Weekend Boost: "Thor," "The Bear," "The Big Lie," and More
The Best Movies, TV, Music, Books, and Comics July 22-24
The Weekend Boost is back today and I’m excited. Once again, I’ve been so busy writing about various political and social issues that I haven’t had a chance to share some good, meaty entertainment with you for several weeks. Well, the wait is over.
Here come the goodies!
Thor: Love & Thunder
The last Thor movie, Thor: Ragnarok (2017), is one of the best, most satisfying, most rewatchable Marvel movies ever. It is the perfect blend of adventure and comedy that we got from the very best of the Indiana Jones series, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). Director/writer Taika Waititi returns with Thor: Love and Thunder, but this time he pushes the comedy even further. The result is a highly imaginative and fun movie that may not be quite as good as Ragnarok, but is still compulsively entertaining.
This time around, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) reunites with ex-girlfriend Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), whom he met in the first Thor film in 2011. Only now she’s the new Thor, complete with his beloved hammer. Christian Bale plays the villain Gorr who is out to kill all the gods because they are basically a bunch of selfish, pompous asses, though he takes no responsibility for choosing to worship them in the first place.
The plot is fairly inconsequential, with all the fun coming from the very funny banter between Thor and the all the other characters, including the Guardians of the Galaxy, Jane, Korg, Zeus, and even his love triangle with his ex-hammer and his new battle axe. The screaming goats still make me laugh. There’s also lots and action and romance.
This is the kind of summer movie that does everything you want: thrills and delights you while you watch it, and sends you out of the theater with a smile on your face.
This Weekend Boost should help make your weekend a lot better. Now make mine better by subscribing.
The Bear (HULU)
This dynamic workplace comedy-drama packs more emotional intensity into each 30 minute (or so) episode than most shows manage in entire seasons. The premise is simple: Just as young chef Carmen has been making a name for himself in the culinary world, his brother’s suicide forces him to return to Chicago to run the family restaurant with its resistant staff. Carmen struggles to make changes to elevate the food so the restaurant can survive the debt, the health violations, and the self-sabotaging cooks. All the turmoil of Hell’s Kitchen, but with people you actually care about.
The character who really makes this show work, though, isn’t Carmen or his obnoxious “cousin” Richie, it’s Ayo Edebiri as Sydney, the young Black chef who joins the staff with ideas of her own. Her story is the most compelling and Edebiri plays her with such intelligence, wit, and charm that she elevates the show the way they try to elevate the cuisine.
Each episode is so packed with character conflict, plot machinations, and work tension that at the end of each episode you’ll feel like you just completed a shift in the restaurant. But you’ll be eager for the next episode.
“I Cried” by Anselm Douglas
I just love Anselm Douglas’s voice. Whether he’s singing Caribbean-inspired tunes or his most recent jazz-R&B songs, there’s a sweet soulfulness that envelops the listener. Best known for “Who Let the Dog’s Out,” his new album I’m Coming Over is a fresh approach for Douglas, moving to more mainstream R&B. The album isn’t out yet, but a featured song called “I Cried” has been released.
Every song on the album has a sublime energy and emotional purpose that is both exciting and calming. “I Cried” is wrenching yet also renewing, urgent yet romantic. What I like is how he manages to conjure these competing emotions and thoughts so that they blend into something bigger. I hope you enjoy this rich and vibrant song as much as I have.
LISTEN (Audible Original fiction)
The Big Lie
by John Mankiewicz, Jamie Napoli, Paul Jarrico
The fastest growing part of the book market is recorded books, with Audible being a clear leader. I love reading a physical book, but I’m also cool with listening to a recorded version when I’m driving or flying. Audible has been producing a lot of original content lately with first-rate performers and they have all been high quality productions and vastly entertaining.
The Big Lie features Jon Hamm (Mad Men) as an FBI agent investigating Hollywood in the 1950s during the infamous witchhunts to find Communists that the government feared were spreading Soviet propaganda. The 30-minute episodes delve into the making of one movie about the working class and the government’s efforts to crush it. There’s a cool noir-ish tone to the show as we listen to taped conversations and see the feds dogged determination to crush free speech. The story also delves into the FBI agent’s personal life as he and his wife face marital problems caused by his job.
The show wants to suggest some clear parallels between those dark days and today. Currently, the biggest defenders of Russia are Trump and certain members of the Republican Party—and “the Big Lie” is the GOP undermining the democratic process of voting by claiming a rigged election with no proof. Ironically, this idea has been promoted throughout the U.S. population by Soviet troll farms that churn out internet propaganda some Americans are buying into. The threat to democracy we feared in the 1950s from the left, in the 2020s has actually come from the right.
READ (graphic novel)
by Garth Ennis (writer) and Liam Sharp (artist)
Although I’m a dedicated fan of Garth Ennis (Preacher, Hit Man), he seemed so focused on telling war stories lately that I’ve missed his dark edginess. Batman: Reptilian restores my faith. Batman investigates the continuing slaughter of Gotham’s worst villains, only to find the culprit is a shocking and disturbing surprise. Though the plot is simple, the story is not. It’s filled with rich characterization, sharp dialogue, and many mysterious plot points. I especially love the caustic but tender relationship between Alfred and Batman, which gives the story its emotional core.
I also want to make sure you notice the amazing art, which is so magnificent that you should buy this book for that alone. Each page is a stroll through an art gallery of wonderfully lush and skewed works that create a world you are repelled by—but inexplicitly drawn toward.
This is one of my favorite graphic novels of the year. Not to be missed.
But book here.