say that I love people who brutally murder as a hobby, so let's say I’ve been fascinated by them for many years. I can understand how a person might kill another person during times of war or in self-defense. I can grasp killing out of jealousy or revenge or in the heat of passion. But serial killers kill because they want to. Because they get off on the act of murder. That’s something I cannot understand at all. And yet it is fascinating to me that they exist.
Mindhunter is a fictionalized telling of how the Behavior Science Unit of the F.B.I. came into being. This is the department that tracks and hunts serial killers. They spent years cataloging and interviewing guys like the Son of Sam, Ed “the Coed Killer” Kempter, and other serial killers trying to understand what makes them tick.
It was created by David Fincher, who directs a few of the episodes and imbues the entire series with his beautiful and dark sensibilities. The first season focused mainly Holdon Ford (Jonathan Groff), the brilliant but troubled man on the team whose unorthodox methods often get them closer to understanding these crazed killers and in hot water with the powers that be. Season Two opened up a bit more, letting us into the lives of his partners - the straightlaced, by-the-books Bill Tench (Hold McAllany) and psychiatrist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv). They also interviewed the likes of David Berkowitz and Charles Manson while trying to catch the Atlanta Child Murderer.
For my money, Season Two took what was good about Season One and made it better. Developing the team better and dealing with all the politics and racial issues of the Atlanta story gave the series more depth than it had before. I can't wait for Season Three.
Doctor Who: Frontios
I've talked many times before how my family and I have turned Fridays into Doctor Who nights. The local college channel has been rerunning the Tom Baker years for a long time, but recently they finally moved on to showing some Peter Davison stories. We'd actually gotten out of the habit of catching them live (or as live as reruns from the 1980s gets) and had started just watching my Blu-ray collection, but the other week I just so happened to turn it on at the right time and caught this story from Davison's last season.
The Fifth Doctor along with companions Tegan and Turlough land on the planet Frontios after being bombarded by a meteor shower. There, they find they are in the distant future and that the planet is occupied some of the last vestiges of Earthlings struggling to survive. They believe the meteor showers are coming from a nearby planet being sent by some unknown hostile force. I missed the first ten minutes of the story which seems to have involved the main leader dying and some new fellow trying to take over. And something happens to the TARDIS, leaving it unusable and kind of destroyed.
The Doctor and companions investigate. At first, the humans think the Doctor is up to something but eventually, the come round. Meanwhile, something is sucking unsuspecting humans underground. That something turns out to be Tractators, big insect-looking things that can control gravity and who have set about digging perfect holes in order to become master of the universe. Or something. They use people as slaves, putting their heads onto tractor digger things to make the perfect tunnels.
Ok, that sounds ridiculous, or as I like to call it - another Friday night with the Doctor. It is ridiculous but also kind of cool. Gravity-controlling monsters is a nice idea and they are used fairly effectively. The Doctor and Teagan are terrific and even Turlough isn’t too annoying. The direction is a little flat and the story feels a little rushed towards the end but overall it's a good little Fifth Doctor story
Alec Guinness, Funny Man
Ask the average person on the street who Alec Guinness is and they'll likely tell you Obi-Wan Kenobi. Some folks might mention Bridge of the River Kwai or Doctor Zhivago, and if they remember him in heavy make-up and using an accent, they might just note he was in Lawrence of Arabia. But after that, I suspect most folks couldn't name another film he was in. These days it's mostly been forgotten that he was a great comedic actor in Britain before he started making epic dramas with David Lean.
Over the last month or so, I've randomly watched five films starring Guinness. I watched Star Wars: A New Hope with my daughter recently and last weekend we caught Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen. But in between those films I watched three excellent comedies with Guinness: Our Man in Havana, The Lavender Hill Mob, and The Man in the White Suit. All three are fairly lighthearted romps that allow Guinness to show off his funny side. He's just as good being funny as he was being dramatic. He's got a great face for comedy able to give classic double-takes and rubbery looks. His touch is light as a feather, making him the perfect match for type of films Ealing Studios was putting out in post-war Britain.
I must admit for a long time I'd not paid much attention to him beyond Star Wars and David Lean, but these films have given me a taste and I want to come back and watch all his films.
Elevator to the Gallows
Louis Malle's debut film is a wonderful blend of noir with the French New Wave. It's about a guy who ingeniously kills his boss (by sneaking out his office window, using a grappling hook to scale up to his boss's floor while having witnesses see him locked into his office) but then makes one simple mistake which locks him into the elevator all night. Meanwhile, his girlfriend is wandering the streets in a panic thinking he’s left her. At the same time, a young couple steals his car from outside the office and have criminal adventures of their own. It all comes together in the most satisfying of ways.
Malle creates some wonderful images with his stark black and white photography and Miles Davis's score is one for the ages. He’d go on to have a long, fascinating career, but it doesn’t get any better than his first film.
The Flash: Season Five
We’re big fans of the Flash in my house. It is easily our favorite of the CW 's DC shows. Five seasons in, it is starting to show a little wear and tear but it is still loads of fun to watch. You can read my full review here.
Taiki Waititi, the New Zeland director behind such films as What We Do in the Shadows and Thor: Ragnarok, has made a Nazi comedy in which he plays a young boy imaginary friend who looks and acts a lot like Adolph Hitler. In anybody else's hands I'd cringe at that, but Waititi's sensiblities are always weird and hilarious. The trailer looks like a lot of fun.