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April 2018

Weekend Watching: KILLING EVE, A QUIET PLACE & BLOCKERS

I had a lazy weekend—well, lazier than usual—and ended up watching lots of TV and movies. Good thing they were mostly entertaining. Here are some brief thoughts on the ones worth mentioning.

Killing Eve

I’ve been salivating for this since I heard about it back in February. BBC America’s comedic thriller stars Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer and is written and exec produced by Fleabag‘s brilliant Phoebe Waller-Bridge, whom I’ll follow anywhere (she’s next up in Solo).

Oh plays Eve, a bored MI-5 agent on the trail of Comer’s international assassin, Villanelle, and the two actresses are great foils for each other. Eve is messy and quirky but razor sharp when it comes to work. Villanelle is a slick sociopath, but Comer’s performance and Waller-Bridge’s writing manage to add ink-dark humor to the brutal kill missions. Even the soundtrack is funny.

The adaptation is much better than the novellas—all gathered in Codename Villanelleby Luke Jennings, who, while depicting two strong female protagonists, still wrote them from a male POV. Plus, Eve is white and 29 on the page; I love that Oh got the part. She, Comer, and Waller-Bridge bring the women vibrantly and gleefully to life.

A Quiet Place

This thriller about monsters who track their prey by sound is watching-through-your-fingers suspenseful, and its 6-person cast, including John Krasinski (also the diretor) and Emily Blunt, gives fantastic performances, almost entirely without dialogue.

My two quibbles are 1) we see too much of the creatures too soon and 2) we don’t know what their motivation is. Monsters need motivation, too. Take something like Aliens and it’s clear why the mother alien is hostile. A Quiet Place‘s creatures seem nasty for nasty’s sake.

But if you like fine acting and being kept on the edge of your seat for almost an hour and a half, this movie is worth a look.

Blockers

Three teenage girls make a sex pact to lose their virginity on prom night. Their parents find out and set out to stop the kids. Hijinks ensue.

I appreciate the questions Blockers poses—if boys are celebrated for losing their virginity, why can’t the same go for girls? Why is sex even bad?—but the movie still subjects viewers to really crude gags involving butts and balls. You’ve been warned.

Bottom line, I found more to cringe at than laugh at.

What did you watch this weekend?

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Nerdy Special List April 2018

Happy April! I’ve been wearing shirts and dresses in floral prints all week because I want flowers to be bloomin’ on my body if nowhere else. Hope spring is happening where you are.

To help brighten your day, here are our book recommendations this month.

From Jen at Brown Dog Solutions:

Big Guns by Steve Israel (Simon & Schuster, April 17)

Ex-New York Congressman Steve Israel couldn’t have been more timely with his sophomore novel, Big Guns. A major gun manufacturer is threatened by a call for a national ban on handguns, so the company brings in its top lobbyist to convince the government that every citizen should be legally required to own a firearm.

Israel’s experience lends to the novel’s authenticity, and the current political climate makes the themes especially powerful. This satire is witty, thought-provoking, and shrewd.

Buy it now

Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Ebony Glenn (Salaam Reads, April 3)

This heartwarming picture book is beautiful in every respect. The young girl narrating the story finds empowerment wearing her mother’s headscarves. The acceptance of those around her—her friends, teachers, and especially her grandmother who isn’t Muslim—encourages the child to be proud of her identity.

The stunning illustrations compliment the endearing prose, making the whole package one to treasure. This should be a staple of every child’s library. Seeing the wonder and complete absence of threat in diversity is something that can’t be experienced too often or too early.

Buy it now

From Lauren at Malcolm Avenue Review:

The City Where We Once Lived by Eric Barnes (Arcade Publishing, April 3)

Set in a semi-apocalyptic future in the town of West End, Barnes paints a haunting portrait of a town stripped to its bones and the lives of its few remaining residents. Residents of the bordering town of South End may seem better off, but their existence is filled with traffic, plastic homes, and a hunger for material things.

When a weather-related catastrophe brings the towns together in an unexpected way, the haves are forced to rely on the have-nots. Taut with timely themes of climate change, waning empathy and lack of community, the story hits scarily close to home.

Buy it now

No Way Home: A Memoir of Life on the Run by Tyler Wetherall (St. Martin’s Press, April 3)

By age nine, Tyler Wetherall had lived in thirteen houses in five countries on two continents, yet she still believed her father simply had “business problems.”

In her thrilling and gutting memoir, Wetherall recounts life on the run and how she and her siblings began to clue in to the family secret: her criminal father was a fugitive, wanted by the FBI and Scotland Yard.

Wetherall’s journals inform the first half of the book, a child’s narrative filled with the kind of details that can be found in great spy fiction. The second half, a present-day look at what followed her father’s capture, lacks the emotional touchstone of what came before but is no less compelling.

Buy it now

From Patti at Patti’s Pens & Picks:

Women in Sunlight by Frances Mayes (Crown, April 3)

I love books where women reinvent their lives in some way and emerge strong or stronger.

Three women in their sixties meet on a tour of a retirement community and become friends, traveling to a cottage several times. This evolves into spending a year sharing a house in Tuscany, Italy.

All three women confront demons while becoming their best selves, working on life goals they never thought they’d tackle. The village nearby helps on aspects of each woman’s changes. One of their neighbors is also confronting an unexpected life obstacle while working on an exciting project. I really enjoyed the adventure taken by the women.

Buy it now

PCN recommends:

Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan (Dutton, April 3)

When Leah married Robert, an author, she agreed to let him take a sabbatical from home whenever he needs to focus on writing. The only requirement is that he leaves a note, which he always does, until one day he doesn’t. And doesn’t return.

Clues lead to Leah moving with her two daughters to Paris, where “[o]nce a week, I chase men who are not my husband,” i.e. she follows men who look like Robert around the city.

Callanan’s insightful prose captures what it’s like to be a creative person and to live with one, the sacrifices that are made. Too often we love a movie or book but don’t give much thought to what it took to create it. I especially liked the many tributes to the French classic The Red Balloon by Albert Lamorisse, a childhood favorite of mine.

Buy it now

Which April releases are you looking forward to?

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