Thursday, May 18, 2023

TV Snide: April 2023

Novel of the Month: The Island by Adrian McKinty: This is one of two books I read this month by McKinty. If you like psychological suspense thrillers, you need to stop everything and read these two. I like The Island slightly more than The Chain, but it’s close. The author is a master of premise. In real life, he almost hit an old woman on a bicycle on an isolated island where only one extended family resided. His agent suggested he write a novel about what would have happened had he actually hit and killed a woman with his car in such a setting. In the fiction, Heather is the young bride of rich and successful surgeon Tom. They take Tom’s kids Owen and Olivia to an island that takes real Deliverance-like twists. 5 out of 5 stars

The Chain by Adrian McKinty: This Irish author weaves a tight, super gripping page turner about Rachel, whose daughter Kylie has been kidnapped. The kidnappers demand a ransom and that she kidnap another child in order to get Kylie back, hence “the chain” of the title. This may or may not be a criminal enterprise that has dated back to ancient times, but Rachel and her new boyfriend Pete are determined to find out and to crazily put an end to it once and for all. As she battles cancer and Pete battles a heroin addiction, can they really stop the core of evil genius? 5 out of 5 stars

Classic Novel of the Month: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton: Newland Archer is engaged to be married to May, who is a product of late 1800s European morals and standards. But when a relative and countess named Ellen moves to New York City, he is smitten and rethinking his approaching wedding. Ellen is vital and different, with adventurousness, while May is beautiful and sweet but incapable of thinking or discussing anything of importance in the world. Many years later, one of Archer’s three children with May, who has died in her last childbirth, takes him to Paris to visit Ellen and the tale ends with Archer unable to go up to her home. He walks back to his hotel, to be solitude forever after. 5 out of 5 stars

Documentary of the Month (tie): Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police (Amazon Prime): This is a powerful 80 minutes and it displays how similar The Police was to The Beatles in the late 1970s and early 1980s in terms of global phenoms. The film is based on guitarist Andy Summers’ book (on my shelf and unread so far) and is excellent at showing the underlying tension and stress in his relationship with Sting and drummer Stewart Copeland. A must watch for rock fans. 5 out of 5 stars

Documentary of the Month (tie): Boom Boom: The World vs. Boris Becker (Apple TV): Some of my greatest sports-watching memories as a kid were the days of McEnroe, Borg, Connors, Lendl, and Becker. The German kid dominated the 1990s, and while he has always been a positive fun-loving guy in his personal life, the wives and money have come and gone over and over again. He finally landed in prison near Wimbledon, and although he was released after eight months, part of the agreement is that he won’t be allowed into the UK again until late 2024. 5 out of 5 stars

Old Movie of the Month The Birds (Netflix): It had been many years since I’d last seen Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 classic, and it is better than I ever remembered. While it’s a little preposterous to think of why someone thought it was a good idea to postulate what would happen if birds turned evil, at the same time the suspense, sound effects, and overall strange factor Hitch brings makes the whole shebang immensely compelling. It’s still probably no more than my seventh or eighth favorite film by the master, but that doesn’t mean it’s not one of the best ever. 5 out of 5 stars

New Movie of the Month: The Whale (Southwest Airlines): Brendan Fraser returned from the wilds to win best lead actor for this role as Charlie, an unhealthy online English professor who doesn't turn his camera on because he feels he's too disgusting for his students to take seriously. An ex-wife and daughter mix things up by visiting his small-town Idaho apartment in what appear to be his final days. 4.5 out of 5 stars

Bros (Amazon Prime): Billy Eichner’s Billy on the Street is one of my favorite comedy shows ever, so I’ve already bought into his snarky and a little stuck-up style. While this is not as flat-out hilarious as his old show, it definitely has its moments and tells a touching story of gay romance that is so badly underrepresented in Hollywood. 4.5 out of 5 stars

“Haircut,” by Ring Lardner: This author was a major influence for both Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. This 1925 short story is a bit messy because there are a lot of characters to keep track of, but it’s also a fun read because it details life in a small town with the kinds of colorful characters who occupy those spaces. Not to mention, there is drama since a main character is shot at the end, a married man tries to get another woman, and other hijinks ensue throughout. 4 out of 5 stars

Tiny Beautiful Things (Hulu): I have liked Katherine Hahn quite a bit in the past but this new show is pretty unbearably depressing through the first two episodes. I couldn’t keep going and therefore give it an “incomplete” rating.

Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton is a novel that seems to be getting hyped on every critic’s best new novels list. But I got 20 pages in and couldn’t stand it anymore. Perhaps about some kind of cult or collective in New Zealand, the words are all over the place, with very little recognizable story being told and no signs of getting better soon. Star rating: Incomplete and abandoned.