Big Screen: Furious 7

I’m in complete shock that I haven’t written about this movie here. Definitely my favorite movie so far this year although not the best technically made perhaps.

So I guess I had maybe seen one or two of these movies years ago when they first started coming out. Then you may remember in 2013, my dad going absolutely ga-ga for Fast & Furious 6. At the time, I also had a coworker who was absolutely nuts for these movies. I started watching them…and I don’t really know what happened but somehow they became the movies that I watched over and over. I mean I always have a few movies that I am rewatching, but for a while it was (one or the other of the) Fast & Furious every other night or so up in here. I went to Furious 7 the minute it came out, then I went again a week later, and if it was still in theaters near me, I’d have seen it a few more times by now!

The earlier movies are a bit so-so, so really if you haven’t seen these, START with #4 which was just called Fast & Furious (2009) (versus the first movie which was called The Fast and The Furious). If you become sucked in, as I did, what the earlier movies are worth watching for is the development of the relationships. How enemies become friends, how friends become family, how this person becomes introduced, when that person became indispensable, etc.

The awesome thing about these later movies, starting with 4 really, is they went back, gathered up every loose end or random plot idea from the earlier movies, and brought it all together. So Han being in Tokyo in F&F3 now slots itself between F6 and F7 and is very nicely brought in with the return of the Don/Lettie necklace to begin #7. Eva Mendes from 2F2F drops in at the end of F5 to deliver the news about Lettie (and rumor is she’s going to appear in F8).

Additionally, F7 does such a tremendous job of saying goodbye to Paul Walker, who unfortunately died mid-filming. The WHOLE movie turns into him coming to grips with the fact that he’s now a family man–that it’s time to step away from the cars, and the guns, and the team. It’s done completely seamlessly, and the last 10 minutes or so are basically the whole cast saying goodbye and Vin saying I’ll see you down the road, Buster.

Sniff.

Fiction: Dennis Lehane’s Coughlin Trilogy

The books, in order: The Given Day, Live by Night, and World Gone By.

All fantastic.

TGD = Very plot-driven historical fiction. You are caught up in Danny’s life, in Luther’s life, in the snippets of Babe Ruth (such an interesting way to use him in this book!).

LBN = Connected to the first book b/c Joe is Danny’s little brother, and his father does play a role in both books, but in many ways just books that are sequentially related versus books that are a series. Although technically this would still be considered historical fiction (there are actual historical gangsters mentioned or who play bit parts), to me this is where the series really becomes driven by character rather than plot. Joe is SUCH an interesting character to have written. This book really caught me up in its romance–and I don’t mean the relationships between Joe and women, although there is that, but the romantic nostalgia we feel for places and things. Joe’s feelings about his dad’s watch, the way he interacts with the cities he lives in. The way he thinks about things. I wrote about this book previously it turns out. Heh.

WGB = I was surprised to find that this book was also about Joe (I thought it would be about Tomas, maybe?). I loved that years have gone by, and he’s become a different person with different sorts of schemes and plans while still having his gangster’s heart of gold. Sure, that’s a bit cliche, right, the gangster who is for civil rights, and treating people equally. The gangster who only wants to kill when he really has to, etc. But he’s such an intriguing loyal intelligent dude, you go along for the ride. He’s got a code, Wire fans, he lives by his code.

I thought they were all fantastic. I’ve read other Lehane books in the past (a few of the Kenzie/Gennaro books) and enjoyed movies made from his books as well (Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River) but this trilogy is really a tour de force. Each one was BARELY putdown able, I read late into the night, loving every minute of it.

Big Screen: Iris

Fabulous!!! This movie was just full of interesting, beautiful things, and interesting quirky people, and so many great anecdotes and little moments. Iris Apfel is really a fascinating person. AND it’s from a great director, Albert Maysles, who did the Stones’ documentary “Gimme Shelter” as well. Sad to hear he died in May

Dad and I both loved it.

Big screen: Testament of Youth

This is just a truly lovely movie, from top to bottom and beginning to end. The story is lovely, and heart wrenching, and brutal–the sleeve of my hoodie was soaking wet by the end of the film from wiping my eyes. The sets, and costumes, and backdrops, were SO well done, so of their time and place. The acting was fabulous. I want to go see that lead actress in everything she ever does, including maybe Ex Machina which I really didn’t want to see.

I had been dithering about, sulking over there not being any movies to see, and Dad said “Oh, Testament of Youth! GO TO THAT! That’s based on Vera Brittain’s book, she’s fantastic.” And I’m so glad I did.

I’m obsessed with learning more about her, I’m obsessed with the clothing from this movie. I’m certainly going to see it again if it stays around long enough.

Historical Fiction: Live by Night, by Dennis Lehane

So yeah, I haven’t written about the books I’ve been reading in ages and ages although I have kept pretty much up to date with commenting on them on GoodReads. I guess I need an app for my blog, ha.

I thought this book was just beautiful. While it is one part of the story of the Coughlin family, and partly a story about gangsters (cough, outlaws, sorry, Joe) and corruption and American history, it’s also got this incredibly romantic streak running through it. The things that carry Joe through his life: not just the women he loves, but the places he loves, the objects he loves (that watch, for example).

I read the first book in this series (Any Given Day) in a furious rush over spring break while visiting my dad’s library and similarly when I picked this book up, I really couldn’t put it down either. I remember liking Lehane’s Kenzie/Gennaro series back in the day when I read those (pre-2004) but not like THIS.

You people and your creativity.

Just finished A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall which I really loved more and more as it went on and these two interviews (this one and this one) with the author are wildly entertaining, intriguing and informational.

Thanks to NPR’s MonkeySee podcast, just started listening to this British rapper Kate Tempest and started reading about her award-winning poetry and her other work and am just blown away.

Pros, cons; six of one, half a dozen of another.

Things I hate about this year: I’ve been to see/hear very little live music (so far) this year.

Things I love about this year: All the (FOUR) shows I’ve been to were magnificent performances by bands I love.

*Note: I do have tickets to Spoon in September! Or October. Can’t remember which. I have it written down somewhere.

Things I hate about this year: I didn’t see a single movie in April, and wasted my February movie-going energy on Wolf of Wall Street, a completely ridiculous movie with zero redeeming qualities if you ask me.

Things I love about this year: I saw Only Lovers Left Alive and Words and Pictures, two flicks which are still serving my soul with reminders of things I love, things that are important, things to strive for.

Things I hate about this year: It’s somehow so much easier and faster to record having read a book on goodreads than to take the five seconds longer than that to record it here and who knows maybe even a quick review.

Things I love about this year: At least I’m keeping up with goodreads.

Hey I’ve got something for YOU.

So my friend Megan published a book. Well she’s published two. One, that I adored a LOT, “Everyone Remain Calm” was only available on Kindle when I got it (looks like you can get a print copy now).

Her new book is out in paperback and I had actually preordered it on Amazon but then I went to hear her read live at Women & Children First (a great Chitown bookstore) and I wanted to get a book signed so I bought one there as well.

SO if you leave a comment and tell me your favorite book of short stories and/or a great “read at the beach” recommendation for my summer vacation, you could win a free copy of her book!

Here, let me give you a teaser. Go read this essay, then come back here and leave a comment, and I’ll enter you in a drawing to win this book! I mean considering how many comments I get these days, you may not have a lot of competition!!!