Friendship: An Expose (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob

Friends: An Exposé, by Joseph Epstein (2006). I always enjoy Epstein’s writing—his short stories appear in Commentary magazine fairly regularly, and he occasionally publishes columns or essays in other magazines as well. This book is not so much an “exposé” as an “exploration”—a series of essays and meditations on the nature of friendship and the qualities that make for a good friendship. Epstein also muses on the peculiarities of friendship as it is experienced between men, between women, and between men and women (that last a relatively recent development in the history of friendship). His observations are enjoyable enough, but I really preferred the (numerous) parts of the book in which he simply describes some of his past and current friendships and the pleasure he has taken in them. A nice little book.

Concert review: Cyndi Lauper

From The Movie Snob

I first became aware of current pop music in or about 1983, and my earliest favorite artists were performers like Huey Lewis and the News (Sports), Billy Joel (An Innocent Man), Bruce Springsteen (Born in the U.S.A.), and, yes, Cyndi Lauper. I was convinced that she had way more talent than that Madonna tramp and would come out on top. So maybe I didn’t call that one right, but I have still always wanted to see Cyndi in concert. (I had tickets to see her in a free outdoor-festival concert a few years ago, but it got rained and flooded out.) Tonight I finally did so, at Dallas’s Lakewood Theater. It was an entertaining evening, although not quite what I expected. I had heard that her song “True Colors” has become something of a gay anthem, but I was a little surprised at the extent to which the concert was more like a gay-rights rally. The opening act was a woman whose name I have forgotten, and she wore her very blue-state views on her sleeve the whole time–to the crowd’s delight. Although I could not embrace her politics, she had some talent, and her songs were catchy enough. I did think she kind of missed the mark with one song that I think was intended to skewer Texas for its comparatively frequent use of the death penalty; the theme was basically that you’d better not kill in Texas because you’ll get killed yourself, which probably is not going to offend anybody in the pro-capital-punishment crowd.

Anyway, Cyndi did a set that was almost 90 minutes long and included just about every hit song of hers that I ever knew of: all five singles from She’s So Unusual, plus “Change of Heart, “True Colors,” “I Drove All Night,” and an abbreviated a capella rendition of the theme from the movie The Goonies. Her voice is pretty much the same as it was back in the day, and although she really changed up the instrumentation and tone on some of her hits (I’m sure she has to, to keep from going crazy from repetition), they were still quite recognizable and enjoyable. She didn’t hesitate to speak her mind about things, either. At one point, apparently a Hare Krishna in the front row gave her a lei, which she accepted, but not without commenting on some experiences she had had with the Krishnas and criticizing some sexist practices she observed. Anyhoo, I had a good time, and I can finally quit wondering whether I’m ever going to get to see Cyndi Lauper in concert.

Derailed

From guest reviewer Comic Book Guy.

Derailed (Unrated version on DVD)

My wife must be on a Jennifer Aniston kick because this is her second film in less than a month that has shown up from Netflix. Not that I mind, and this film had more to offer than the last one (Friends with Money). I was surprised by this film. I don’t want to give anything away so rather than focus on plot elements, I’ll say this: the strong story makes up for this film’s other flaws. I’ll also say this – it’s not for the squeamish or the meek at heart. There’s a lot of ugliness in this movie – and without it, the film would lack its visceral punch. I wonder if the theatrical release was cleaned up. Don’t judge this film till it’s over. I wanted to turn it off after the first 45 minutes or so but was glad I saw it through to the bitter end. You’ll cheat yourself if you don’t take it all in.

JUDGMENT: B-

Lost: Season Two

DVD review from Nick at Nite

Lost: Season 2

Smart, different, and not reality TV. I just finished watching Season 2 of Lost on DVD. This is one of the rare examples of show that gets better as it ages. I really don’t want to give any plot surprises away for anyone who might be interested in trying to watch this show. If you have never seen it, go to Blockbuster and start by renting disc one from the first season. By the third episode you’ll be hooked. Everyone knows the story revolves around a group of people that have survived a plane crash and find themselves stranded on an island in the middle of the ocean. Everything else about this show is too difficult to describe in a short review. This show seems to have a little of something for everyone. Check it out. I give it an “A.”

V for Vendetta

A DVD review from Comic Book Guy.

V for Vendetta.

Having worked in a comic book store (in the 80’s, when V was originally published), I have a soft spot for any comic adaptation that makes it to the big screen. Some, like V, translate well. Even if you missed the comics and the film, you know this story well: Oppressive totalitarian regime targets Muslims, homosexuals and other “undesirables” for elimination in the name of unity and faith. Said regime sacrifices its own to consolidate its powerbase. No, it’s not the Bush Administration—this is fiction. Set in the not too distant future, one man (?) sets about to undo a corrupt totalitarian state. With this backdrop, you’d expect the film has a lot to work with—and it does: individual vs. collective rights, truth and propaganda, the loss of freedom in the name of state security; terrorism; religious and cultural pluralism; the nature of freedom and the power of ideas. The list could go on and on (and it does at an sluggardly 2 and half hours). Despite this wealth of material, the movie only scratches the surface. Maybe it’s too much for a movie based on a comic book. This is not the Fantastic Four but somehow, it lacks the gravity you’d expect from the material. Maybe it’s the guy in the mask. Maybe it’s because it’s based on a comic book.

The combat sequence special effects would be awesome if the Wachowski brothers hadn’t already Matrixed us to death. Solid acting (except for the guy in the mask—and I’ll cut him some slack). Natalie Portman is great. John Hurt relives his days from 1984.

Interesting, yes; but since the end of the cold war, Orwellian fare leaves me, well, cold. Even so, worth seeing, primarily because of what drives the action: principles worth fighting for. Judgment: B.

Incident at Loch Ness

DVD review from The Movie Snob

Incident at Loch Ness (B-). As a kid, I was fascinated by the Loch Ness Monster, which is probably why I sought out this little-seen independent flick from a couple of years ago. It’s a movie within a movie, starring acclaimed German film director Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man). The premise is that he is going to make a movie called “The Enigma of Loch Ness,” while somebody else is simultaneously making a documentary about him as he makes his movie. Herzog plans to make a thoughtful, even philosophical film about the reasons we seem to need to believe in monsters, but we quickly see that his producer is trying to hijack the movie and turn it into a mainstream monster-hunt sort of movie. (Example, he brings a gorgeous “sonar operator” aboard the boat, and she turns out to be a Playboy model and aspiring actress.) Chaos ensues when Herzog gets wind of what’s going on — and then the real Loch Ness Monster shows up! Not a great movie, but definitely some chuckles.

Lost Worlds: Lives in the Balance

Movie review from The Movie Snob

Lost Worlds: Lives in the Balance (B). How unexpected — an IMAX movie about nature that warns us that man is destroying nature! But it’s still an enjoyable toboggan ride into the abyss thanks to the beautiful scenery. Harrison Ford, sounding half-asleep as usual, narrates a tour of various natural habitats including the jungles that have swallowed a vast Mayan city, the kelp forests off the coast of California, and some remote mountains in southern Venezuela. A handful of scientists go camping on the top of said mountains and discover a cute little black toad that crawls instead of hops and that likes to curl up into a ball and roll down hills. How toads got on top of the mountain is left unexplained. Anyway, I walked out with a whole new appreciation for biodiversity. Well, not really.