Friday, October 26, 2007

Dan in Real Life

Movie: Dan in Real Life

I wasn't super sold on this movie and I didn't know anything about it other than it stars that guy from The Office who's usually in funny comedies so I assumed that's what this was and since that fit my mood, I went. It turns out it's really a sweet love story. Yes, there's humor, but it's gentle family humor. Basically Dan is a widower struggling to raise three daughters who writes a newspaper advice column for a living. He thinks he's got things under control but of course doesn't. During a family reunion, he meets a beautiful, fascinating woman, only to later learn she's his brother's girlfriend. He has to spend the entire holiday seeing her constantly while knowing he can't have her, and he learns he has trouble controlling himself. All sorts of sweet and funny little things happen and naturally, the two fall in love, but how can they tell the brother? It's a really well-done film, perfectly written, with just the right touches of humor, romanticism, and realism. I really liked it. Highly recommended.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Love and Blood: At the World Cup with the Footballers, Fans, and Freaks

Book: Love and Blood: At the World Cup with the Footballers, Fans, and Freaks
Writer(s): Jamie Trecker

This book recalls the 2006 World Cup in Germany, telling a lot of the historical background of the event, the behind-the-scenes adventures, and summarizing the results. It's detailed, fascinating, and an excellent read if you're a soccer fan. I followed the Cup on TV and didn't think the book would really add much, but I was suprised at how much I learned. It's excellently written and highly recommended.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Girl Next Door

Book: The Girl Next Door
Writer(s): Jack Ketchum

Talk about grim: this is an amazing horror book about genuine evil. Worse, it's based on a true story. In a nutshell, a psycho aunt locks up her orphaned 15-year-old niece in the basement to punish her, and allows her cousins and the neighborhood kids to visit and torture, rape, and eventually kill her. This would be a worthless story if told that way, however: what redeems it is the narrarator, a twelve-year-old boy from next door who is in love with the girl, and his conflicted feelings over the situation. On the one hand he's a pre-pubescent kid overwhelmed and confused by the pleasure he finds in seeing his object of lust naked and tormented. On the other, he knows hurting her is wrong, but he's just a powerless kid, unable to help. The story is helped by being set in the idylic world of the early 1960s in an ordinary suburban neighborhood; you just don't expect such things to happen in your backyard. The author has also brilliantly shielded us from most of the actual violence -- much is implied and not shown, and this allows us to participate from a safe distance. It's a quite remarkable book. Certainly not for all tastes, but genuinely frightening in a way that makes most horror books seem silly, because this is something that could happen anywhere to anyone because we are the evil.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Gone, Baby, Gone

Movie: Gone, Baby, Gone

Rather glum film about a missing child and a private detective couple brought in to find the little girl. Things start to twist then as we learn that everything is not what it seemed, and then they twist again later, and again at the very end. All the twists are fairly believable, though the final one is one too many, and leaves you feeling manipulated and cheated. While I liked many aspects of where this was going and I loved some of the interesting characters, the ending is sad and uncomfortable. The story's confusing at times, also. All in all it's certainly not a bad film, but I can't say that I really liked it. It just made me sad and didn't provide much hope, though it asked some intriguing questions.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Michael Clayton

Movie: Michael Clayton

This is stylistic and interesting, but way too convoluted. You feel manipulated and confused from the start as we watch some dramatic things happen and suddenly go to a flashback that takes up almost the rest of the film. It is kinda neat the way you see the events of the beginning with a different eye later in the film once you know what's happening, and that perspective does add power to those events, but unfortunately for much too much of the film you are just bewildered with no idea what is going on or where the film is going. Once everything's stripped away the plot's really simple: a New York legal firm is defending a pesticide company against a lawsuit that's been dragging on for over a dozen years when the lead lawyer gets a crisis of conscience after uncovering dramatic evidence of the company's guilt. Michael Clayton, the firm's "fixer," is brought in to contain the situation, but then he has a crisis of conscience as well, and when he becomes a threat to the law firm, someone tries to kill him. It's all very dramatic and well acted, and it fortunately falls just short of pretentious, but unfortunately not all that much really happens, and because of the way information is withheld from the viewer until the very end, it's confusing. Still, it's turns out to be a good film, just not great. You just have to watch it on faith that things will eventually make sense and then it's pretty good.


Friday, October 5, 2007

The Kingdom

Movie: The Kingdom

I thought this was more of a political thriller and wasn't too excited, but it had a lot more action than I expected and I liked it. (On the other hand, my mom didn't like it for exactly that reason.) The action is extremely realistic, sudden and chaotic, and deadly. It's a decent story about a terrorist attack on U.S. civilians in Saudia Arabia and in an unprecedented move, a team of U.S. investigators go in to find the killers. They are hampered by Saudi officials, red tape, and politics, which is realistic but frustrating to watch. In the end it's the killers who attack again and give themselves away. The last thirty minutes or so are non-stop action and it's excellent and the best part of the film for me -- though the trailers don't do a good job giving you the proper feel for the film. The ending is a bit depressing, implying that nothing has been accomplished. My reaction was, if that's the case, why even make the movie?