Sunday, May 31, 2015

Episode 19: Putting the Odd in Podcast

We talk The Intouchables, ISIS recruiting tactics, the sudden popularity of courtship, whether Christians should be cremated, and planning the Patriarch's funeral (it involves Matthew Perryman Jones).

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Top 5 Road Movies That Aren't Mad Max

Everyone may be talking about Mad Max: Fury Road, but the road trip has long been a staple of Western storytelling, from The Odyssey to The Hobbit to Pee Wee Herman's Big Adventure. Without further ado, here are my top five examples of the genre:

It Happened One Night is one of the finest road trip romances, and the template for many a romcom thereafter. It starred Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert as a pair of reluctant fellow travelers, on their way to the Big Apple. He's a failing journalist; she's an heiress on the run. When he discovers her secret, they strike a deal: he'll ensure she gets to New York if she'll let him have the story. Inevitably, once the two begin to overcome their prejudices, love finds a way. Made in 1934, the film has held up incredibly well - notably, it won five Oscars (Best...Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Writing), and even now has a 98% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Gable and Colbert are at the top of their powers, imbuing the witty dialogue with a genuine chemistry.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Episode 18: Stories for Children

"I hadn't really thought about it before, but that might be the problem with our whole entire civilization! Walt Disney!"
~The Patriarch

We talk about The Lord of the Rings, Redwall, Watership Down, Narnia, mythology, Harry Potter, the Freddy the pig books, danger in children's stories, and the difference between a contribution and a commitment. Are happy endings a good thing? Also: The Patriarch reads Good Night Moon.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Inspector George Gently - Series 7 - Son of a Gun

My review of last week's episode: Gently Among Friends

Perhaps the greatest irony of Inspector George Gently is that its tragedy always stems from its basic conservatism. A thing cannot be tragic unless it is considered an anomaly. To quote C.S. Lewis: "A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line." This show has always remembered what a straight line looked like. Gently Upside Down, an episode back in series 4, ends with a young woman, Hazel, berating a failed authority figure: she makes it clear that he was meant "to take care of us, not use us." That should be the natural state of the world.

This series has spanned the whole decade of the 1960s, and Hazel was hardly the only iconoclast. But these children railing against their fathers are never righteous heroes. They're always broken, and even if they wish to transcend "the system," they still display a tangible hunger for the world before it was fallen. They hate their fathers, but want to impress them. They are not men but stunted children desiring attention.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Episode 1 Review - The Friends of English Magic

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
It's 1806, and magic has been dead in England for hundreds of years. So say the estimable Learned Society of York Magicians, but this declaration is turned on its head by the arrival of a powerful, fearsome practical magician, Mr. Norrell (Eddie Marsan). He offers them a deal: if he can make good on his claims to do real magic, then they must relinquish any right to study magic themselves. The ultimatum is a massive piece of foreshadowing. Norrell's success does not allow for sharing. He's not interested in democracy (of course not, he isn't one of those blasted French Republicans, is he?)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Inspector George Gently - Series 7 - Gently Among Friends

My review of last week's episode: Breathe In the Air

Two weeks ago my dad bought half a dozen Lyle Lovett CDs from a sales rack. For the last few days, my listening library has consisted mostly of Lovett and Johnny Cash. Pondering over the previous episode of George Gently while listening to That's Right (You're Not From Texas) made me think of odd things. What if our heroes were transported abroad (a la Inspector Morse, in two episodes), to investigate crime in the Lone Star State?

Imagine my amusement when I found Gently and Bacchus dropped into a flashy American club with Johnny Cash playing in the background (Will the Circle Be Unbroken and Ring of Fire, to be specific). They're looking into the death of Scott Parker, a visionary who wanted to be "Mr. Newcastle" (wait, I thought this was Durham?). It looks like suicide at first: he threw himself off a bridge onto a pile of trash - but it's soon seen that he was dead before he fell. It's looking like murder.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Friday, May 8, 2015

Inspector George Gently - Season 7 - Breathe In the Air

My review of last week's episode: Gently With the Women

It's not really a proper George Gently series until George battles evil in high places (last week, it was only mid-places). Now he must cope not only (as per usual) with corruption in the ranks, but the vast bulk of corporate crime, as well as his bickering subordinates.

After a brisk morning run, George dashes off to investigate the suspicious suicide of Valerie Cullen. All seems straightforward, but George isn't convinced. He starts to delve into her past. She's a doctor, suffered from depression, and was estranged from her smarmy husband - also a doctor. Eventually, it becomes apparent that Valerie had been investigating health violations at an old factory - a fact which many people resented.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

Phew. Excuse me for a minute while I let my brain settle down. This movie is full of explosions, but it is also a thinky movie. This is a very thinky movie.

In fact, it tends to think out loud. New villain Ultron (voiced by James Spader) spends so much time monologuing that it's a wonder it takes the Avengers so long to defeat him (at least fifteen minutes longer than it should have.)

Ultron is the brainchild of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), genius, playboy, billionaire, sudden techno-philanthropist-Utopian. Tony's been spending his free time creating an artificial intelligence which will establish lasting peace. Oddly enough, he's keeping the plan to himself, resisting the urge to brag. When he does tell Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), he stresses the need to conceal "Ultron" from the other Avengers. They'd merely argue about it and by then it would be too late to succeed.

Ultron is the end-game, he explains. This program will put the Avengers out of a job, and create Utopian harmony. Inevitably, something goes wrong, and in trying to create a perfect world, Tony creates the very thing which will destroy it. Ultron escapes into the internet, respawning wherever need be, to enforce his new order and attempt to exterminate the Avengers.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Best of March/April 2015

It's a toss-up for March, but I'm going to have to give it to The Kid Brother over Amelie (which I also loved.) If you think you don't like silent movies, you obviously haven't seen this. Made in 1927, it stars the third member of the silent comedy trio: Harold Lloyd (we now remember Keaton and Chaplin, but Lloyd is mostly forgotten.) It's a hilarious, clever, heart-warming little film which has aged incredibly well. Watch here.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Episode 16: Love...Twue Love...

How the Patriarch met the Matriarch, the Doors Theory of a Happy Marriage, Colin Farrell's eyebrows, The Love Boat, and romantic movies: Pride and Prejudice, Our Mutual Friend, The New World, A Room With a View, and The Painted Veil.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Inspector George Gently - Series 7 - Gently With the Women Review

The new series starts off on a somber note as a woman is violently attacked in the shadows beneath Durham Cathedral. It is pitch dark in the alleys by the river, but the glowing face of the enormous edifice looms against the night sky, passive, silent, immovable, uncaring, unhearing.

Meanwhile, George Gently is in the ring, attempting to keep up with a younger colleague. Martin Shaw, at 70, still looks like he can throw a mean punch, but George's age is catching up with him. He is suddenly KO’d, letting a punch fly right past his guard, and wakes up in the doctor’s office. He's none too happy about the fuss, but she is insistent that this may be more than a mere fluke.