Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Nine Inches: Stories - Book Review

Published: August 2013
Nine Inches: Stories  - Tom Perrotta A-

Tom Perrotta's brilliant short story collection, Nine Inches, is full of disappointment and despair. But, it's the relatable, entertaining, well-written and heartfelt disappointment and despair... not the depressing kind.

For a more comprehensive review check out The New York Times review of Nine Inches by Alix Ohlin.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The End of the Tour - Movie Review

The End of the Tour (R) 106 mins B+
On the edge of panic

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Segel, Joan Cusack, Anna Chlumsky, Mamie Gummer, Ron Livingston

David Foster Wallace published Infinite Jest in 1996. The 1,000+ page novel catapulted the intensely private writer into "celebrity author" territory- a label he was never comfortable with. Certain friends and family who were closest to Wallace have protested this film. A film that sensitively portrays DFW as one of those "misunderstood genius" types, and has nothing but the best of intentions. But, from what I read, the whole thing isn't very Wallace-like. Meaning, if he were alive he would hate it. Nevertheless, it's a good writerly film about writerly things.

The End of the Tour details the last days of Wallace's Infinite Jest book tour where he is joined/interviewed by Rolling Stone reporter, David Lipsky. The film is very talky, but the hook for all you non-writer types is the delicate dance of one person wanting what another person has - and what that one person will do to get it. Lipsky's time with Wallace never made it to the pages of Rolling Stone magazine. However, it did become a book called, Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, published in April of 2010. The book is Lipsky's account of the five days he spent with Wallace in 1996. It is also the basis of this film.

Jason Segel as DFW is his most seminal work to date. Jesse Eisenberg as David Lipsky is also very well played, but I suspect will be criminally overlooked. The End of the Tour is directed by James Ponsoldt. Ponsoldt also directed one of my favorite films of 2013, The Spectacular Now.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Her Husband: Hughes and Plath, A Marriage - A Book Review

Published in Jan 2003
Her Husband: Hughes and Plath, A Marriage   - Diane Middlebrook A
Writing- The True Romance

Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes were a fascinating pair. The red hot couple meet in February 1956 and married four months later. Their love affair started so fast it would prove impossible to sustain such momentum. Her Husband brims with fire, ice and lots of tragedy. I went into the book adoring Plath and knowing little about Hughes. I will admit I had a preconceived notion that Hughes was an a-hole; however, Middlebrook changed all that (I've lifted the moratorium on Hughes' books.) This retelling filled in all the gaps for me- how they meet, the marriage, the affair, the suicide(s) and maybe most important, the art. Plath and Hughes wanted to be full-time writers first and foremost. They sacrificed everything for that end. They loved the art of writing more than they loved themselves- that was the true romance.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Ricki and the Flash - Movie Review

Ricki and the Flash (PG-13) 101 mins C

Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Rick Springfield, Mamie Gummer, Audra McDonald,Nick Westrate, Hailey Gates, Ben Platt, Charlotte Rae, Rick Rosas, Joe Vitale, Sebastian Stan, and Bernie Worrell.

Ricki and the Flash is directed by Jonathan Demme, written by Diablo Cody and stars Kevin Kline and Meryl Streep. I was hoping the film wasn't as trite as the trailer looked, but it sorta is. Streep is one of the best actresses one the planet, she does an admirable job here. Yet, Ricki and the Flash still feels like an artless effort that's panders to the mainstream. Not terrible, but somewhat forgettable. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cop Car - Movie Review

Cop Car (R) 86 minutes B
Kid's Play

Starring: Kevin Bacon, Camryn Manheim, James Freedson-Jackson, Shea Whigham and Hays Wellford

Cop Car is a small indie film with big suspense. A nefarious and slight Kevin Bacon plays a strung out cop who leaves his patrol car unattended while he takes care of some shady business. A pair of 10-year-old runaways stumble upon the abandon car and decide to take it for a joyride (yes, the keys were left in the car). As you can imagine, all hell breaks loose and the naive young boys have no idea of the danger they are in.

I'm not a fan of films that rely so heavily on the narrative of kids (unless of course you're Wes Anderson). But, director Jon Watts does a good job of keeping the hellions interesting and not just playing off their cuteness/innocence. I felt like it wasn't out of the realm of possibility that these kids might die. I wasn't hoping for that, yet it made for a more suspenseful film (when is the last time you saw two 10-year-olds die in a big budget Hollywood film that didn't involve terminal illness?). I'm not saying the film isn't far-fetched, but it has the feel of something desperate and unpredictable.  This film might surprise you.

Cop Car was filmed in Fountain, Colorado

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation - Movie Review

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (PG-13) 131 mins B-
Abort the next mission

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, and Alec Baldwin

I know that Rogue Nation is doing well at the box office. Many consider it one of the best of the franchise. But, I wish they would just stop. Stop while the films are still decent and don't run it into the ground. I am almost certain that Mission: Impossible and the ageless Tom Cruise won't sustain this momentum. I enjoyed Rogue Nation. It was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon- IMAX screening, small popcorn and a diet coke. Everyone knows the basic (predictable) plot. Cruise is typical Cruise, Ving Rhames is cool, and Simon Pegg is good comic relief. However, it is the performances of Rebecca Ferguson and Sean Harris that pushes the film over the hump. Those two villainous characters add a little freshness to what feels like a stale repeat of the same old car chases, high tech gadgets and explosions. I've seen all of the MI films. I know what I should expect. But, for the first time after seeing one of these films I questioned whether or not I cared to see another one.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Shelia Levine is Dead and Living In New York - Book Review

Sheila Levine is Dead and Living In New York - Gail Parent B+
Dying to get married

Published in 1972
Facebook, Tinder, Match, JDate, eHarmony, Okcupid, - if only our heroine, Sheila Levine, had those resources in the early 70s... She wouldn't have to kill herself because she's overweight, unmarried, and generally unsatisfied with her unglamorous life. This novel is a little dated (originally published in 1972), but I still found it entertaining, witty, relevant, and a tad edgier than today's mainstream "chick lit." Now, I am curious to see the film adaptation circa 1975.

Here's a (underwhelming) clip from the film adaptation via Youtube

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Irrational Man - Movie Review

Irrational Man (R) 95 mins B-
When Homicide Makes You Hard and Other Godless Thoughts

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey, Jamie Blackley, Betsy Aidem and Ethan Phillips

The latest Woody Allen film will inevitably be compared to two of his best, Crimes and Misdemeanors and Match Point. That doesn't bode well for Irrational Man. The film covers familiar existential territory and features a great performance by Parker Posey. Allen fans will be pleased, everyone else should proceed with caution.