inverarity: (inverarity)
The notorious novel of a Hollywood heel!


What Makes Sammy Run?

Bantam, 1941, 288 pages




Every one of us knows someone who runs. He is one of the symptoms of our times-from the little man who shoves you out of the way on the street to the go-getter who shoves you out of a job in the office to the Fuehrer who shoves you out of the world. And all of us have stopped to wonder, at some time or another, what it is that makes these people tick. What makes them run?

This is the question Schulberg has asked himself, and the answer is the first novel written with the indignation that only a young writer with talent and ideals could concentrate into a manuscript. It is the story of Sammy Glick, the man with a positive genius for being a heel, who runs through New York's East Side, through newspaper ranks and finally through Hollywood, leaving in his wake the wrecked careers of his associates; for this is his tragedy and his chief characteristic-his congenital incapacity for friendship.

An older and more experienced novelist might have tempered his story and, in so doing, destroyed one of its outstanding qualities. Compromise would mar the portrait of Sammy Glick. Schulberg has etched it in pure vitriol, and dissected his victim with a precision that is almost frightening.

When a fragment of this book appeared as a short story in a national magazine, Schulberg was surprised at the number of letters he received from people convinced they knew Sammy Glick's real name. But speculation as to his real identity would be utterly fruitless, for Sammy is a composite picture of a loud and spectacular minority bitterly resented by the many decent and sincere artists who are trying honestly to realize the measureless potentialities of motion pictures. To this group belongs Schulberg himself, who has not only worked as a screen writer since his graduation from Dartmouth College in 1936, but has spent his life, literally, in the heart of the motion-picture colony. In the course of finding out what makes Sammy run (an operation in which the reader is spared none of the gruesome details) Schulberg has poured out everything he has felt about that place. The result is a book which the publishers not only believe to be the most honest ever written about Hollywood, but a penetrating study of one kind of twentieth-century success that is peculiar to no single race of people or walk of life.


The most narcissistic anti-hero ever - Sammy Glick IS Hollywood. )

Verdict: An outstanding, funny, tragic, and entertaining novel about a despicable main character who epitomizes every venal Hollywood stereotype, and an excellent read for the prose and dialog as well as the characters. What Makes Sammy Run? is still appalling and entertaining; it may be about Hollywood in the 30s, but Hollywood is still full of Sammy Glicks. 10/10 and highly recommended!




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An ambitious sociopath works his way through three sisters.


A Kiss Before Dying

Signet, 1954, 191 pages




A Kiss Before Dying not only debuted the talent of best-selling novelist Ira Levin to rave reviews, it also set a new standard in the art of mystery and suspense. Now a modern classic, as gripping in its tautly plotted action as it is penetrating in its exploration of a criminal mind, it tells the shocking tale of a young man who will stop at nothing--not even murder--to get where he wants to go. For he has dreams; plans. He also has charm, good looks, sex appeal, intelligence. And he has a problem. Her name is Dorothy; she loves him, and she's pregnant. The solution may demand desperate measures. But, then, he looks like the kind of guy who could get away with murder. Compellingly, step by determined step, the novel follows this young man in his execution of one plan he had neither dreamed nor foreseen. Nor does he foresee how inexorably he will be enmeshed in the consequences of his own extreme deed.


A good book by the author of 'Rosemary's Baby' and 'The Stepford Wives,' but a horrible movie. )

Verdict: Read the book, skip the movie, at least the more recent version. A Kiss Before Dying is a clever little 1950s thriller, all plot and smart characters, and not too much suspension of disbelief (though the ending is wrapped up a little too neatly). 8/10.




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The novella that spawned The Thing,


Who Goes There?

Astounding Science Fiction, 1938, 168 pages




Who Goes There?, the novella that formed the basis of the film The Thing, is the John W. Campbell classic about an antarctic research camp that discovers and thaws the ancient body of a crash-landed alien.


Paranoia will destroy ya, but murderous shapechanging aliens will kill you faster. )

Verdict: A fine pulp adventure that was made into three decent monster movies. Who Goes There? is a sci-fi classic that added paranoia about alien dopplegangers to the tradition of weird fiction set in the Antarctic. 8/10.




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Interstellar

At some point the near future, a "blight" is destroying all crops on Earth. The human race is facing slow extinction. A former astronaut-turned-farmer stumbles upon a secret NASA project to send explorers to other planets, thanks to a wormhole to another galaxy discovered near the orbit of Saturn. They believe they have received messages from an advanced alien race steering them towards this wormhole. So he is corralled into piloting the ship that will chose humanity's new home.

Oh. My. God.

This movie is an actual Science Fiction movie.

I wouldn't quite call it "hard SF" - I'm sure physicists more educated than I were probably wincing at the math and the relativity and the wormholes, and I definitely spotted some dubious science concerning the black holes, travel times between planets, a lot of hand-waved technology, and some suspensions of disbelief in the plot.

Nonetheless, this is probably the best true science fiction (as opposed to science fantasy) movie I have ever seen.

There is social commentary, like the bright-eyed teacher insisting that the moon landings were a hoax, and the (quite legitimate) debate over spending enormous resources for an extra-solar mission when people are starving at home. There is touching family drama and heroism and sacrifice. There are some awfully cool alien landscapes, and friendly AIs who do not go all HAL 1000 on the crew.

It's like The Black Hole minus the Disney silliness. It's like Contact but not boring. It's like 2001: A Space Odyssey but not boring. It's like Gravity without relying on George Clooney. It's all the best parts of those movies wrapped into one.

5 stars, see it in theaters, boo and hiss when it fails to win an Oscar.
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Never trust a professor who wants you to stay in a haunted house, and watch out for the quiet ones.


The Haunting of Hill House

Penguin Books, 1959, 246 pages




Past the rusted gates and untrimmed hedges, Hill House broods and waits.

Four seekers have come to the ugly, abandoned old mansion: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of the psychic phenomenon called haunting; Theodora, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a lonely, homeless girl well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the adventurous future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable noises and self-closing doors, but Hill House is gathering its powers and will soon choose one of them to make its own.


Inspiration for every haunted house story since. Investigate this, Scoobies! )

Verdict: A bit dated, not the first and maybe not the best haunted house story ever, The Haunting of Hill House remains a creepy tale perfect for Halloween from an American master of understated horror. 9/10

Also by Shirley Jackson: My review of We Have Always Lived in the Castle.




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Mars attacks! The granddaddy of all alien invasion stories.


The War of the Worlds

Originally published in 1898. Approximately 60,000 words. Available for free on Project Gutenberg.




First published by H. G. Wells in 1898, The War of the Worlds is the granddaddy of all alien invasion stories. The novel begins ominously, as the lone voice of a narrator intones, "No one would have believed in the last years of the 19th century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's."

Things then progress from a series of seemingly mundane reports about odd atmospheric disturbances taking place on Mars to the arrival of Martians just outside of London. At first, the Martians seem laughable, hardly able to move in Earth's comparatively heavy gravity, even enough to raise themselves out of the pit created when their spaceship landed. But soon the Martians reveal their true nature as death machines 100 feet tall rise up from the pit and begin laying waste to the surrounding land. Wells quickly moves the story from the countryside to the evacuation of London itself and the loss of all hope as England's military suffers defeat after defeat.

With horror, the narrator describes how the Martians suck the blood from living humans for sustenance and how it's clear that man is not being conquered so much as corralled.


The chances of anything coming from Mars were a million to one, he said... )

Verdict: Truly the granddaddy of alien invasion stories; The War of the Worlds is still a frightening and entertaining classic. The plot is slow in places, and the characters don't really do much, but Wells describes a near-end-of-the-world in words that could be applied to any civilization that's been crushed, bombed, or genocided. 8/10.




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The sailor she rejected when he was poor is now rich, and she's unmarried at 27.


Persuasion

Originally published in 1817, 236 pages. Available for free on Project Gutenberg.




Anne Elliot has grieved for seven years over the loss of her first love, Captain Frederick Wentworth. But events conspire to unravel the knots of deceit and misunderstanding in this beguiling and gently comic story of love and fidelity.


Perhaps the most outright romantic of Austen's novels, with torches carried for seven years, and an Austenian heroine married off more happily than the author. )

Verdict: Not my favorite Austen, but not my least favorite either. Austen's prose is as flawless as usual, and Persuasion is finely plotted. It loses points for missing the humor and poignancy I found more abundantly in Austen's other novels. 7/10.

Also by Jane Austen: My reviews of Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and Emma.




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A witty critique of Aestheticism that's been reinterpreted as a horror story.


The Picture of Dorian Gray

Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, 1890, 252 pages. Available for free on Project Gutenberg.




Oscar Wilde brings his enormous gifts for astute social observation and sparkling prose to The Picture of Dorian Gray, the dreamlike story of a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty. This dandy, who remains forever unchanged---petulant, hedonistic, vain, and amoral---while a painting of him ages and grows increasingly hideous with the years, has been horrifying and enchanting readers for more than 100 years. Taking the reader in and out of London drawing rooms, to the heights of aestheticism, and to the depths of decadence, The Picture of Dorian Gray is not simply a melodrama about moral corruption. Laced with bon mots and vivid depictions of upper-class refinement, it is also a fascinating look at the milieu of Wilde's fin-de-siècle world and a manifesto of the creed "Art for Art's Sake." The ever-quotable Wilde, who once delighted London with his scintillating plays, scandalized readers with this, his only novel. Upon publication, Dorian was condemned as dangerous, poisonous, stupid, vulgar, and immoral, and Wilde as a "driveling pedant." The novel, in fact, was used against Wilde at his much-publicized trials for "gross indecency," which led to his imprisonment and exile on the European continent. Even so, The Picture of Dorian Gray firmly established Wilde as one of the great voices of the Aesthetic movement and endures as a classic that is as timeless as its hero.


Oscar Wilde is on my list of Top 10 Dead Authors I wish were still alive and writing today. )

Verdict: Oscar Wilde can be relied upon for quotable lines on every page, and as a story of a man falling headfirst into Faustian temptation, The Picture of Dorian Gray is a very readable literary classic. It is not perfect (it's awfully convenient how often Dorian escapes judgment by someone else's timely death, and the prose is a bit turgidly Victorian), but it's full of great one-liners and witty observations about Wilde's milieu.





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A post-apocalyptic novel that came at the wrong time, and then got shafted by Kevin Costner.


The Postman

Spectra, 1985, 321 pages




This is the story of a lie that became the most powerful kind of truth. A timeless novel as urgently compelling as War Day or Alas, Babylon, David Brin's The Postman is the dramatically moving saga of a man who rekindled the spirit of America through the power of a dream, from a modern master of science fiction.

He was a survivor--a wanderer who traded tales for food and shelter in the dark and savage aftermath of a devastating war. Fate touches him one chill winter's day when he borrows the jacket of a long-dead postal worker to protect himself from the cold. The old, worn uniform still has power as a symbol of hope, and with it he begins to weave his greatest tale, of a nation on the road to recovery


It was better than Waterworld! )

Verdict: A smartly plotted novel with bits of political and scientific philosophy sprinkled into the story, The Postman is a superior TEOTWAKI novel that would probably have sold better if it were published today. And if it weren't wrecked by an awful Kevin Costner movie.





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Godzilla 2014

When I was a kid, I used to check the TV Guide every week to see if any Godzilla movies would be playing on Saturday morning. The local TV stations would sometimes favor me with Mothra vs. Godzilla or Ghidora, the Three-Headed Monster. Loved 'em, never did follow the continuity very closely, but I've always been a Godzilla fan.

Mechagodzilla

The last time Hollywood tried to do a Godzilla movie, of course, was Roland Emmerich's POS in 1998, starring Matthew Broderick.

So I was wary but hopeful going into the theater to see 2014's Godzilla.

Well, what can I say? If you think giant monsters stomping on cities are stupid, this movie will not change your mind. But if you like Godzilla movies, this is a true Godzilla movie, complete with epic multiple-monster battles, city-smashing porn, and massive amounts of military ordnance being thrown about, mostly to little effect. Godzilla is the original movie Godzilla, the elemental force of nature who's "good" only in the sense that he destroys the other monsters and leaves (while smashing up a lot of the landscape himself).

The movie does a good job of delayed gratification - you don't get to see the monsters in all their glory right away, and you don't get full frontal Godzilla until over halfway through. The money shot, when he finally unleashes with his breath weapon, sent cheers through the theater.

There is a lot of superfluous rah-rahing for the U.S. military, with the main (human) character being a Navy Lieutenant who's somehow been cross-trained in EOD and HALO jumps. The plot actually does manage to give the humans something useful to do while trying to avoid being stepped on by 300-foot-tall monsters, and there are the obligatory cute kids to rescue, but let's face it, we go to a Godzilla movie to see cities being wrecked while kaiju duke it out, and this Godzilla movie gives us plenty of that - a Japanese island, Honolulu, Las Vegas, and San Francisco all get convincingly flattened in the course of the movie.

Yeah, it's a big stupid blockbuster, but if they bring back Mechagodzilla or Ghidra or even, omg, the Smog Monster, for the next movie, I am so there.

Gozilla vs. the Smog Monster
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Captain America The Winter Soldier

Captain America was never my favorite Marvel hero, but he is an archetype, and there is something endearing about a guy who still runs around wearing a flag. Still, he hasn't aged well. He's an eternal Boy Scout, like Superman (who also used to be much more blatantly pro-America), and his costume is almost as embarrassing as Wonder Woman's.

In the comics, that is. In the movies, damned if they didn't manage to pull off just the right combination of earnest, sincere heroism and bad-assitude. Cap looks like a soldier, acts like a soldier, and being frozen since the 40s, manages to act like a man out of time while being savvy and smart enough to do his best to catch up. The first Captain America was my second favorite among all the recent Marvel movies, just behind The Avengers and narrowly edging out Iron Man and Thor. I like heroes who are genuinely heroic without being saps (something several Superman movies have failed to pull off). And yeah, I like harkening back to an era when you could be patriotic without ambivalence.

So anyway, The Winter Soldier did not disappoint. Although the true identity of the main villain should have surprised no one over the age of 10, and there were some rather silly Tropish moments that didn't execute as well on film as they do in comics (seriously, the Villanous Monologue where the super-smart evil genius tells you all his plans before he gon' blow you up, 'cause that always works? Or packing an elevator with a bunch of thugs to beat up Captain fucking America, because yeah, that will totally work too), it was gloriously full of city-razing special effects and high-speed superhuman martial arts smackdowns, and a plot no more silly than anything else based on a comic book. It's not a character-redefining movie, nor did it have the genius and the humor of The Avengers, but it was satisfying, and it managed to keep Captain America believably heroic without either ignoring or denying his essential Americanness.

That said, one cannot help noticing how very global the movie is, heroes and villains alike. This is the post-9/11 era, and it's hard to pull off unironic patriotism, especially of the "America, fuck yeah!" variety. Especially when foreign box office makes up so much of a movie's receipts. Hence while Captain America is still Captain America, he really doesn't talk a lot about America per se, except in a rather wistful past tense. S.H.I.E.L.D. is apparently an international organization (despite pretty much every S.H.I.E.L.D. agent we've seen being an American) taking its orders from the "World Security Council."

I enjoyed Winter Soldier quite a bit, and am happy that they've been able to update Cap (as well as a few other B-listers).

Cap and the Falcon

Batroc

I did catch the namedropping of Stephen Strange, though, which makes me wonder when Dr. Strange will get his own movie?
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Movie Review: The Act of Killing

The Act of Killing

This Academy Award-nominated film was strange, surreal, deeply disturbing, and hard to watch. Synopses do not do it justice, but you can watch it on Netflix, or free on YouTube.

It's a documentary about the 1965-66 "purge" of communists in Indonesia, in which somewhere between half a million and a million people were slaughtered by death squads.

Obviously, there is a lot of historical and political baggage surrounding this (the filmmaker, Joshua Oppenheimer, has explicitly called out Western governments for their role in the slaughter), but The Act of Killing is not really a study of geopolitics or ideology. "Communists" was just shorthand for "Anyone in our way" (many of the victims were ethnic Chinese, targeted for that fact alone), and this is quite evident in listening to the former killers talk about them.

Indeed, this is what I found most fascinating about the film. Oppenheimer got former death squad leaders and current government officials to talk, on camera, about what happened. The main figures are Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry, who rose from two-bit gangsters to the most feared men in Indonesia. It's chilling just how blase they and their compatriots are about their crimes — there is no equivocating, moralizing, or tempering. They killed "communists" even though it's clear that they didn't really care whether or not anyone was actually a communist. They speak gleefully, even pridefully, about their killing methods, about their brutality, about profiting. One former gangster talks wistfully about how much he enjoyed finding 14-year-old girls among the villagers to be tortured/killed for being "communists." This provokes spontaneous, knowing sighs of camaraderie around the room from the other men.



As you can see in the above trailer, The Act of Killing is by turns chilling, grotesque, and comical. Horrible men are filmed saying the most horrible things, without remorse. There is another scene where they cruise through the markets and extort money from the Chinese shop owners, bluntly demanding they simply hand over cash from their tills while joking with them as if they are buddies. The frozen smiles on the faces of the shopkeepers, as they are filmed being forced to make nice with murderous thugs, was perhaps not as disturbing as the lurid, loving accounts of rapes and beheadings, but it was the same banal, rapacious evil, displayed with the same proud swagger.

Watching them, I was most interested in trying to determine whether these were men literally without a conscience — psychopaths — or men living under a vastly different moral code in atrocities are justified. It's a question that repeatedly fascinates me — what is "evil"?

Congo, in contrast with Zulkadry, seemed to care about his legacy and whether he would be judged righteous by history. There is a final scene in which he rather melodramatically appears to come to the startling realization that his victims suffered, that maybe, possibly, the things he did were... wrong. o..O

And yet, how can one believe that after all these years, this crisis of conscience was a genuine revelation brought about by thoughts he'd never had before? Does he truly have such a compartmentalized mind? Are we watching cogitive dissonance overwhelm him? Is he an old man now realizing he has regrets? Or is it an act, staged like all his other moments? I'm genuinely unsure, though my cynicism tends to be strong here - there are too many other scenes in the film where he treats the blood on his hands as a matter of pride, or fodder for humor. My suspicion is that we're watching someone as evil as Saddam or Stalin, but who thinks now he can craft his public image for the better without denying or apologizing for anything. But his psychology fascinates me.

To really appreciate the over-the-top batshit surrealism of this documentary, I recommend you watch the culmination of Anwar Congo's "artistic vision." This scene, choreographed to the soundtrack "Born Free," was his idea. Unfortunately this was the only YouTube clip I could find and the subtitles aren't in English, but the two actors playing guillotined victims of Congo are thanking him for killing them and sending them to heaven...



This film is full of images, people, and statements that will mess with your head.
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This is such a 70s movie. I had heard of it but never seen or had any interest in seeing it, and when I read the description, my first reaction was "Ew."

HaroldAndMaude

But I have to admit, after rather reluctantly being talked into Netflixing it, that it was kind of awesome. Okay, actually, it was really awesome. And weird. And disturbing. And so fucking 70s. And ew.

So, our boy Harold is a super-privileged poor little rich boy with a suffocating, emasculating mother who is utterly unfazed by Harold's repeated suicide attempts. Harold has become something of a performance artist.

Harold and Maude - hanging
Harold and Maude - drowning
Harold and Maude - shooting
Harold and Maude - slashing
Harold and Maude - gasoline
Harold and Maude - chopping
Harold and Maude - driving

Besides staging gory suicides, this weird, depressive teenager has a hobby of attending random strangers' funerals, which is where he meets Maude, a free-spirited 79-year-old. Maude introduces Harold to new hobbies, such as joyriding in random vehicles, leading police on chases, and sex with septuagenarians.

harold-with-bubbles

Surprisingly enough, when they actually go there, it's not that "Ew." Harold and Maude manages to be both a darkly humorous satire with pointed 70s-era commentaries on war, conformity, and authority figures, and a light-hearted romcom. There are surprisingly touching moments, though my overall reaction throughout the movie remained "WTF?" From the porn-stached cop with his oh-so-symbolic tiny little gun to Harold's military officer uncle with his pathetic prosthetic saluting arm to Maude's very... interesting "self portrait" sculpted in wood, the movie is full of imagery to make you do a double-take and laugh out loud. And Bud Court's deadpan facial expressions make each scene.

harold and maude

This was an early indie film with more wit and weirdness than comes out of any mainstream Hollywood film then or now. It's like The Graduate meets Heathers and they have a bastard romcom love child with a Cat Stevens soundtrack.

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Gladiator

Would you believe I'd never actually seen this movie?

So, I finally Netflixed it, not expecting much in terms of historical accuracy. While the history is, obviously, Hollywoodized, Ridley Scott did create a grand Roman spectacle with admirable attention to detail. Hey, grand spectacle and battle scenes with a Hans Zimmer soundtrack? I don't know why I never watched it before.

But — guess which part annoyed the bayjeezus out of me?

Commodus vs. Maximums

That's right — the Hollywood-Stupid part: "Hello, I am the fucking Emperor of Rome. I want to prove what a bad-ass I am, so I will stick my enemy with a knife so he's bleeding out, then put armor on him and give him a live blade so we can fight in an arena. He's already proven to be very hard to kill and one of the best gladiators ever, but I'm the fucking Emperor of Rome so how can my clever plan possibly go wrong?"

Yeah, other than that part, good movie.
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Man of Steel

Well, this was not the worst Superman movie ever, but it was not the best.

First of all, I don't know why every superhero has to be "rebooted," origin story and all, every 10-20 years. We all know the Superman story. I'd rather see a movie that does something interesting with him, with the assumption that we all know who he is and what he does, than yet another iteration of death-of-Krypton, donning-the-cape, etc. I mean, James Bond didn't need to be rebooted for almost 50 years. Nobody needs James Bond explained in the first hour of the movie before you get to the plot.

So anyway, in this version, they play up Superman's loneliness and alienation from his adopted planet. They kill Pa Kent in a sequence I found particularly hard to believe (I'm sorry, Clark would never let someone die, especially not his father, to protect his secret identity!), and then General Zod arrives from the Phantom Zone to wreak a huge special effects budget on Earth.

Holy crap, Amy Adams is a lousy actress. Lois Lane almost seemed to be reading from cue cards. And chemistry? Forget about it.

The action sequences were impressive, though I thought the visuals borrowed too much from Alien and Independence Day. I can't recall many other movies with such blatant product placement, though, including the U.S. military.

The ending also annoyed me. Okay, you want to break over 60 years of Superman tradition by having him kill the bad guy? You should at least respect the canon and show it to be something more wrenching than his angst over being the last Kryptonian.

I understand there is a Superman-Wonder Woman movie in the works. I await it with mixed feelings - it might be good, but it has the potential to be very, very bad.
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Nobody Knows

This was a depressing movie, though apparently not as depressing as the real-life events it was based on. Four children are left alone in an apartment by their mother with only a little cash. Their mother is a woman who makes, shall we say, bad life choices — the children are all by different fathers, none of whom are around to help out. She leaves her children for weeks, then months at a time.

Akira, the oldest, does the best he can for a 12-year-old. We see the slowly dawning realization in him and his oldest sister that their mother really doesn't have their best interests at heart, and cannot be relied on to take care of them, but they don't know what to do about it. As their mother's absences become longer, and money runs out, they go from unsupervised children having an extended vacation from school to feral children living in an increasingly filthy apartment. First the electricity, then the water gets shut off. They go barefoot and unwashed. Akira gets a little help from neighborhood kids, but obviously four pre-teens cannot live alone indefinitely without something bad happening.

This is a Japanese film, so it's slower-paced with a lot more "empty spaces" than would be found in a Hollywood movie. There's not much dialog, and hardly anything is spelled out — we just see the gradually deteriorating living conditions, and the flickering of hope in the childrens' eyes slowly dying. There are a lot of lingering camera shots fixed on Akira or his siblings just staring blankly into the distance. The ending gives little closure.

It's kind of like The Cement Garden... minus the incest. A good movie, but definitely a downer.
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The Hobbit

It's been a long time since I read the book, but I'm pretty sure half this shit was not in it.

I don't mind that it's not a wholly faithful adaptation, but when part one of a three-movie series is this boring, it does not bode well.

One of the things the heavy reliance on CGI did was highlight just how ridiculous some of the D&D tropes that evolved from Tolkien are. Like dwarves taking on trolls. I completely failed to believe a bunch of dwarves, however bad-ass they may be, beating monsters made out of pure muscle mass several times their size in close combat. Now granted, complaining about a lack of physics in fantasy RPGs is rather missing the point, but when you put it in a movie, it starkly illustrates how fantastical and ridiculous it is.

I don't care if they're all 12th-level fighters, one troll would stomp the lot of them into the ground.

I did like the part with Gollum.

Denny's is selling Desolation of Smaug: Hobbit breakfasts.

Denny's.

Gandalf help me, I think I preferred the 1977 Rankin-Bass version.

The Hobbit (1977)
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Thor: The Dark World

Actually saw this in the theater. I think I liked it better than the first movie, which was a surprise. It's rather remarkable how well Marvel has done pulling B- and C-list villains out of its archives as movie Big Bads.

Best parts: Loki's banter, and London getting trashed. (Why does it always have to be New York?)

Worst parts: No way do I buy Natalie Portman as a PhD astrophysicist. And if you keep slapping gods, sweetie, sooner or later one of them is going to slap you back. Also, there seems to be a biiiig unexplained plot hole at the end, which I guess will be addressed in the next movie?

Wait for the very, very end of the credits - the audience that waited for the first easter egg and left missed the second.
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Pacific Rim

Okay, it was fun. Stupid, but fun, like a Godzilla movie for the 21st century.

I do not understand all the excitement, though. It's not like it was better than any other special effects blockbuster. Giant robots, giant monsters, and a thimbleful of plot, most of which is dumped on us in a voice-over in the opening scene.

Apparently Pacific Rim has a fandom, now? I mean, what is there to write fan fiction about?

No, no, don't tell me. Yes, I already know Transformers porn exists. Jesus wept.
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Victor Hugo's epic saga of plot puppets acting out philosophical and moral arguments. (No, it's not about the French Revolution!)


Les Misérables

Originally published in 1862, approximately 565,500 words. Available for free on Project Gutenberg.




Victor Hugo’s tale of injustice, heroism and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him. But his attempts to become a respected member of the community are constantly put under threat: by his own conscience, when, owing to a case of mistaken identity, another man is arrested in his place; and by the relentless investigations of the dogged policeman Javert. It is not simply for himself that Valjean must stay free, however, for he has sworn to protect the baby daughter of Fantine, driven to prostitution by poverty. A compelling and compassionate view of the victims of early nineteenth-century French society, Les Misérables is a novel on an epic scale, moving inexorably from the eve of the battle of Waterloo to the July Revolution of 1830.


Look down, look down. You'll always be a slave. Look down, look down. You're standing in your grave. )

Verdict: Big, bloated, epic, brilliant, did I mention big and bloated? The characters are memorable, the story is grand, it's definitely a book that belongs on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list. But it is not enthralling or a page-turner, and call me a heathen, but I'm glad that modern editors don't let authors, even best-selling ones, ramble on at novella length before getting back to the story. Les Miserables is a book you won't regret reading, and it's worth some serious bragging rights to get through it, but I can't honestly say it's my favorite classic work.

Also by Victor Hugo: My review of Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame).




My complete list of book reviews.

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