Thursday, June 24, 2010

Toy Story III

Movie:  Toy Story III
Like/Don't Like:  Loved.  No, really.

Camille has been Without Gall and cooped up in the house since Friday and felt like it was time to get out.  So we picked up some ice cream in honor of Grandma and went to the movies.  Neither of us was particularly excited to see this movie because we're both hard hearted curmudgeons.  Or, you know, we're just not that excited about animated movies.  But it was either that or the A-Team and I'm still not sold on that movie.  Why mess with a classic?

Well, let me tell you, I was wrong to not be excited.  So wrong.  Because this movie was great.  I laughed, I cried, I laughed again, and then again.  The story was fresh and there were enough new characters and a good plot line to keep it interesting the whole way through.  It was suspenseful and heart warming and funny.  And kind of scary in parts.  The kids in the audience didn't really seem scared but there is a droopy eyed baby doll in it that FREAKED ME OUT.  Oh, the nightmares I will have over it.  But that's just me.  It probably won't even faze you when you see it.  Which you should.  Soon.  Because it's that good.  And this coming from a hard hearted curmudgeon.

Monday, June 21, 2010

How the Earth Changed History

Show:  How the Earth Changed History
Channel:  National Geographic
Time:  What, Like I'm your TV Guide?  Look it up.
Like/Don't Like:  I'm putting in my pocket protector and pushing up my glasses.  It brings out the geek in me big time.

You may not know this about me but I'm a huge geek when it comes to geology.  Nothing sucks me in faster than a good show on how lakes or mountains or islands are formed.  I can spend hours reading about plate tectonics and erosion and rock formations.  You may have to give me a wedgie and shove me in a locker to shut me up about it but I make no apologies. 

This is a week long miniseries about how the geologic changes on the planet have affected the course of human history.  How China has become so fertile and rich and how, conversely, Australia has suffered from decades of drought because of the exact same winds.  How people continually live on major fault lines (Hi!) because they're rich in natural resources.  It's hosted by a Scottish geologist, so his accent is entertaining - especially when he gets excited about rock formations.  And it focuses on one specific geological condition - say wind or fire - and shows how they have created not just the earth but also the societies that live on it.  It's fascinating. 

It's showing this week but I'm sure there will be reruns of it.  And the next time I see you I promise not to rumble on too much about volcanoes.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Dante Club

Book:  The Dante Club
Author:  Matthew Pearl
Like/Don't Like:  Once I got passed the ickiness I liked it a lot.

Several years ago a friend recommended this book to me.  I got it, started reading and then stopped about 30 pages in.  Details are fuzzy as to why.

Fast-forward to last year.  I read and loved The Last Dickens.  It wasn't until the end when I realized that the same guy wrote The Dante Club.  So I vowed to give it another shot.

And now the fuzzy details have cleared up.  The beginning is gruesome.  It is not for the weak-stomached or faint-hearted.  There are bugs.  Lots of them.  Particularly maggots.  And Matthew Pearl is a very skilled writer in making you squirm. 

He is also a very smart writer.  Smart as in he knows a lot of stuff.  And he spends the first third of the book dumping that stuff on you.  To the point where it can drag a bit and confuse you as to who's who.  Every man in the story has outrageous facial hair and is or at one point was married to women named Fanny.  It took me quite some time to get everyone straight in my head. 

This is historical fiction taking place in Boston at the end of the Civil War.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is translating Dante's Divine Comedy into English with the help of his friends, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and JT Fields.  This is the historical part.  The fiction part is that a mad man is on the loose and is killing people in very Dantean fashions.  Hence, the maggots.  The four men recognize the patterns and set out to figure the whole thing out.

Once I got over the ickiness at the beginning and got used to his style of information overload I could hardly put it down.  It moved along at a pretty good pace.  The majority of the information he dumps on you was pretty interesting.  And the mystery was great.  I love it when I'm completely surprised by the killer.  I mean, I was shocked!  I gasped rather loudly. 

I should put it out there that you don't have to know anything about the four main characters or Dante to enjoy it.  I didn't know anything about him or the Divine Comedy other then that there are various circles of Hell.  But you should probably have an appreciation for literature in general.  The mystery can stand alone but you're going to get a lot of literary critique with it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Letters to Juliet

Movie:  Letters to Juliet
Like/Don't Like:  Let's all take a vacation to Italy.  We'll eat gelatto!

I suppose as far as romantic comedies go this one was harmless.  It didn't have any of the ridiculous slapsticks that seem to be peppering the genre lately - for which I was incredibly grateful.  And the premise of helping an old lady find love was sweet (We all agreed later that Vanessa Redgrave is one classy broad.)  The leading man was awkward and jittery through the entire first half of the movie and that made me feel slightly awkward and jittery.  But then there were all those scenes of them driving through the Italian countryside.  Rows of twirling cypress trees have a very calming effect on me.