Top Picks: 'SNL' set change, the podcast 'Imaginary Worlds,' and more

Thomas Perry's thriller 'The Old Man' has verve and verisimilitude, the movie 'Complete Unknown' looks at how much identity matters, and more top picks.

Verve and verisimilitude

A botched military intelligence mission powers The Old Man, a thriller from Thomas Perry. The old man of the book’s title, known as Dan Chase and other false names, has been on the run ever since a failed mission in Libya. That mission included his decision to reclaim $20 million given to a Libyan middleman to arm a rebellion after the Libyan pocketed the money for himself. Now, the aging Libyan is collaborating with the US government, an alliance that leads to the long-vanished American military intelligence officer being targeted for assassination. Perry steers this cat-and-mouse adventure across the United States and, eventually, back to Libya, with verve, including just enough verisimilitude to keep intact the willing suspension of disbelief.

Suspenseful set change

NBC’s Saturday Night Live has been around for so long that viewers may forget the inherent challenges of its live format. A new video released by the show demonstrates how hard its crew works to make sure the show runs effortlessly, with a clip showing crew members making a set change before the host’s monologue. (You may find yourself biting your nails as it gets down to the wire.) Check it out at

Warner Bros. Pictures/AP
Harry Potter

Exploring space

The podcast Imaginary Worlds delves into science fiction and fantasy, from exploring how “Star Wars” rebels destroying the Death Star would affect that world economically to looking at whether reading “Harry Potter” books makes people more understanding of others. Find Eric Molinsky’s show at

Well-observed film

The film Fatima is the story of Fatima (Soria Zeroual), an Algerian cleaning lady and single mother living in France. Kenza Noah Aïche and Zita Hanrot costar as Fatima’s daughters, a disobedient teenager and a medical student. The movie, which Monitor film critic Peter Rainer calls “well-observed and unassuming,” is available on DVD and Blu-ray.  

Identity issues

What identity is and how much it matters is explored in the movie Complete Unknown, in which an ex-girlfriend (Rachel Weisz) of married Tom (Michael Shannon) appears at a party, pretending to be a different person. The movie is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to