Hank’s Recommendations

HOMELAND — Rescued from a bunker after eight years of torture in Afghanistan, Marine Sargent Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) comes home to his family and nation a hero. Or is he a sleeper agent plotting a spectacular terrorist attack on American soil? That’s what the honed instincts of CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) tell her, though no one but her boss and mentor (Mandy Patinkin) will listen, and he’s not buying it. With her own personal secrets to hide from the agency, and not wanting to repeat the missed opportunities that led to 9/11, Carrie sets out on a lone wolf agenda to uncover the truth while avoiding the censures and pitfalls of agency protocol.

As the supposedly rogue Marine hero and de facto rogue agent play off of each other, the manifold drama of Brody’s identity is heightened by how his wife and children and friends respond to him, and he to them, deepening the mystery and personalizing the stakes at hand.

Like 24, Homeland is a series that’s one over-arching story. While lacking the former’s breakneck pace, it nonetheless accomplishes what a good thriller series does: keeps you guessing and going without any slackening of tautness. Who is Sargent Brody and what might happen next in both the personal drama and on American soil?

The superb acting of Danes, fighting both protocol and her own personal demons, Lewis, as Sargent Brody, projecting his struggle as one of either assimilation or mission, and the great Mandy Patinkin, as Claire’s boss, who doesn’t know whether to help or prosecute her, is critical to making this series fresh and different, tense and menacing throughout.

THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE — The story of this superb and relevant cold war movie has its genesis in nuclear test explosions, but the consequences are all about global warming. (Even those who think they don’t like science fiction will find this film relevant and involving.)

The United States and the Soviet Union have, unknown to each other, set off simultaneous H-bomb test explosions at opposite ends of the globe, throwing the earth out of its orbit and sending it hurtling toward the sun.

This drama unfolds not in some Pentagon war room or antiseptic science lab but in a bustling British newsroom where stories of the two explosions trickle in amidst a deluge of reports of strange meteorological phenomena: rising sea levels and melting polar ice caps, heat waves in Sweden, snowfall in Brazil.

The news, at first, is kept from the public, until one cynical reporter begins to piece things together in the course of a petty argument with a switchboard operator. Suffering from a recently failed marriage and an estrangement from his young son, the reporter races to scoop the story while trying to put his own life in order (including a burgeoning romance with the switchboard operator), while the planet gets progressively hotter.

Science fiction still struggles against the stigma of being high on tech and thin on character. But, like ANOTHER WORLD, this compelling story with rich characters that happens to be set against a science fiction background will have the effect of bringing you down to earth while

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