The World at Night (book review)

A book review from the Movie Snob.

I don’t read much fiction, but I recently read The World at Night by Alan Furst, prompted by a favorable review in the Claremont Review of Books. It is sort of a spy novel, set in Paris in the early years of World War II. Perhaps the novel’s greatest strength is its vivid depiction of the French military’s collapse during the Nazi invasion and the hardships and hazards of Parisian life under German occupation. The protagonist, Jean Casson, is a film producer, not a spy. But he is also a romantic, and when he is approached by a shady character he agrees to assist in what is supposed to be a British secret-service operation against the Germans. But the operation does not go as planned, and Casson’s situation becomes increasingly precarious. I enjoyed it, and appreciated its economical length of 257 pages.

Phone Booth; concert review

From That Guy Named David:

Phone Booth (B+)

Very short, succinct movie, so I’ll give a similar review. I was very impressed with the performances of both Colin Ferrell and Forest Whitaker. Also, the movie’s premise was a bit unusual and creative, which was a welcome relief to the movies I have seen over the past month or so. The only criticism I have is that the movie dragged a little in the middle. That being said, it was definitely worth the rent.

Concert Review

Counting Crows (A-) and John Mayer (Incomplete)

I’ll admit that I have been a big CC fan for the past several years, and this was the 6th time I have seen them in concert. There was some trepidation in going to this show because I’m not a fan of them splitting the the bill with the current flavor of the month, but I was there to see CC and so, I really didn’t care too much about the other headliner. Counting Crows came out first, which was probably appropriate considering the majority of the thousands of 15-18 yr. old fans were there to see John Mayer. Opened with an acoustic version of “Rain King” with a few lyrics from “Raining in Baltimore” inserted in the middle. The crowd wasn’t really into the set until they played “Mr. Jones” about 4 songs in. Good version, but nothing out of the ordinary. They kicked into Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” after “Mr. Jones” and were able to keep the fans in the set for the rest of the show. Two highlights of the first set: (1) the version of “Round Here” was the best I have ever seen. In the middle of the song, Adam Duritz went to the piano and played/sang the entirety of “Sweet Thing” by Van Morrison. Incredibly cool. (2) John Mayer and the opening band joined them for “Hangin’ Around” to close the first set. Good version, and the crowd was definitely into it. The encore was “A Long December” with an intro of “Live Forever” by Oasis. That’s the second time I have seen them play that version, and it was much better than the first time. Overall, very light, fun set, and a good time. I stayed for 5 songs from John Mayer and thought he was talented but too much of a Dave Matthews ripoff. Plus, I didn’t have a bra to toss onto the stage, so I was a little out of place with the alternateens in the audience.

Whale Rider

From The Movie Snob

Whale Rider. (B-) This is a movie from New Zealand. Paikea is a little girl who lives with her grandparents. Her grandfather is a crusty old guy who’s all into preserving the traditions of the Maori people. Although Paikea loves the Maori tradition, probably more than all the boys that her grandfather is trying to instruct, that same tradition forbids her from learning the skills to be a warrior and a chief just because she’s a girl!!! You can see where this is going. Anyway, it was a decent clash-of-generations kind of movie, and the little girl who plays Paikea does a terrific job of portraying a girl who loves her grandfather very much even though he constantly wounds her with his disappointment that she is not a boy.

Winged Migration

A review from the Snob:

Winged Migration. (B) I suppose I can see why this documentary film about migratory birds was nominated for an Academy Award. The cinematography was excellent, and the many shots of the birds in flight from seemingly only a few feet away were remarkable. On the other hand, the movie is about birds, for crying out loud. To me, birds are just not very attractive or photogenic or even interesting. So that detracted from the experience. Plus, this is apparently a French production, so there was some subtle America-bashing. The focus of the film was overwhelmingly Eastern Hemisphere, and one of the very few shots of migrating birds in the United States was interrupted by the crack of hunters’ rifles and images of birds plummeting from the sky. I suppose nobody hunts birds in Europe, Asia, or Africa. Hmph.

A response from The Movie Girl Next Door:

It terrifies me that you wasted your time and money to go see that movie. That’s an hour and a half of your life that you’ll never get back. Hey, have I got a surprise for you: Last night I painted the walls in one of the rooms of my home, and if you hurry I bet you can actually go watch the paint drying. And better yet, I’m not even gonna charge you for it.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. (B-) The Movie Snob did not go to this movie expecting a subtle tale rich with insight into the human condition. No, I expected swashbuckling action, comic-book style romance, and lots and lots of pirates. The movie delivered on every count–in fact, to an excessive degree on counts one and three. Who decided that all summer blockbusters need to be over two hours long? I have a bone to pick with him. Less would have definitely been more in this case, and I’d have given the movie a better grade if the filmmakers had trimmed about 30 minutes, especially from the interminable final battle involving the British navy, two bands of pirates, and our trio of heroic protagonists. Johnny Depp gives a fun performance as the generally good-hearted rogue Captain Jack Sparrow, but as my friend Scotty pointed out, he seemed to be channeling the spirit of Dudley Moore throughout much of the picture. (That’s not a good thing.)  Keira Knightley (Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace) is fetching.

The Italian Job; Whale Rider

Two new movie reviews by Movie Man Mike:

The Italian Job: (B) Beware, the chase scenes in this movie will leave you wanting to go out and buy a Mini Cooper. This is a totally fun film with some creative plot twists and uses of technology. For the realists, some of the events may be a little fantastic, but if you can suspend your disbelief for a short time, you will enjoy this one all the more. This is a remake of a 1969 Michael Caine film by the same name. I didn’t see the original, so I can’t compare it to the original. The cast in the 2003 film is promising and includes Donald Sutherland, Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron (from That Thing You Do!), Edward Norton, Seth Green, Jason Statham, and Mos Def. The actors did not completely live up to my expectations and hopes, and the script is a little weak in places, but this film was still worth the price of admission.

Whale Rider: (B) For those who enjoy seeing independent films, this one is worth seeing. This is a coming-of-age story that takes place on an island off the coast of New Zealand. The star of the movie, newcomer Keisha Castle-Hughes, is perfect for the role of Pai. Pai was borne into a community laden with cultural traditions and into a family dynasty, for which the leadership is passed down to the first-born male. As the leader of Pai’s community, Pai’s grandfather must find a way to preserve the traditions and culture of the community at a time when modern ways of life are threatening the lifeblood of the culture. While Pai’s grandfather struggles to preserve the culture and its traditions, Pai must find a way to prove her worth to her grandfather, and overcome her grandfather’s disappointment that she is a female. This was a thoroughly refreshing and enjoyable tale to watch, although it was a little on the predictable side.

Giant

Another review from The Snob:

Giant. (B+) I didn’t know anything about this movie when I read that a new digital print was being screened for one week only at a local art-house theater. Also, I had never seen a movie with Rock Hudson or James Dean before. Although it was much longer than I had bargained for (3 hours and 20 minutes or so), I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s the sprawling story of the family of wealthy Texas rancher Bick Benedict and his Maryland-raised wife Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor). It’s also a story of Texas during the oil boom of the mid-20th century, and there’s a heavy focus on the discrimination suffered by the Lone Star State’s Mexican population at that time. Check out a very young Dennis Hopper as the Benedicts’ oldest child.