Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Is the Pick of the Week

I have a good friend who is probably the smartest guy I’ve ever met.  I like to joke that he’s like a human version of Wikipedia.  He knows stuff about everything.  It’s embarrassing how smart he is sometimes because he’ll casually start talking about the minutest details of some obscure something or other and I have to pretend I have the foggiest idea I know what he’s talking about.  Or I just admit I’m completely lost, and as a testament to how cool he is, he never lets on how dumb I really am and just moves on to something else.  

Normally, someone so smart would never be my friend but he also has a great love of pop culture and nerd life and we bond over that.  Still, even there he beats me as he’s prone to things like wearing t-shirts with obscure Klingon phrases on them or knowing who played a minor character in a little remembered episode of a show that aired 30 years ago.  

But really he’s just a cool guy and I’m glad to call him my friend.  A while back, I was at his house looking through his book shelves and came upon a title called Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.  He beamed at me then and said it was fantastic – like an adult version of Harry Potter.  I was hooked with those words (I’m pretty sure I became friends with him over Harry Potter actually) and quickly went out and bought the book.

Course then I quickly put it on my book shelf and still haven’t opened it up.  It’s a bit long, and somewhere, deep down in my psyche, I’m afraid it won’t live up to the “Harry Potter for adults” concept so I keep putting it off.

Now there’s a little TV mini-series made from it and I’m all excited again.  I can’t quite decide if I should read the book first and then see the show, or vice versa.  Whatever I do decide, the reviews have been kind to it and my wonderful friend gives the source material raves and that’s enough to make it my Pick of the Week. (Read Kent Conrad’s review)

Also out this week that looks interesting:

The French Lieutenant’s Woman (Criterion Collection:)  Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons star in this adaptation of John Fowel’s highly praised novel.  Streep and Irons play two roles – one set in the Victorian period and the second set in modern times where they play actors performing in a play about those two Victorian people.  Sounds neat.

Eclipse Series 43: Agnès Varda in California:  French filmmaker Agnès Varda lived for a time in California during the sixties.  The politics, youth culture and sun inspired her to make three films (Uncle Yanco, Lions Love (…and Lies) and Black Panthers). She returned a decade later to make two more films (Mur Murs and Documenter).  Criterion’s wonderful Eclipse Series has boxed them all up.

The Knick: The Complete First Season:  Steven Soderbergh rather famously announced that he was going to quit making films.  Not long after, he announced that he had created and was directing a ten -part Cinemax series called The Knick.  I don’t know if these two things are correlated, if Soderbergh has quit regular movies and moved to making TV.  Whatever the case, I’m about halfway through with The Knick and it’s fantastic.  Here’s hoping he continues making whatever-it-is as good as this for as long as he lives.

The Front Page:  Based upon a play of the same name, this 1931 film was remade in 1940 as the classic screwball comedy His Girl FridayThe Front Page isn’t nearly as good as that one (how could it be?) but it has its charms.  Kino has given it a high-definition upgrade.

I Am Chris Farley:  I only ever watched Saturday Night Live regularly for a few years in junior high and high school.  Even then I got snobbish about it.  Hating on some new players, loving on my favorites.  Chris Farley was one of my favorites.  This is a documentary about his (all too short) life.

Hot Pursuit: Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon in a road movie comedy where Reese is the uptight, by the books cop, and Vergara is the sexy, widow of a drug dealer.  What could go wrong?  Probably everything, and judging by the reviews everything went wrong with the story telling as well.

Mat Brewster

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