This Summer at the Movies

As you may have noticed, I haven’t found a lot of time to post about anything I’ve been reading, listening to, or watching these days. I WANT to tell you things…but lying on the floor moaning about how hot and miserable I am usually takes precedence. Today is oddly un-volcanic in the apartment though, and I might want a study break, so are some super speedy thoughts on the movies I’ve seen of late!

Cowboys & Aliens – Fine for what it is (a ridiculous combination of Western + Alien movies. Just as the title says). Daniel Craig takes his shirt off.

Harry Potter 8 – Pretty good, but I guess I didn’t remember enough from the last flick as I found some of the beginning confusing. Also it went FAST. I mean the last film made me cry – this one did NOT, partially I think b/c all the deaths were passed by very quickly. Also we purposely saw it in 2D but somehow it was enough 3D-ish as to make me kinda queasy!

Super 8 – FANTASTIC. I can’t believe I waited as long as I did to see this one, I absolutely LOVED it. Super super super.

Buck – As expected, a complete tearjerker! BRING KLEENEX.

Beginners – Really good! Not nearly as twee as it looks! I am a big fan of the lead actress and I loved the mood. And the dog. Interesting dialogue.

Hanna – BAD! Incredibly bad plot. What a waste of Eric Bana’s hotness.

Midnight in Paris – SO so good! A LOT of fun! Especially for us literary types.

Tree of Life – I will try to post a real review of this one soon. I liked a LOT of it a LOT. I thought that middle 35 minutes was a) interminable and b) not necessary in anyway. Sure it’s all about the cosmos. WHATEVER, can we get back to people, and dialogue, and plot-like stuff now? (not that there’s a lot of plot.) I thought it was really great in a number of ways and I certainly think it’s THE movie to see this year, despite the things I could have done without. But seriously I’ll try to say more. Soon. Because this one just cannot be summed up in so few words. Obv.

À la Nick Hornby, books in/books out for June.

Bought:

  • State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett
  • The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

Read:

  • Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch (library)
  • Generation Kill, by Evan Wright
  • The Hero of Ages, by Brandon Sanderson (gift)
  • State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett
  • The Hunted, by Elmore Leonard (borrowed from Dad)
  • Just Like Heaven, by Julia Quinn (borrowed from Mom)
  • The Price of Honor, by Colonel David H. Hackworth (borrowed from Dad)
  • The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, by Tom Franklin (gift)

À la Super Eggplant, currently, I am…

Attempting: To drink only water. If you know how I feel about water, you know how horrifying this is.

Making: Lots and lots of quilt blocks. Would like to finish another quilt for ME ME ME and then two more baby cousins. Plus I have some other things percolating. Knitting has fallen off the radar for now.

Reading: I’m almost finished with One Bullet Away by Nathaniel Fick, which I am reading after reading Generation Kill by Evan Wright, after rewatching that HBO series (so fantastic). I am Oorahing around my apartment for every tiny accomplishment and berating myself for my lack of physical fitness. This is what reading about Marines will do to you.

Watching: I have rewatched a TON of stuff during vacation: all four seasons of BSG, the three (so far) seasons of SOA (Sons of Anarchy), the only one brilliant season of Standoff, Generation Kill, Life. I am really excited that White Collar returns on Tuesday because current TV offerings are definitely in the doldrums.

Listening to: The new Bon Iver which I LOVELOVELOVE. The new Death Cab which is good but pales in comparison to the Bon Iver. The new Submarines which is so! much! fun!
Failing at: Losing weight.

Fiction: King Hereafter, by Dorothy Dunnett

Our December challenge book. A re-read for me, new to Dad.

GirlReaction: I love this book sooo much it hurts. This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve read it. I just canNOT get enough. The base in historical fiction with all the politicial intrigue and finagling around the moving bits of Europe at the time. The love story told in so many tiny bits and pieces. The looks and moves that are more important than anything anyone actually says. The choices and the consequences. I just can’t…

DadReaction: He couldn’t read it. Hated the tone of the narration, hated that there were always secrets kept from the reader (mostly by Thorfinn, decisions that come out of nowhere b/c he’s so closed off). Gave up.

Funnily, this is the second of the books I super much love that Dad just could NOT stand. I guess we aren’t the same person after all. 🙂 Heh. I didn’t get through Moby Dick or Sabbath’s Theater but b/c of school and not able to focus in on them, rather than dislike.

Fiction: The Old Devils, by Kingsley Amis

Our November challenge book (although I finished it in January. Heh). A re-read for Dad, new to me.

This book is such a study in the group dynamic: the circle is so much more entertwined than any of them even know. All the males are in love with Rhiannon; all the females have at one time or another slept with Alan; the level of alcohol necessary to keep this group functioning is mind-blowing (they bring three CASES of scotch on a weekend trip!); most of the group is joined by their hatred of Alan and his return to Wales throws everyone off kilter. It’s got the Jane Austen socialness without the social class stuff. Also lots of old-fart commentary: “They’re selling what there now?!?”

So well-written. Amis never overexplains where people are or what they’re doing, he just puts you in the scene and lets you go. The way he dramatizes things is so well-done as well, all the affair stuff happens in such a subtle way, you’re never in the middle of a sex scene, you just realize it’s happened when the chapter starts with, say, someone tucking their blouse in

These marriages / friendships have just kept going on and on; when the one wife leaves, it’s done in such an understated way, and you find yourself wondering why they don’t ALL leave when so many of these relationships have gone sour. There’s that focus on being stuck in the working class = how can you get out of your life? You have all these bonds to other things–not just this person. Kind of like a rocket leaving earth, you need a lot of acceleration to get beyond that pull of inertia, gravity. Either you start to hate it so much that you don’t care where you go, or you meet someone / see something that’s enough to draw you out.

Thumbs up from both of us, so many different things to enjoy / explore here. (How Malcolm really is the Welsh poet Alan pretends to be; how Charlie can’t stand to be alone, several drinks in by 10 a.m., etc.)

Fiction: Sabbath’s Theater

Our October challenge book. A re-read for both of us.

GirlReaction: This is my all-time favorite Philip Roth book. So dark and yet so funny. But sadly I was way too swamped with school and couldn’t finish. I’ll re-read it this summer maybe. Hopefully. 🙂

DadReaction: Hilarious. This may be the funniest book i’ve ever read. I didn’t remember how sad it was–it’s savagely funny but there’s also a devastating sense of loss, raving self destruction and anger. His unreasonableness was just hilarious and unstoppable, in your face, even when people are trying to help him. A real exercise in self sabotage–anything even remotely good he will end up ruining. He’s also so self-aborbed that he defines people solely by how they relate to them and is always confused by their other attributes. The end is a real punch.

This books gets loose from some of the usual Roth tightness: a hymn to excess. Not just in the 60s “good excess” type way, but ruminating on how horrible excess can be when you’re trashing everything around you. You do forget the edge the book has–how harsh it is, even in its humor.

Catching Up with Some SciFi Series

So apparently I stopped blogging many book reviews sometime mid-last year. GAAAH. Yes, it has been a very busy year, but I am still annoyed with myself. Expect a lot of very short reviews (or some books on the read list [2011, 2010] never appearing here) as I am determined to be relatively caught up before Fall when I will fall off the map again. Also I will be jumping all over the map in terms of order read.

[Note, you can search by author name in the box in the right column to find reviews of previous entries in these series, in most cases.]

Adult:

River Marked, by Patricia Briggs I still absolutely 100% LOVE these characters but this was BY FAR my least favorite book in this series. Maybe because Mercy and Adam were off on their own? It felt a bit random and rushed and I didn’t enjoy it very much.

Killbox, by Ann Aguirre Fourth in the series. First half = so sappy I wanted to puke. Second half = much better. Still, a very original series.

Soulless, Changeless, and Blameless all by Gail Carriger Steam-punk sci fi, set in London with werewolves and vampires openly part of society (and, in the werewolves case, officially a part of the British empire’s army), and one soulless preternatural (the heroine). Really liked book 1, although it didn’t take on the first try (you know those nights when you’re scattered and you pick up a book and it just isn’t right for your mood?). Like the love story, the steam punk details, the society conversations. It’s like Jane Austen loosened up enough to be enjoyable. (Heh. Jane Austen fan hatemail coming my way!) The ending of book 2 made me quite annoyed so I put off reading book 3 for awhile. Liked it, but just read a review of book 4 that doesn’t sound great.

Magic at the Gate, by Devon Monk I love that Stone becomes a more important “character” as these go by. I liked this entry in the series a lot.

Mistborn and The Well of Ascension both by Brandon Sanderson Sanderson is the dude filling in for Robert Jordan to finish out the Wheel of Time books. (I’ve mentioned him before.) I LOVE the metals/magic stuff in these books. Love it! Love the secret ninja stylings of it all. Love Vin, love the bookishness of Elend. I’ve started book 3 though and it’s not moving as fast for me.

I have been reading Lauren Dane‘s Federation and Phantom Corps series also. Too sexyhot to talk about.

YA:

The Dead-Tossed Waves, by Carrie Ryan #2 in the series. Jumps ahead a generation. Not as compelling as the first book.

The Dark and Hollow Places, by Carrie Ryan #3 in the series. Congruent time- and character-wise with book 2. Loved it! A lot. Loved the new characters and how they intersected with the old and how they tied all the stories and ideas together. Really redeemed book #2 for me.

Hunger, by Jackie Morse Kessler Read about it on John Scalzi’s blog and kept, occasionally, looking for this book whenever I happened on a bookstore. (Why didn’t I just order it? I don’t even know.) FInally found it. LOVED it. Slim book, quick read. Nicely done. This will be a cool series to follow.

Across the Universe, by Beth Revis If you have other friends who read YA SciFI then surely you have already heard rave reviews of this book. Definitely on the science/space end of SciFi — which can only be a good thing as movies are revisiting that genre these days as well! 🙂 Definitely part of the current wave of dystopian universes (the Hunger Games, for example) but less warrior-, revolution-, heroine/leader-focused and with a LOT more science. A smaller story in some ways, although not all. I found it engaging and thoughtful and really good.

Vampire Academy (books 1-6) by Richelle Mead Like the Sweep series, or Twilight, or any other YA vamp/witch series, this one has a few of its own twists (the guardian/vampire pairings) while exploring much of the same ground. Completely engaging and emotional while you’re reading them (obsessively, of course). Easy to walk away from after that though. Sometimes I miss being a teenager and having everything been OH SO IMPORTANT. Then again, have I really moved away from that at all? My friends might say no. 🙂

Space Demons and Skymaze by Gillian Rubinstein I found these a little derivative and a bit stiff. None of the characters felt fully fleshed out to me.

Shiver and Linger by Maggie Stiefvater I really liked these. I liked that they (despite being werewolf books) are set so very much in the real, contemporary world. I liked the change of viewpoint from book 1 to book 2. I liked the way the romance developed. I felt like we really got into the main character’s heads and understood their motivations. Evocative, sweet and tender. (Note my friend Sarah thought the second one was too mushy and wistful in places. Heh.)

Big Screen: Incendies (en français)

One of many recommendations I have gotten from Ebert Presents, my latest favorite TV show (thanks, Dad!). 🙂

Two adult twins, living in Canada, meet with their lawyer after their mom dies, and are given two letters to deliver: one to their father (long gone, they never knew him) and one to a brother they never knew they had. The sister decides to accept the challenge and winds up in the middle east (filmed in Jordan but I believe this is supposed to be Lebanon) digging through layers of time to discover her mom’s younger days (which we see filmed). The brother eventually joins her. The mom was involved in Lebanese civil war, not just politically based but also religious.

This is one of those movies that while afterward there are any numbers of things you could nitpick apart from the plot, the setting, etc., the acting is so engaging that you 100% believe in it while you’re watching, particularly that of the actresses playing the mother and the daughter.

The ending is far more horrible than I remembered the review suggesting; as things begin to unfold, you start to realize there are only a few bad ways things could go…

Felt a little shellshocked at the end, but was really entranced the whole time. Despite various melodramatic tendencies, this totally worked for me.

Big Screen: Thor

Thankfully I was able to find a 2D viewing.

Fluffy superhero fun. Not up to Iron Man levels (oh, Iron Man) but certainly acceptable for what it is.

The Thor dude is quite pretty, don’t ya know. And Idris Elba is fantastic, but I couldn’t stop wonder whether he was wearing colored contacts the whole time? The actor playing Loki was suitably creeptastic.

And there you have it. Good summer fun if you need a couple hours of air conditioning in your day. 🙂