Kareem Recommends: "Bullet Train," "Vengeance," "Indian Matchmaking," "Paper Girls," and Tony Exum Jr.
The best in movies, TV, music, books, and comics--according to me.
Welcome to “Kareem Recommends: The Best in Movies, TV, Music, Books, and Comics.” OG readers will recognize this as a rebranded Weekend Boost, with the name being changed to allow me to post it anytime, not just weekends.
For our new subscribers, this is a regular feature in which I share the best in the arts. Or at least the best of what I’ve experienced in the arts. I love movies, TV, music, books, and graphic novels, so I have a deep bench of material. The best part for me is suggesting something that gave me a lot of joy with the hope that you’ll share that joy. It’s like a cooked a delicious meal for you—but without all the cleaning up afterward.
Bonus this week: Two movies!
If you liked Brad Pitt as the goofy adventurer in The Lost City, then you are in for a treat because Bullet Train is more of the same, but amped up tenfold. Pitt plays a former assassin looking to become more spiritual and less stabby. He’s assigned to simply steal a briefcase on a Japanese bullet train but ends up fighting for his life because the train is filled with vicious killers.
Like Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, there’s non-stop action, lots of comedy, and artsy direction. Pitt is wildly entertaining as he tries to survive relentless attacks by trained assassins while maintaining his new enlightened attitude. You will have a great time watching this film.
This is a delightful, unpredictable gem of a movie that solidifies writer/director B.J. Novak as a filmmaker with something to say—and an entertaining way to say it. Novak also stars as a disaffected and pretentious journalist straining to find depth in stories the way he struggles for depth in his own life. But when he travels to Texas to attend the funeral of a woman with whom he’d had a brief and forgettable affair he stumbles on a mystery that exposes villainy, but also his own failures as a person.
The thematic depth is there, but the road to it is filled with very funny scenes as well as humorous and endearing characters. Plus, the mystery is solid. Ashton Kutcher is especially memorable as an astute and articulate record producer with poetic insights. If you like off-the-beaten-track stories that deliver laughs as well as earned sentiment, then you will be well rewarded here.
Lots of great recommendations this week. I also recommend you support my Substack space by subscribing.
Indian Matchmaking (Netflix)
Season 2 of Indian Matchmaking just dropped on Netflix and I hope it inspires you to go back and watch the first season. This reality show follows one of India’s top matchmakers, Sima Taparia, as she attempts to find the perfect spouses for various young Indians. Basically, Taparia is Tinder and Bumble embodied in a very sweet and sincere Indian woman.
This is not arranged marriage. Most of the matches she made in Season 1 did not work out. She merely takes all the information she can from the parents of the client and the client and searches for someone that has potential for a match. The rest is up to the individuals.
What makes this show so engaging is the sincerity of everyone involved in trying to give the process a chance to work, as well as the insights into Indian culture that most Americans are not familiar with. Those seeking a match truly want to fall in love, and their intense desire adds a level of suspense. We’re rooting for them to succeed. And yet, they are also part of the contemporary curse of having too much choice—or thinking they do. Dating has mirrored online shopping: the thrill is less in what you buy then in the shopping for something new.
Paper Girls (Prime)
This show is based on one of my favorite graphic novel series written by Brian K. Vaughan (every series he’s written are among my favorites). Ready for the plot? Hang on: a group of teen girls are delivering newspapers in 1988 when they encounter warring time-travelers, forcing them to also time-travel in order to save the world. During their adventures they encounter future, older versions of themselves—not always to their delight.
It’s a wild ride that is witty and charming and filled with adventurous derring-do from a motley gang of young girls thrown into the ruthless wood-chipper of time travel. I love the scenes in which a highly ambitious and motivated young Chinese-American meets her older self and is disgusted by what she’s become, or rather hasn’t become.
“Everything” by Tony Exum Jr.
I know I have always done only albums in this column, but this song is so good, I didn’t want to wait until the album comes out.
Here’s your challenge: start listening to this new single by saxophonist Tony Exum Jr. and see if your head doesn’t start bobbing and your feet start tapping. The upbeat sound and the cheerful vocals will lift your mood and untether your mind from earthly concerns. Put this song on while you’re driving and you won’t care if you ever arrive.
BOOKS (Audible Original fiction)
MORIARTY: THE DEVIL’S GAME
by Charles Kindinger
I absolutely loved this original drama. Because I’m a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast, as well as the author of three books and a graphic novel about Mycroft Holmes, I can be a hard sell on new works in the Holmes universe. That’s because it’s not enough to mimic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creations, you have to bring in something fresh and unexpected.
That’s exactly what you get here. Basically, it’s an origin story of how Professor Moriarty got his reputation as the Napoleon of Crime. There are so many delightful twists and turns that stand the Sherlock Holmes mythology on its head that I was totally engrossed through each episode. This is not the Holmes, Watson, and Moriarty that you are used to it. And that’s what makes it so much fun.
Everything. Head bobbing, toe tapping, side-to-side swaying. All of it. Tony Exum Jr. Excellent!!
Can't wait to see Bullet Train either.
I bought the Paper Girls trade on your Netflix recommendation yesterday and just started. I've listened to Tony Exum a couple times now. Tony Exum's piece reminded of happy '80s sax music and now I'm listening to a playlist of that - first song is Sting's Englishman in New York. I saw a preview of Bullet Train before watching Thor and was already convinced to go see it (my kids, too). :)