Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It's Complicated

"It's Complicated" is a movie starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin ,and Steve Martin focuses on the lives of a wealthy divorced couple and the complicated relationship that ensues when they have an affair after being apart for 10 years.

Meryl Streep plays Jane and is fantastic as a talented cook and owner of a pastry shop.  Jane decides to build an addition to her house while dealing with the idea that, because her kids have moved out, she is alone.  She ends up getting sauced with her ex while they are in New York for their son's graduation and one thing leads to another.  In  the meantime, Jane's architect, Adam, seems quite nice and relate-able.  Adam and Jane go on one of the funniest dates I have seen in a while.  The big question is "What is going to happen in this strange love triangle?"

All of these characters are flawed but extremely likable, even the slightly neurotic wife of Jane's ex got some sympathy from me.  I like that all of the characters are middle aged, not too crazy, and could be real people.  The plot doesn't involve a seriously far-fetched cougar story line or insane and wacky antics.  My only issue with this film, however, is that it did tend to drag about around the middle.  If you can get through it without being too bored, I think you'll like the movie.  (PS: It helps if you're a woman, too.  My husband was more focused on his laptop than watching the movie.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Jungle- Upton Sinclair

The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair, is a dreary and stark look into the lives of Lithuanian immigrants who have transplanted themselves in the packing district of Chicago in the early 1900's.  It is a blunt description of Jurgis, Ona, and their families as they attempt to survive amid the harsh facts of starvation and cruelties afflicted on them.

This novel would have us believe that no one could be trusted and all immigrant lives should be devoid of hope in this 1906 US metropolis.  Calamity upon calamity is thrust upon Jurgis; the reader sees him start as a naive, but hard working and strong man, only to become a man bent under the burden of sorrow while he turns to crime to live.  By the end of this novel, Jurgis, has lost everything but a new found spark for Socialism.

This novel is very descriptive and detailed regarding the harsh living and working conditions in Packingtown.  The reader truly sees the plight of Jurgis and his family and might consider shunning meat for a while.  It seems, however, that this tale that is devoid of all hope save Socialism is a bit biased towards only one solution to America’s problems.  It's interesting to read this 100 year old book during economic hardships and reflect on where we've been as a country and where we are going.  Socialism was not chosen as the answer, but has capitalism worked?  I think Sinclair's ideology is a bit naive like Jurgis's view of the American dream, but this novel is a fascinating and surprisingly clear and does not hold back any punches. The descriptions of prostitution, canning of spoiled meat for distribution, and the real bosses behind Chicago are atypical for this period of novel and a welcome look into the seedier side of early America.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is (as described by one of my Crabbie book club buddies) a Sci-Fi novel without the "Sci".  It follows a women, Kathy, as she reminisces about life at a unique boarding school.  Kathy takes the reader through these memories from her childhood up until the present as she reflects on her interactions with her friends and "guardians" at this special school that focuses on art and health for it's children.

The pace of this novel is slow and thoughtful.  The reflections of Kathy seem trivial, but a lot is taking place as the reader begins to see the truth behind what this school is really about and how these children are treated.  The matter of fact portrayal and memories of Kathy truly show the conditioning that the students have recieved. 

The reader may be shocked at the acceptance of these characters in how their lives have been shaped, but I think this happens in real life too.  Forces shape our lives and maybe we don't take the action we should to make changes and become who we want to be.  Ishiguro's subtle novel creates a canvas that forces the reader to contemplate some truly basic questions about life and who we are as people.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Legion is an apocalyptic horror/action movie that centers around the birth of a child and the legions of angels sent by God trying to kill it.  The movie begins with the archangel, Michael, leaving God's army and traveling to protect the unborn child at a diner/ gas station in the desert.

This movie has decent special effects, casting, and cinematography, but lacks substance.  The focus seems to have been on visual stimulation and not a well detailed plot.  All of the bits and pieces are there, but the story was not developed enough to give this movie real substance.  It is a wax apple compared to a real apple, it looks good and nice to eat, but it doesn't have a real matter to it.

I wouldn't waste my time watching this movie; you'll end up not hating it, but not caring about it either.  Oh, the movie was really predictable too.  I don’t like watching movies when I think I could have written it better.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Tommyknocker's by Stephen King

The Tommyknockers, by Stephen King, was released in 1987 and is a thick tome that keeps you enthralled throughout the whole novel.  It follows Bobbi, a western genre novel writer, who trips upon a metallic object in the woods that she inherited.  As Bobbi uncovers more of this mysterious object, the reader is directed to meet Gard, Bobbi's alcoholic former lover and poet.  Gard travels a long and dark road to help Bobbi and they start to discover the truth about what was hidden in the ground.  Sinister things start to occur as more is revealed and changes take place to the little town of Haven where Bobbi lives.

Stephen King is the master of character development; he draws the reader into his stories whether they like it or not.  His characters are fully formed in this book, but I have to admit that I wasn't all that empathetic with them.  I feel like I should have cared about them more in this book and I would have enjoyed the book more for it.  As it was, I was rooting for the good guy in the end, but didn't really care what happened to most of the characters.  Given that statement, I think that an emotional separation from these characters was fitting for this book.  In essence, I, as the reader, was mirroring Gard's relationship with Bobbi by the end of the book.  An emotional detachment from a person he's attempting to help.  The Tommyknockers is about evolution and regression at the same time and maybe the reader shouldn't be empathetic to a character that becomes something new.

The Tommyknockers is a product of its time with a heavy hand on the topic of nuclear power and what Gard refers to as the "dallas police".  I liked this book, but I won't read it 10 times like It.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

84 Charing Cross Road (1987)

84 Charing Cross Road is based on a play/book written by Helen Hanff about her correspondence with Frank Doel, chief buyer of Marks & Co, antiquarian booksellers which was located at 84 Charing Cross Road.  Helen write to Marks & co. to purchase old, classical books that she was unable to purchase in New York and maintained this contact with Frank and other members of the book selling staff.  This correspondence evolved into friendship as she exchanged gifts and real discussions about a variety of topics.

I enjoyed this quiet and unassuming movie.  However, it was hard for me to stop comparing it to The Shadowlands as both star Anthony Hopkins as a quiet English man who enjoys literature.  This comparison did tinge my views of the film.

Anne Bancroft stars as Helen and Hopkins stars as Frank.  The movie plays with perceptions of American versus English interactions and stereotypes.  Frank is a reserved man to Helen's very vocal woman, but the viewer sees a real connection made.  Hopkins excels at subtle acting and it's amazing to see how he can make such a quiet character so empathetic to the viewer.

This film is not groundbreaking, but enjoyable in a subdued and thoughtful manner.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sex and the Single Girl (1964)

Sex and the Single Girl is a fictionalized version of the novel with the same name and follows the the author, Helen Gurley Brown played by Natalie Wood, after she has published the novel and is enticed by a tabloid magazine executive, played by Tony Curtis.

This is a typical 1960's movie that attempts to shock you with sex and craziness.  I was mildly amused by the plot until about halfway through and then I was just bored.  A long and drawn out car chase occurs near the end of the movie and it turned the movie into pure silly dribble.  I enjoyed looking at a few of the sets, decor, and wardrobe as there were some inspiring pieces, but I don't think it's worth watching the movie just to see that.

I watched this movie on TCM and Ben Mankiewicz's introduction to the movie was funnier and more entertaining than the movie itself.

Ponyo (2008)

This 2008 movie by Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle) was directed and written by Hayao Miyazaki and is loosely based on The Little Mermaid.  The story follows a little fish-girl, Ponyo, that runs away from her father and wants to turn into a human and be with a little 5-year old boy, Sōsuke, that she meets.  The story ensues as Ponyo attempts to become human and threatens the environmental balance of the world.

I had high expectations for this movie as I fell in love with Spirited Away and Miyazaki did not disappoint me.  I have never seen 2d animation that can compare to the quality in Miyazaki's movies.  Ponyo takes it to a completely new level with the style and scope of animation.  The detail of the water, colors, and fish is artistic and majestic to say the least.  Animation aside, the story and plot of this movie keep you enthralled and excited to see waht happens next.  I think it's a good recommendation for an animated movie that draws you into the the plot and characters so much that you forget it's animated.  Ponyo and he friend seem so alive that it was easy to become immersed in the story.

The only portion to disappoint me in this movie was the last song during the ending credits.  I thought the music throughout the story was lilting and pretty like what I was watching and then this last "theme" song comes on at the end of the credits like a childish and obnoxious TV show.
That being said, I loved this movie and highly suggest you see it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Plethura of Movie Reviews

Year One

Jack Black and Michael Cera are somehow prehistoric men that get kicked out of their tribe and are forced to make there way into the world.  Time moves quickly in this story as they meet Cain and Abel and end up in Sodom.
I found this movie to be mildly amusing.  Do not expect the plot to blow you away with it's intelligence; it's more of a plot that lets the jokes lead the story along.  Think the Bible meet Jack Black.

District 9

Aliens are forced to live in a ghetto in South Africa, but are about to be moved to even more cramped conditions by a government agency.
This movie was nothing like I expected.  It was a sci-fi documentary style with plenty of action.  It really treated the aliens like thinking beings and kept me wanting more movie when it was done.  I thought it was a great ensemble of action, sci-fi, and drama that we don't normally see in alien movies.

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard

A group of traveling car salesman are hired by a car dealership to turn the business around.  The group is led by Don Ready (Jeremy Piven) as he deals with his crazy lifestyle and past.
A friend of mine called this movie the worst movie he has ever laughed at.  Most of the characters say crazy things that make no sense to the plot, but they are so funny that you don't care.  It has been a long time since I have seen a plot this bad and ridiculous, but I have to recommend that you see this late at night with a couple of beer, just so you can laugh your butt off.

Julie and Julia

The movie follows two women:
Julie isn't happy with her career and she starts to blog about cooking every recipe from Julia Child's cookbook.
Julia Child is in Paris with her husband, bored, and decides to learn how to cook french food at Le Cordon Bleu.
A cute movie that does an excellent job with the Julia Child sequences.  I think it would have been a better movie to limit the Julie sequences, however.  Meryl Streep is completely convincing as Julia Child, but I found Amy Adams to be a little boring as Julie.