A book review from that Guy Named David:
The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown (A-)
This is the first book that I have read by this author, and I was impressed with his ability to keep the story moving (despite the exhaustive historical references) and constantly provide new twists that made the book a real page turner. The story centers around the murder of the curator at the Louvre. As the book progresses, the main characters begin to link the curator’s murder to an ancient society descended from the Knights of Templar that included such historic figures as Leonardo Da Vinci, Isaac Newton, and Victor Hugo. The characters find one puzzle after another that begins to show that the murder was part of a massive plan to ensure that the secrets regarding this society and its ties to the Holy Grail will never be made public. I know that the book has taken some heat for its portrayal of the Catholic Church (and the assertions that Brown lifted from Holy Blood, Holy Grail regarding Jesus’s relationship with Mary Magdalene); however, if you keep in mind that this a piece of fiction and not view the religious storyline as Gospel (no pun intended), it makes for a fun read. Good book to read on a weekend when it’s nasty outside and you have nothing better to do for the entire day.
A review from The Movie Snob:
A Mighty Wind. (A-) If you have seen This is Spinal Tap or Waiting for Guffman or Best in Show, all I can say is that this movie is more of the same. Same actors, same “mockumentary” shtick, same director (Christopher Guest), different focus. This time the folk-music scene comes in for some good-natured ribbing, and I thought the result was very funny. When a leading producer of folk music passes away, his son tries to organize a memorial concert featuring three leading folk-music acts from the 60’s, two of which have long since split up. Interviews with the various musicians are interspersed in the main story of how the concert ultimately comes together. I thought this one was quite a bit better than Best in Show and suffered only because the director tries to give virtually equal time to every member of the huge cast. Spinal Tap and Guffman benefited from a tighter focus on a smaller group of castmembers.
From The Movie Snob
Nowhere in Africa. (B+) This is a German film that, I believe, won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. I thought it was very good but not quite great. At the beginning of the movie, it is early 1938 in Germany, and a Jewish woman has just received a letter from her husband in Kenya. He has seen the writing on the wall and has urged all their families to leave the country, but they don’t do it. Only his wife and their little girl make the long trip to Kenya to join him. The wife is kind of spoiled and ungrateful for a long while, and the hard-scrabble existence they eke out in the Kenyan wilderness takes a heavy toll on their marriage. But their little girl has no trouble adjusting and making friends in their new home. Then war breaks out, and they are horrified as they lose touch with their families back in Germay and hear news of what is happening there. Lots of other stuff happens too, but the focus is always on their little family, and the heavy toll that the circumstances place on their marriage. At 2 hours and 20 minutes, I thought it was a little long, but maybe that’s just because the old movie theater where I saw it has really uncomfortable chairs. I recommend it.
Review by The Movie Snob
Quai des Orfevre. (C) This is a French film originally released in 1947 and now showing at an art-house theater here in town. The local newspaper gave it a glowing review as an early film noir, so I thought I’d check it out. As a look at life in France just after the war, it has some interest. The plot and characters, however, are not that interesting. Nightclub singer Jenny is married to her piano-playing accompanist Maurice, an average shlub with a jealous streak. Her looks attract not-purely-professional attention from some unsavory characters, and her ambition won’t let her shoo them away. This drives Maurice crazy, and then one of her admirers turns up dead. A world-weary but relentless detective is then on the case and hot on Maurice’s trail. Not bad, but not great.
From the desk of The Movie Snob.
Femme Fatale. (C) I am mostly unfamiliar with Brian de Palma’s oeuvre (I think The Untouchables was the only movie of his I had seen until seeing this one), so I didn’t know what to expect from this supposed thriller. (Well, I knew FF hadn’t lasted long in the theaters, so I guess I did have some relatively low expectations.) On the whole, I thought the movie was not bad, but at the same time nothing really special. That is, I was never really bored, but neither was I ever really on the edge of my seat. As for main attraction Rebecca Romijn-Stamos–well, I thought her acting was generally pretty mediocre, but her ability to take her clothes off was undeniably convincing.
A book review from The Movie Snob:
Lincoln’s Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural, by Ronald C. White, Jr. (2002). In this study of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, Professor White closely examines both the text of the speech and its wellsprings in the political and religious commitments of its author. I enjoyed it. Reading about the Great Emancipator reminded me of one of my less successful job interviews. It was 1990, and I was 22, just graduated from college, and looking for summer employment to keep me busy until law school started in the fall. I applied for a job as a sacker at Kroger, and I interviewed with someone that I assume was the store manager, an African-American woman. Noting my college degree and politics major, she asked me whom I thought the greatest president was, and, probably never having thought about it before, I said Lincoln. She probed further and asked me about the more modern presidents. Completely oblivious to my interviewer’s probable party affiliation, I thought for a moment or two and said Ronald Reagan. She said her pick would be Jimmy Carter, the interview was swiftly brought to an end, and I never heard from that Kroger again. Which, I suppose, goes to show that majoring in politics does not necessarily make a person politically astute.
The first review by Angie, The Movie Girl Next Door:
One Hour Photo. (B) On a slow Saturday night, my hubby and I cuddled up close, turned on the pay-per-view, and looked for something to pass the boring hours away. (Yes, we are newlyweds.) One Hour Photo got the nod over Banger Sisters, Sweet Home Alabama, and Bourne Identity — all quality flicks that we had already seen before (on other slow Saturday nights). Anyhow, Robin Williams has once again successfully portrayed a creepy psycho. And, once again, the movie dragged on. However, I am in agreement (surprise, surprise) with the (disputed) Movie Queen that it was creepy and scary enough to keep you hanging on for more. Although I must admit, the ending was a little disturbing, but I won’t ruin it for our legions of eager readers. P.S. Michael Vartan is a hottie!
Book review by The Movie Snob:
Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor, by Rick Marin. Being a bachelor myself, I picked this book up with some interest, not realizing at the time that it is apparently creating quite a stir in the publishing world. Marin is a Canadian free-lance writer who moved to New York, married an American chick in his mid-twenties, and got divorced three years later after she started cheating on him. That’s when, at the beginning of the 1990’s, he embarked on his quest for the perfect woman and his life as a toxic bachelor. His descriptions of the many women he dates are often very funny, and I couldn’t blame him for trying to lose the freaky and horrid ones as quickly as possible. Then again, some of them seem perfectly nice, and I wound up thinking at a few points that Marin really is just a jerk and a user after all. In the end, though, I concluded that he’s probably no worse than the average guy, and he undoubtedly has a gift for writing. Apparently there’s going to be a movie made out of the book, and I imagine it will be very funny.
From The Movie Snob.
All the Real Girls. (B-) Romance set in a tiny town somewhere in flyover country. Paul is an amiable slacker in his early 20’s who spends all his time working on trucks, goofing off with his guy friends, and sleeping with (and then alienating) every single woman in town. The standing order of things is upset when Noel, the younger sister of his best friend, moves back to town after being away at a boarding school for several years, and Paul quickly falls in love for the first time in his life. The movie plods a little bit, and there are a couple of unnecessary arty montages, but there are enough twists and turns to keep it generally interesting. Zooey Deschanel, who I thought was very good in small parts in The Good Girl and the lame Tim Allen vehicle Big Trouble, doesn’t quite pull off the pivotal lead role of Noel, but still and all I thought this was a decent movie.
A book review from The Movie Snob.
The Egoist, by George Meredith. This 1879 British novel was recommended to me by a Ph.D. student with an interest in the field. I enjoyed it, although it is written in a difficult style and was a slow read. The title character is Sir Willoughby Patterne, a minor aristocrat who is 30ish and looking for a suitable spouse after having been jilted some time earlier. The young and vivacious Clara Middleton becomes engaged to Patterne, but as her wedding day approaches she becomes aware of his many faults and foibles (all stemming from his monstrous egotism, which has been fed since birth by everyone around him) and discovers that she does not love him. Bound by the rigid system of British customs and manners, and finding no support from her aloof father, she finds every avenue of escape closed off by the oppressive Patterne. How will things end? Check it out and see.
From The Movie Snob.
Chicago. (A) Okay, so everybody’s probably already seen this movie. I saw it last night, for the second time actually, and enjoyed it almost as much as I did the first time. Unfortunately, my enjoyment was hampered by the fact that a tremendous thunderstorm blew through the area in the middle of the movie, and it sounded like the theater was getting pummeled by bowling-ball-sized hail. So for about twenty minutes, all I could think of was my car getting pulverized in the parking lot. But then it subsided, and I managed to focus on the movie again. Until another, smaller storm rolled through. But you’ll be glad to know that the hailstorm sound effects were apparently the result of a poorly-designed roof, because afterwards I found my car wet but none the worse for the wear. As for the movie, I will admit that Catherine Zeta-Jones gave a stronger performance than Renee Zellweger, but I didn’t think she blew Renee off the screen like some critics have said. And although Richard Gere is not much of a singer, I thought his acting and dancing were more than satisfactory.