A while back I won a copy of Ways to Live Forever in a drawing over at Vulpes Libris. If you know me, a free book is a good book, but I still let it languish on by bookshelf for quite some time. I finally got around to it and finished just a few nights ago. On nights when Anna has a bit of trouble getting to sleep, I’ll read a bit to her until she drifts off. I read this one incrementally over about two weeks or so, and I’m not sure it was a choice on my part. A book about an eleven-year-old dying of leukemia is probably not something you want to fall asleep to. Regardless, it was a great book. Oddly, it is also a kid’s book.
This may seem a bit strange to some, it did a bit to me as well, that in our day and age where we do everything we can to shelter kids from anything unpleasant, let alone anything morbid, someone would address such a book to kids. This is, after all, an era where Rapunzel didn’t let down her hair so charming prince could rescue her from a tower prison, put there by an evil witch. No, no, she merely was a girl told by her grumpy aunt that she couldn’t go out and play. So her friend climbed up inside, with the help of Rapunzel’s extraordinary hair and they had a play date together. This is pathetic, yes, but I seemed to have gotten side-tracked.
Just Add Water – This obvious piece of festival bait started out with a bit of promise, but by the time the final fifteen minutes rolled around, things had completely fallen apart. The main characters were decent, and except for a completely flat and one-sided Danny DeVito, somewhat likable. This movie tried to recreate the feel of movies like Waitress, an abominable piece of garbage in its own right. The problem with this sort of movie is that it reduces everything and everyone to a single dimension: the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad. Nothing unexpected happens and no one shows the least bit of intelligence. These stories show simple people with simple dreams, but they just end up seeming condescending.
I’m actually really tired of the term off-beat being used to justify comedies that aren’t funny. But that’s a whole other post.
The movie is all about a guy named Ray (Dylan Walsh) who lives in the desolate and, incidentally, real town of Trona, California. He is a parking garage attendant who spends his nights talking to his white trash neighbors and dealing with his reclusive and unloving wife. The town is run by the local meth-dealer who happens to be about 17 years-old and acts like a dictator. Ray is completely meek and unassuming, taking abuse from just about everyone in his life. His only joy is the daily trip to the local grocery store where his beautiful and single high school sweetheart Nora (Tracy Middendorf) works. If you can’t figure out what is going to happen based on that information, I pity you.
Something very exciting happened this last weekend. It happened only once this year, and, if everything goes to plan, it will happen an unprecedented three times next year. Yes, last Friday, the incredible Coen Brothers released another movie: Burn After Reading.
Everything about the movie showed promise: a great cast, great filmmakers, even a great poster. We saw it on Friday night, and we were not disappointed. I had been looking forward to it for quite a while, and was a bit worried that I would get a bit too hyped about it and end up disappointed. Not so.
The movie is a ensemble set up, but mainly follows two gym workers (Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand) as they attempt to blackmail the CIA into giving them money for what they think is classified information they have stumbled upon. The two bumble around, eventually going to Russians to try selling the information there. Everything falls apart as all the characters paths cross again and again. Throughout, plot lines of lost love, divorce, broken dreams, self-obsession and alcoholism are woven together, all treated with the typical Coen style of holding nothing sacred and willingness to send anything up for a gag, laugh or plot point.
It’s not often I get hit as hard by a book as I did by The Raw Shark Texts. I just finished it this morning on my way into work, and, wow. I am completely bowled over. And this is just author Steven Hall’s first novel.
It is the story of a man named Eric Sanderson who wakes up with complete amnesia. He has no idea who or where he is, only that he has just woken up in extreme panic. (I might skip the rest of this paragraph if I were you. At least not if I didn’t like spoilers.) Finding a note giving him instructions, he calls up a psychiatrist, Dr. Randle, who has been handling his case. This was the eleventh recurrence of his memory loss. Sanderson begins to receive letters and packages from his past self, set on delay to arrive periodically. By following the instructions and crawling further and further into a strange world, Sanderson tries to escape from his recurring and ever increasingly real dreams of being hunted by a giant shark. Not only is he haunted by the shark, but also by his past which always sits just out of reach. The text continues to follow Sanderson deeper and deeper into either insanity or enlightenment; it’s never clear which. The shark, it turns out, is a conceptual fish, hunting Sanderson, wanting to consume his self. Eric must find a way to kill the shark, there is no other escape. Continue reading
After hearing about the movie 21 for some time and having been constantly asked whether I had seen it yet, I finally watched it. It was more of a situation where we were at the video store trading in our online rentals and didn’t really feel like taking the time to make the rounds through the store. We were tired. We decided to just grab this one as it was first in the new release section and go.
You know how they say driving tired is the same as driving drunk? It’s the same with picking movies. When you’re tired your reasoning skills go out window. This is my excuse. We didn’t even get around to watching the movie that night; we just went to bed.
We watched it last night and I thought there were some really funny moments to the movie, the only problem being that those particular moments were not intended to be funny. (You may or may not consider some of the following comments to be spoilers. I don’t but you might so read at your own discretion.)
I watched In Bruges last night, and I was caught completely off guard. I really didn’t know anything about the movie and I wasn’t holding out much hope for it. From the cover, and the bit I read from the back of the jacket, I figured I’d be in for another typical hit man on the run type story.
What I wasn’t expecting was a movie with three extremely interesting characters with excellent dialogue. Think Vincent and Jules from Pulp Fiction running around in a world created by Guy Ritchie (If you don’t know my taste in film, being compared to either Tarantino or Ritchie is a good thing, particularly the latter). Aside from not having any freeze-frames or intense music montages, it could have easily been another of Ritchie’s films. Watching two killers trying to appreciate art, Catholic relics, and racist dwarves in movies, all while spouting great lines that come at you out of nowhere, sets up an incongruous story that twists around in some very surprising ways.
A while back I picked up a copy of Ian Fleming’s Moonraker. I just finished it this morning on my way in to work. It’s the first James Bond novel I’ve ever read, much less owned, and I really liked it.
I hadn’t been really interested in the book series, but, on a trip out to a bookstore in Ojai, I found a copy of this book. Here’s why I bought it: I liked the cover art. The colors and the typeface are perfect for this throw back design. The girl looking up over her shoulder at the rocket, the eyes in the clouds, everything just comes together perfectly. The whole ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ thing clearly does not always apply. Most books that later become movies have their covers pillaged and replaced with a screen shot from the movie. (This is wrong and should not be allowed. Ever.) So, yes, I bought the book because I liked the cover. It’s not shallow; I’m appreciating the graphic design, or something like that.
I’m not going to write up a full review on this book. I don’t think there would be much point as so much has already been said about it by people far more talented than myself. I may be fairly late to the parade here, but I just want to say, The Kite Runner was incredible. I finished it yesterday, and I am still blown away by it. I think the term “Redemption Story” is completely overused, but here it is more than just words.
You need to read this book. That is all.
I just finished Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil on the train last night. I really liked this book and will definitely be looking up some other books by John Berendt. I know I’m a bit late checking in on this book, as it was published fourteen years ago and spent a record four years on the New York Times Bestseller List, but at any rate, here are my thoughts.
Berendt’s approach to characters reminded me a lot of Tom Wolfe’s Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby: small and separate vignettes that add up to a great portrait of an area, though lacking the New Journalism feel.
I am glad that Berendt chose to divide Midnight into two books, as the sections each have their own distinct feel, and it would have been distracting had they not been acknowledged as being different. I actually enjoyed the first half, the scenes of life in Savannah, Georgia, more than I did the second, dealing with a murder and a dramatic trial. Continue reading
I watched Lars and the Real Girl last night. I’ve been wanting to check it out for a while, but for one reason or another, just kept putting it off. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think the trailer was a bit misleading as to the tone of the film, selling it as more of a comedy than it actually was. Don’t expect to be rolling on the floor or even laughing out loud. For those that don’t know, Lars and the real girl tells the story of a man named Lars (surprise) and his new girlfriend, who happens to be a very real looking love doll named Bianca (don’t’ worry, Bianca is very religious and the happy couple sleeps in separate rooms). While this could have very easily been way over the top and overdone, the script and the cast pulled it off perfectly.
Lars and the Real Girl dealt with some heavy issues and a very complex character. I can’t think of many actors other than Ryan Gosling that could have pulled of the character of Lars. I believed him every second he was on screen. His was a solid and consistent performance. His better roles might not be as well remembered as his turns in Remember the Titans or The Notebook, but his roles in Half Nelson The Believer have shown him to be an incredible actor capable of tackling dark characters.