Media Review 2019 week 4

Mike Grist Reviews Leave a Comment

Recently I’ve been indulging my fascination with the news more than ever – still limited to reading in the morning once (waking up) and afternoon once (on the train home, as a treat). Su and I have also been aiming to watch more worthy movies and spend our weekday evenings working/studying rather than just vegging on the sofa.


I read BBC news, then NBC, then, then Washington Post opinions page, then the Guardian, then the Atlantic, then maybe New York Times, then if I’m very hungry I check out how CNN and Fox both depict the day’s events. Probably between 1-2 hours in total, every day!

I also started listening to a new podcast – Pod Save America – by a couple of guys who worked in Obama’s Whitehouse. They offer unique insight and commentary, and are pretty funny to boot. This is on top of my usual political podcast intake of: Bill Maher Real Time, Fareed Zakaria GPS, and Meet the Press Sunday episode.

At lunchtimes I always watch the highlights from Colbert on Youtube.


Thus far this year we have seen:

  • The Lobster – gruesome, weird tale by the director of the The Favorite, Yorgos Lanthimos. Very Terry Gilliam-esque tale of humans getting munched up by inhuman systems – doesn’t pay off its bizarre premise of singletons getting converted into animals – rather it just pinwheels off into more, different bizarre systems.
  • Journey to Greenland – 2 French guys go to a tiny Greenland village and have no story things happen while they are tourists in what felt like a straight documentary. I’ve seen lots of things like this recently.
  • Ip Man – Chinese filmmaking tells a story of their World War 2 occupation by Japan, with Bruce Lee’s teacher and Wing Chun popularizer Ip Man as the lead. Some great fight scenes. It’s definitely interesting to see the Japanese depicted in the same way we depict Nazis. Often though, on an individual level they were less brutal than I feared – which made Ip Man’s need to humiliate them feel off-kilter.
  • searching – Fun but weird movie told entirely through social media windows on computers and phones. Not the ending they’d set us up for or that I hoped for. Not really any mystery.
  • Holy Hell – Bizarre, fantastic sci-fi reminiscent of LOST, with brothers returning to an apocalypse cult they escaped 10 years ago, and finding they’re not only all still alive, but they haven’t aged at all…
  • Birdbox – Much better than what I’d anticipated based on the trailers – I expected a whole movie of just Sandra Bullock and two kids wandering around in blindfolds. Most of the movie though is backstory, and it’s pretty great and varied in how it deals with monster movie tropes.
  • The Hunt – Mads Mikkelsen plays a teacher who gets accused of child abuse, and we are forced to contemplate the actions of his fellow townsfolk as they turn on him – if he really did it, is all this OK and right? If he didn’t do it, how guilty are we by association for damning anyone who gets accused in the modern media?


I read the Killer Collective by Barry Eisler – him adding the child abuse thread to his stories via Livia Lone has really powered them up, in my view – giving stakes I can care about more, perhaps, than amorphous terror plots and assassinations as per the Detachment – which I’m reading now (published 2011). I found I’d bought this book back then, but stopped reading early on when John Rain killed 2 guys just for trying to contact him.

Killer Collective starts very similarly – with Livia getting stalked while she’s training, just like Rain in the Detachment, but in Livia’s case these really are bad guys who really do want to kill her. It’s good to feel like I can get on-side with my heroes. Without Livia, they’re pretty amoral. With her, the team has a heart.

Also almost done with Michelle Obama’s Becoming. Parsing it out, enjoying it. What an accomplished woman, with such a great message.


Watching way less, generally, though I did watch:

  • Luther season 4 – and didn’t like it. Luther keeps on not taking out bad guys for no known reason – preferring to leave them torturing, killing and generally being awful. It doesn’t make sense and I can’t enjoy it. He’s supposed to be this morality-bending, chaotic good cop, but in truth he’s a coward who won’t kill, even when people absolutely need killing. It seems like he’s just doing what’s required to live an easier life, and I can’t roll with that.
  • I also caught the first half of Danny Dyer’s Right Royal Family – where he goes to experience what all his ancestor kings’ lives were like in the past, dating back to Rollo. I used to instinctively dislike Danny Dyer, but ever since he called David Cameron a twat I’ve been giving him a second look. It seems now he plays his East-end gangster wannabe schtick for laughs these days – rather than the deadly earnest it always seemed to be before. I think that’s great – he’s in on the joke, we all are. He actually seems like a real person, now. I’ll watch the other half. Bonus – actually learned some history.

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