Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cold Comfort Farm

Book: Cold Comfort Farm
Like/Don't Like: This is Very British. And I really love Very British sorts of things.

The movie adaptation of this book has been a favorite of mine for years. So much so that I had to get into a feud with Netflix because I accidentally sent back my copy of the movie instead of their copy of Gilmore Girls season 3 and they flatly refused to give it back to me. Big Jerks. I held onto the box for ages and a while back I came across it and got sad all over again that it was empty. So I found a used copy on Amazon and joy returned.

Re-watching the movie made me want to check out the book. I had a feeling it would be just as witty and hilarious. I was totally right. It's set in England in the 1930s where young Flora Poste has just lost her parents and decides to move in with some relatives on their run down farm in Sussex. She is set on fixing things up there so that she has material for her book she's planning to write when she's 50. She meets all sorts of kooky relatives living there and does her best at dragging them into the modern world. It has the same kind of feel as a P.G. Wodehouse novel, that tongue-in-cheek take on the era. Thoroughly enjoyable.

And as a note: if you're looking for a good example of how to adapt a book into film read this then watch the movie. Very faithful without losing any of the charm.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Henry Poole is Here

Movie: Henry Poole Is Here
Like/Don't Like: was alright...I guess I liked it...but it wasn't what I was expecting.

I was expecting something else. I was expecting this description from Netflix:
Rather than living his last days to the fullest after learning he only has
six weeks left on earth, Henry Poole (Luke Wilson) cuts himself off from his
fiancée and his family -- and binges on Twinkies, pizza and liquor. But a
fortuitous miracle and a clash with his eccentric, meddling neighbors derail
Henry's plans in director Mark Pellington's witty black
. Cheryl Hines and George Lopez also star.

I was expecting a "witty black comedy". It is neither witty, nor black, nor a comedy. There is also neither a fiancee nor a family. There are meddling neighbors. And a fortuitous miracle. But it was the witty black comedy I was wanting. It was slow in both pace and filming, because like all good low-budget indies it was full of scenes in slow motion. I'm a fast losing my patience with slow motion.

But it wasn't bad once I got over the lack of comedy and speed. The story was alright and it was filmed in one of those cities south of LA, like Norwalk or Downey or Lakewood, because all the houses had those tell-tale sloping eaves that make them look like elfin cottages that were so popular in those cities back in the 50s and 60s. They warm my heart.

And, I'm going to give it away, the fortuitous miracle is a water mark on the side of a house that looks like Jesus' face. And you know how much I love a good holy visitation.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Indiana Jones and the Kindgdom of the Crystal Skull

Movie: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Like/Don't Like: Far-fetched, but I can't lie that I didn't get a little thrill when I heard the music and saw the hat.

I'm going to assume that everyone has seen this movie by now. So I'm just going to say this:

Aliens? Really? You went with Aliens? Because that was pretty lame.

Now, I'm not saying that I didn't enjoy the movie. I love Indiana Jones. But aliens was a dumb move. I wondered what made it harder to swallow then say a man guarding a cup in a cave for a few centuries, but apparently aliens cross the line for me. I can see why they went there. It's set in the 50s. Little Green Men were big then. I get it, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. It still had a bit of the old Indiana Jones Charm but the whole movie felt a little unnecessary to the franchise.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Solace of Leaving Early

Book: The Solace of Leaving Early
Author: Haven Kimmel
Like/Don't Like: Love. Love. Love. With all my heart. You should read this book. You can buy it here.

I heard about this book from the Red Hot Eyebrows girl. I've actually never met them. They're friends of my friend Rac. But I've come to trust their judgement and if you're looking for insightful and witty reviews, instead of an outpouring of rambling opinions like you get here, you should have a look.

I owe those girls. If I ever meet them I'm going to bring them cookies because this book was amazing, beautiful, intelligent, heartbreaking, funny. All the things I love in a novel.

I really wish I had the skills to express why I loved it so much. I can always say why I don't like something but I have a hard time not gushing when I love a book. I wish I could express how I felt about the pacing (which was perfect. Just enough information exactly when you needed it), or the details (like when she described a man sitting in a dinner who always wore braided suspenders. You can totally see him, right?), of the characters (how I got to know the main characters, Langston and Amos, through their thoughts first, and then they spoke and their actual voices, the ones they use with their family and friends, were completely different and added a whole new complex layer to them that made them much more flawed than I had originally thought but also more easy to like.) But I don't have those kinds of skills. I can just say that I loved it. The story itself was powerful and original and well told. I would never ask for more than that.

If you're going to read it, which I think that you should, I'll give you a few warning:

1.) It is littered with Christian philosophy. I was amazed at how intellectual it was, and kind of intimidated. But after the first few pages of it I got over it and couldn't put it down. It doesn't stop. They're talking about Kierkegaard and Kant all the way to the end, but if anything it makes you think that much more about what's going on in the story.

2.) Read it with a dictionary. A good one. Mine, which even has the word "Oxford" on the cover, failed me a few times.


Book: 1776
Author: David McCullough
Like/Don't Like: I liked it but I wished someone had told me the story while wearing an authentic rebel uniform.

Here's the reason why I don't read history books. For me, it's like listening to a Civil War reenact without the benefit of a good laugh as you tell your friends about it later. But I felt a little patriotic last 4th of July so I started reading it. And I've been reading it ever since. It took me 5 months to make it through. Not that it wasn't fascinating. It was just that I already knew the ending. We won! Take that, Brits! And knowing that we won did not help in making me want to pick it back up. It was very well written and I suspect that I learned a lot, except that I can't actually remember any of it. Maybe it will come back to me if I'm ever on Jeopardy.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Mamma Mia!

Movie: Mamma Mia!
Like/Don't Like: Abba and Colin Firth. What's not to like?

I love Abba. Their songs make me wish that I had a polyester jumpsuit studded in rhinestones that I could dance around in. A million imaginary points to the first person who knows which Abba song is my ringtone?

This movie has LOADS of Abba songs. I know that you're say, "Duh, Rachel. It's Mamma Mia." But I was truly surprised that about 90% of the movie was filled with songs. And on the DVD it has a sing-along feature and if there's anything I love more than Abba, it's a sing-along. The singing was alright. The acting was over the top. The location was Greece so it was pretty to look at. But none of that really matters because there was Colin Firth and Abba. It could have been Colin Firth singing Abba in a trash can and I would have been happy.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants II

Movie: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants II
Like/Don't Like: A bit of a waste

I'm not really opposed to teenage girly movies. They fill a need sometimes. But this one filled two hours that I kind of wish I had spent reading or painting my toe nails or organizing my receipts. About halfway through Katie and I looked at each other and basically said, "Lame!"

It's the style of story telling that I just have a hard time getting into. That being a bunch of stories told individually. So you get 5 minutes with this character in this place then 5 minutes with another, then another. And it just gets old after the first 20 minutes because the movie is going nowhere. Not that I expected much but I think it could have been done better.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Thursday Next

Book: Thursday Next
Author: Jasper Fforde
Like/Don't Like: How can you not like a book that turns Pride and Prejudice into a reality show?

I started cursing my memory about 2 pages into this book. This is the fifth in a terrific series of books but it's been a few years since I've read them. The only thing I've been able to pull from my memory about them is my deep love, because they're HILARIOUS. They're witty and well written and they take you on some pretty funny adventures. I recommend them to anyone who loves to read because the series is set in a parallel universe (England, from about 1980 to the present) that is obsessed with books. They have Milton conventions and Henry V plays like the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The heroine, Thursday Next, has the ability to travel into books so along with meeting all the characters in the real world you get to meet all sorts of characters from your favorite novels. And don't worry about not being well read. It mostly deals with the classics and even if you haven't read half of them you will still know enough about them to appreciate them. For instance, one of the funniest scenes in whole series (and the only one I can actually remember) is an anger management session with the characters from Wuthering Heights. And, true confession time, I've never read it. I've tried 7 times and have never made it passed page 50. I'm a failure, I know. But that did not stop me from laughing like a loon when all the people in the group went around the room to say why they hate Heathcliff.

But where was I? Right, my memory. We've established that it's bad. Along with being incredibly witty the book is also kind of a complex. Thursday jumps back and forth from the book world to the real world and there are dozens of characters and plot lines and bad guys trying to kill her. And if you let it the whole thing can seem like one big confusing mess. Which totally makes you want to read them, right? Well, have no fear. I'm telling you all this because IT DOESN'T EVEN MATTER. Even with my bad memory and simple mind I still fell right back in love with the story. And even after making the enormous mistake of putting it down for a month after I made it to page 50. I completely forgot everything I had read but didn't want to go back and re-read so I just went for it. And I was fine. From the very first chapter of the very first book I had to tell myself to not get bogged down with the details. There are loads of them and in the end they don't make much difference. They're just there to give you laugh. The real story always makes itself clear and I was amazed again at how everything came together in the end.