Archive for December 27th, 2008

2008 – Year in Review, part 3 (Movies)

Since I will be out of the country (and away from an internet connection) at the time the new year rolls in, I decided to start my “End of Year” reviews early. In this installment, I talk movies from the past year…

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) (N) – The movie made me interested enough to wonder how the book reads. Nice character work to keep events grounded in the confines of the ship.

Quantum of Solace (2008) (T) – Nice action sequences… I was a bit confused by exactly how soon after Casino Royale this was supposed to be taking place, but a good movie nonetheless.

Green Street Hooligans (2005) (N) – A bit violent at times, it is actually a good look a relationships in a sports-driven society, that can take things just a little too far.

Casino Royale (2006) (N) – Very nice “establishing” movie, and I liked the “hanging” ending… interested to see how Quantum picks it up…

21 (2008) (N) – Who doesn’t like poker movies? And a nice twist ending… and the lead is actually English!

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets (2007) (N) – Not quite as good as the first, but still pretty darn good.

Once (2006) (N) – Actually very good, and with an “indie” feel the way the shots worked out. Actually went looking up the other music by the leads.

The Miracle Match (2006) (N) – It’s USA soccer in 1951, preparing to face England in the first round of the World Cup…

Children of Men (2006) (N) – Interesting concept, with very dark events. The best part was Michael Caine

December Boys (2007) (N) – Actually very good. Almost a happier-premised “Stand by Me”, if such a thing is possible.

Bourne Ultimatum (2007) (N) – It’s Bourne, all over again. A solid action movie.

Rent (2005) (N) – Starring the original Broadway cast. Interested to see how the stage version and the movie compare…

The Human Stain (2003) (N) – Not sure if I would read the book, but an interesting character study…

Blow Dry (2001) (N) – Alan Rickman not playing a bad guy. And “Filch” not being “Filch”… and Josh Hartnett with an English accent?

Hellboy II:The Golden Army (2008) (T) – Much more fantastical than the first… The tooth-fairies were very hard to watch without squirming a bit.

Hellboy (2004) (N) – Nice action, interesting character twists.

The Hours (2002) (N) – Interesting way to twine three stories together. A very worthy award, Kidman disappeared in the role.

The Incredible Hulk (2008) (T) – I liked the “on the run” feel. I’m not saying the Ang Lee version was bad, but this one just felt more natural…

Hot Fuzz (2007) (again) – It’s a good, simple, action-oriented plot. With some interesting names popping up, and some new twists on old gags…

Iron Man (2008) (T) – Very nice. It would be very difficult to see anyone else as Tony Stark.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) (T) – It’s a good yarn. Not my favorite IJ movie, but not a complete failure, either.

The DaVinci Code (2006) – A relatively faithful adaptation, but the pacing in the book is better.

Passion of the Christ (2004) [Definitive (2007)] – Very aggressive and intense scenes. Worth seeing once, to truly appreciate the events.

Brokeback Mountain (2005) – I actually liked the pace of the story, and the interplay of the relationships over time.

Henry V (1989) (N) – One of Branagh’s early Shakespeare movies… and I was surprised to realize how many others I recognized, including Christian Bale.

Lolita (1962) – Kubrick established that he likes handling questionable ideas. Makes me interested in reading “that book by Nabakov” to see how close the translation…

A Clockwork Orange (1971) (again) – I actually like the film, still… more for the themes than the images, but I wonder what it would have been like if the last chapter HAD been in Kubrick’s copy.

Bonnie & Clyde (1967) – Very forward (for it’s time) in terms of voicing character quirks (ED) and violence (the final gun fight).

Citizen Kane (1941) – Interesting film for camera & editing techniques, as well as showing different aspects of the central character. Out of the context for it’s time, though, much of the controversy it saw when it was first released is lost.

Birth of a Nation (1915) – Considering the work itself – a very good movie (technically) for it’s day – with smoke staging during combat scenes to make things bigger than they actually were, and using close ups, intercuts and camera angles – cutting edge stuff in 1915. The story lines, though, leave a lot to be desired, especially in the 2nd half. And the entirety runs for three-hours.

Grapes of Wrath (1940) – A watered down version of the book, spun just enough to make it past censors…

V is for Vendetta (2006) (N) – Made me curious to read the graphic novel, as well as the history of Guy Fawkes. “Remember, remember, the 5th of November…”

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) (again) – Always a fun watch, even if a lot of the book is left out.

Freaks (1932) – Short by modern standards, but something that would easily fit into the Twilight Zone or Tales from the Darkside. And the Carnies are real.

Private Eyes (1980) (N) – I have never been to the Biltmore House, where the movie was filmed. MC suggested I watch it, just for the scenic value of the estate.

Sweeny Todd (2007) (T) – I had seen a campus production of the stage show. Would have liked some of the other songs (at least the lyrics for the opening) to be there. Some of the blood was excessive (but expected), and I like the “romantic quality” of the movie ending over the extra steps of the stage ending.

Peaceful Warrior (2006) (N) – Nice, with a feeling afterwards like Rocky…

Shopgirl (2005) (N) – I had read the book, and the movie helped a few details fall into place – like how to interpret Jeremy.

The Benchwarmers (2006) (N) – A fun comedy, that flows well.

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2008 Year in Review – Part 2 (Books)

Since I will be out of the country (and away from an internet connection) at the time the new year rolls in, I decided to start my “End of Year” reviews early. In this installment, I talk books from the past year…

For best results… read this post from the bottom up, to see how the year progressed…

Sue Grafton: F is for Fugitive –

Kate Mosse: Labyrinth – Good read. May take a little to get into, but (as a writer) liked looking at the characters in the alternating storylines and figuring out the past-present connections.

Pete McCarthey: McCarthey’s Bar – Not bad. A couple of places mentioned that I might like to check out. Nice text flavor, like listening in on a conversation.

Neil Gaiman: The Graveyard Book – Great. Easy read (but, it’s listed in the kids section, so I hope it would be) but bigger elements than one would expect.

T.C. Boyle: Tooth and Claw and other stories – Classic Boyle. Memorable images from individual stories; some are thicker in details than others when reading.

J.D. Salinger: Nine Stories – Meh. The stories were good, but I’m just not a fan of some of his style elements.

Tobias Wolff: The Night in Question: Stories – Not bad. There are a few “keepers” here, that I could see referencing for some of my own projects. Enough to make me want to look at some of his other works.

Clyde Edgerton: Lunch at the Piccadilly – Simplicity of style, with slice of life possibilities. A simple cast of characters, set in real-enough places.

Christopher Paolini: Eldest – Interesting twist in the series; much better (style) than the first book. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the series playing out.

Michael Crichton: Travels – Interesting accounts from some interesting expeditions. Saddened at his passing, but interested in seeking out some of the other (older) works… some of which were in my dad’s collection.

Steve Martin: Born Standing Up – Some of his movies (lately) may be seen as hit or miss, but his writing is always good.

Gregory Maguire: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister – A bit think in some sections (details), but creative enough for a good story. May read some of the other works, after getting through more of my current collection.

Sue Grafton: E is for Evidence – Never a problem with Grafton’s books, except I don’t want to get through the series too quickly.

Neil Gaiman: Neverwhere – The first Gaiman novel I have read. Interesting story twists, and an example of crossing real and not-quite real that has kicked around in some of my own ideas. I have the BBC series in my Netflix queue, just for fun.

Kate DiCamillo: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane – A very short book, but with a nice emotional element.

Kevin Brockmeier: The Brief History of the Dead – Nice idea for the afterlife, and I liked the pacing/sequencing between “living” and “dead” worlds… but not a big fan of the ending… but it posed some possibly interesting questions…

Neil Gaiman: Smoke & Mirrors – Eclectic collection of stories, a couple of which I have already referenced or used for material for a short story. A definite keeper.

J.D. Salinger: Catcher in the Rye – Not a bad book, but I’m not a huge fan, either. It’s a stylistic thing, that I’m just not a fan of…

Sue Grafton: D is for Deadbeat – I like the books. There’s a predictability in the pacing (after reading a few in the series) that lends itself to study material. Something to look at to get a feel for writing in the genre.

Sheri Holman: The Dress Lodger* – I liked the story. The details, while very rich, tended to bog me down in some sections. Not an easy work to get back into if you have to put it down for a while.

John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath – Interesting slice-of-life piece. Juggling the characters had to be an interesting feat when he was composing the work.

Mark Twain: The Adventures of Huck Finn – Colorful, and subtle. People get so caught up on what labels are used (remember, it was written in the late 1800’s, but set in the early 1800s), that they miss the bigger picture.

J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (reread) – It’s been a few years since I first read it, and I had forgotten some of the smaller details that hadn’t carried over to the film. I have an extra copy (a paperback) for plans to mark up the text, as an exercise in writing… And I may go back and reread the entire series to see how things were put together (reveals, etc.).

Imogen Edwards-Jones & Anonymous: Hotel Babylon – A nice “guilty-pleasure” read, especially with my past work experiences. I have the BBC series in my Netflix queue, and will be interested to see how the series was adapted…

Eric Clapton: Clapton: The Autobiography* – Interesting insight into the music world, and someone that I can appreciate, even though he is not a heavy-hitter in my music collection.

* – Books that were “carried over” from 2007.

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