Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Soloist

Movie: The Soloist

I was expecting a weepy melodrama and I'm pleased to say that I didn't get it. Instead I got a realistic portrayal of a mentally ill homeless musician and his journalist friend who tries to help him. We don't get a sappy Hollywood ending, which both pleased and disappointed me: it's perhaps not as satisfying as it should be, but it is realistic and I admire it. But ultimately the film has no answers and does not really go anywhere. It's a good tale and worth seeing, and there are some excellent performances, but it's not a film I'll ever need to see again.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Crank 2: High Voltage

Movie: Crank 2: High Voltage

Basically, if you're a fan of the original, you'll probably like this one: it tops everything in the first one even going further and more ridiculous. It's so over-the-top it's not quite as much fun (it gets distasteful and disturbing more than once), but there are some clever gags and it doesn't pretend to be anything it's not.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Mr. Monk is Miserable

Book: Mr. Monk is Miserable
Writer(s): Lee Goldberg

Much better than Mr. Monk Goes to Germany, though peripherally similar. This one takes place in Paris but has a much more satisfying murder investigation, though there's still much too much tedium about Monk in a foreign country and Natalie writing about visiting tourist landmarks. The plot is a bit novel in that Monk "witnesses" a murder in pitch black restaurant and figures out that everything's linked to the "Freegans," a group of hippies who live underneath Paris and live off trash that others throw away (a lot of gourmet food, considering it's Paris). Clever and interesting, though the books are starting to feel too similar. (Of note: I read the Kindle edition of this on my iPhone!)


Friday, April 17, 2009

State of Play

Movie: State of Play

At one time (before I was disillusioned) I considered becoming a journalist; this film revived some of those desires, making it seem exciting and a terrific public service. The plot is fairly standard "journalist uncovers conspiracy" stuff, but it's well-done and extremely realistic. We don't get ridiculous car chases and shootouts and leaping from skyscrapers -- these are writers, not action heros. There's unfortunately not a lot of depth, ultimately, as the consequences and ramifications of the events are never analyzed, but it's such an exciting ride you don't notice until later. Worth seeing, though I'm not convinced this will become a classic or anything; the nature of the plot is uncovering the mystery and once that's revealed, why would you want to watch this again? The ending's got a nice twist; not exactly surprising, but satisfying.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit, and the Era of Predatory Lenders

Movie: Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit, and the Era of Predatory Lenders (2006)

Fascinating documentary from 2006 about the whole predatory lending trend, with plenty of hints and warnings that seem prescient after the 2008 credit collapse. I was worried this would get political and while it hints at that (especially an unnecessary dig at Bush at the end), it's generally even-handed and pokes at both political parties (they are all to blame). There are some sad moments as we see people whose lives have been devastated, like the mother telling about how the credit card companies lured her college freshman son into such massive debt that he committed suicide and today she still gets credit card offers in his name -- that's like getting get-well cards from your son's murderer. Excellent film and worth watching, especially if you're interested in the topic of financials and the economy.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Sunshine Cleaning

Movie: Sunshine Cleaning

I knew little of this going in except that it was about a woman (the adorable Amy Adams) who starts a crime scene cleaning service. It turns out her character was a little deeper than that, as we learn she was the head cheerleader in high school with the quarterback boyfriend (who is now a cop, married to someone else) and she and he are having an affair. Essentially, she's still stuck in high school, while her peers have moved on, and the cleaning business is her way out. Unfortunately, she's dragged down by her screwball sister, her weird son, and loser dad. Not a huge amount happens in the film, storywise, but that's okay: it's a fun little quirky adventure. Not the greatest film, and certainly not to everyone's taste, but there were scenes that I really, really liked. I wish her relationship with the one-armed guy was developed further, and I would have liked the weird-for-no-reason son be elaborated more, but overall it's a fun little independent movie.


Sunday, April 5, 2009


Movie: Arachnophobia

This is an old movie I wanted to see way back when but somehow never did. It seems rather dumb, a film about ooh, scary spiders, but actually is surprisingly intelligent and well done. The ending is silly and trite, however, as they worked way too hard to try to turn it into an action set piece. I much preferred it as a psychological thriller. Aren't little tiny spiders who happen to be deadly poisonous much more terrifying than a giant web in your basement?