J. K. Rowling’s lesser-known but equally first-rate Cormoran Strike book series (written under the pen name Robert Galbraith) gets the TV miniseries treatment! London-based Strike (Tom Burke) is a private investigator and war veteran who looks into the suspicious death of supermodel Lula Landry in the first novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, and later into the brutal murder of author Owen Quine in the second novel, The Silkworm. Aiding the gruff detective is his plucky and exceptional assistant, Robin Ellacott (Holliday Grainger), who is recently engaged and at a professional crossroads. The first five episodes, which cover the events of the first and second books, have already aired in the UK; the next two, which will cover the third novel, Career of Evil, will air next year. (The fourth book in the series has not yet been released but is titled Lethal White.) The show is appropriately gritty, dour, and exciting and the two leads are excellent. Strike and Robin’s relationship is nicely measured as they balance their professional pride and mutual respect with a latent acknowledgement of their own complicated personal lives (Strike has a famous father, a tempestuous ex, and a prosthetic leg whereas Robin deals with different kinds of personal demons and crises throughout). The stories themselves are a tad sensationalist as most detective tales are, but the mysteries at the heart of them are well done. Rowling’s aptitude for writing and empathizing with a diverse group of characters comes through as well as she digs into and presents certain lifestyles of the London scene.
A high-school reading list standard, The Kite Runner is a moving coming-of-age tale of guilt, loyalty, and atonement set in Afghanistan. Amir is an affluent boy growing up in Kabul whose best friend is his hare-lipped servant Hassan. The sweet-natured Hassan is an ethnic minority in Afghan society and his disfigurement and low socio-economic class make him a target for bullies. After an act of cowardice and a horrific betrayal, Amir loses his loyal friend Hassan and a deep sense of guilt hangs over him. Coupled with this, Amir cannot quite live up to the expectations of his pillar-of-society father and feels a certain inadequacy throughout his life. Powerful themes and motifs about family, guilt, discrimination, loyalty, and redemption are present in The Kite Runner as well as some history of Afghanistan. Traumatic events in Amir’s childhood are echoed in the politically fraught changes in Afghan society, from the fall of the monarchy to the rise of the Taliban, which hang about even after Amir emigrates to America with his father.
I listen to A LOT of movie podcasts, and the most recent addition is from Cracked.com. Each month, the weekly podcast examines about four films by one major director, delving step-by-step into the pre-production, production, and post-production history of each film. Trivia and stories from DVD extras and other sources abound for an hour. So far, the relatively new podcast has covered films directed by Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, and Kathryn Bigelow. Cracked Movie Club is, in many ways, a film appreciation podcast but it has its humourous moments as well. A different guest joins co-hosts Tom and Abe every week but all are clearly passionate about and appreciative of movies. I recommend the Interstellar episode for its surprisingly informative details about physicist Kip Thorne’s influence in the making of the movie.
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