Five Cool Things and U2

Cinema Sentries

In order to watch the new season of The Handmaid’s Tale, I once again ordered a subscription to Hulu. They are doling that series out one episode per week so I have plenty of time to find other interesting shows on the service. So sit back and enjoy the five cool things I found this week.

The Wrong Mans

The Wrong Mans is a British crime comedy that is being co-produced by Hulu. In its opening moments, low-level government employee Sam (Matthew Baynton) witnesses a automobile accident. After the ambulance takes the victim away, a phone lying on the ground begins to ring. Sam, presuming it belonged to the guy being taken away in the ambulance, answers it. A man on the other end, not knowing it’s Sam who has picked up, says that he’s going to kill his wife if he doesn’t meet soon with the money he’s owed.

Later, Sam confides in the office mail clerk, Phillip (James Corden), about the phone call and he convinces Sam to investigate. The two then embark on a darkly comic adventure that involves them in all sorts of violence, mayhem, and the Russian mafia. I’m two episodes in and it has a wonderful mix of humor and thrills.

Hard Sun

Hard Sun is another British/Hulu co-production. It stars Jim Sturgiss as DCI Hicks, a corrupt cop who very probably murdered his former partner. Agyness Deyn is DI Renko, who is placed on Hick’s team and is secretly trying to collect evidence of the murder to convict him. On their first case together, they discover a flash drive that contains stolen government documents that prove that in five years’ time a massive solar event is going to destroy the Earth’s population. Some dark part of MI-6 then comes after them and will not stop at any cost to keep this apocalyptic event secret. Despite all of this, Hicks and Renko continue working, solving increasingly violent and ridiculous crimes.

 The plot is a pulpy mess; the violence is graphic and misogynistic. The reviews have been sweepingly bad. But two episodes in and I’m hooked. It’s not that I think it’s particularly good, but I do love me some graphic violence and crazy conspiracy theories.

They say Neil Cross, who also created Luther, has a five-year plan. Presumably, he’ll eventually get to making the whole – the sun is going to kill us all – concept more central to the story instead of a backdrop to “crazy, serial killers” stuff, but for now I can dig it either way.

78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene

One of the many regrets in my life is that I never took a film studies or film history class. I went to a small, private university, which didn’t have much in the way of interesting electives, so I didn’t even know such a thing existed when I was in school. Periodically, I think of trying to take some classes just for fun but have neither the time or resources.

Which is why I love documentaries like this. As the title implies, this film dives deep into the infamous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Talking heads ranging from actors, directors, editors, and film composers discuss that scene in detail. It covers every aspect of it from the writing, editing, and scoring to the length of shots, the use of a body double, and the scene’s lasting effect on cinema. It is definitely for film buffs only but a real treat for those of us interested in diving into cinema history.

I Kill Giants

Barbara Thorson is a quirky, nerdy girl who likes to play Dungeons and Dragons and thinks she can kill giants. She sees magical creatures all around her, collects potions, and carries in her bag a big giant-killing hammer. This makes her an outsider. The kids at school thinks she’s weird, the big bully torments her, and the school counselor wants to see her every day.

Within the first few pages, I Kill Giants feels like your typical “unusual kid suffers hard times in junior high” type of story. It’s well written and the art is really interesting, but I started to settle into what would likely be a entertaining tale, but one that wasn’t going to surprise me.

Then it completely surprised me. As it progresses, we start to sense there is something else, something much darker going on. Barbara isn’t just a quirky kid, she’s suffering from some real trauma. The giants she aim to slay might not be literally real, but they aren’t just fantasy either. Joe Kelly holds off until almost the end of the book to let us know exactly what those giants are, but the way we get there is so real, so heart-breakingly sad, it’s just crushing. I cried at least twice reading it. JM Ken Nimura’s art juxtaposes the story in really interesting ways. It pushes towards the fantastic and delights just as the words rip the floor beneath you. I Kill Giants is one of the best graphic novels I’ve ever read.

The Big Sleep

After watching the great Bogart/Bacall movie based upon the Raymond Chandler novel, I just had to go back and reread the book. I remembered it being significantly different than the movie but it’s actually fairly faithful. They added a romance between the two leads, and made some other changes – mostly due to moral codes in the movies – but they are quite similar. Which is to say both of them are terrific.

Chandler was a great writer. He’s a mystery author who not only tells a good story, but knows his way around the English language. He’s incredibly quotable, knocking out dialogue like nobody else. How can you read lines like these and not fall in love:

“I don’t mind your showing me your legs. They’re very swell legs and it’s a pleasure to make their acquaintance. I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter nights.”

“You’re broke, eh?”

“I been shaking two nickels together for a month, trying to get them to mate.”

“Mr Cobb was my escort. Such a nice escort, Mr Cobb. So attentive. You should see him sober. I should see him sober. Somebody should see him sober. I mean, just for the record. So it could become a part of history, that brief flashing moment, soon buried in time, but never forgotten – when Larry Cobb was sober.”

His characters are really interesting too. I’ve already started on the next one, Farewell, My Lovely.

U2 in Tulsa

I’ve been a fan of U2 for a very long time. but never had the chance to see them live. When they announced they were opening their eXperience + Innocence tour in Tulsa this year, I knew I just had to go. I was not disappointed (well I was disappointed a little in the beginning as we had nosebleed seats, couldn’t actually see the band during the first couple of songs, and the sound was way off, but all that cleared up after about song #3). They played “Acrobat,” one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite albums, Acthung Baby, for the first time ever. The highlight for me was when they played “Staring at the Sun.” It started out simply – just the Edge on acoustic guitar and Bono singing – and ended with images of Neo Nazi rallies in Charlottesville and elsewhere across the country emblazoned across the enormous screens they had set specifically for the show. It was a harrowing and heartbreaking blend of music and image. They followed it with a blazing rendition of “Pride (In the Name of Love)” that featured more hopeful images including Martin Luther King, Jr, and others who have joined the fight against racism,. It was one of the more moving moments of my concert-going life.

Mat Brewster

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