Book review: Gilead

A book review from The Movie Snob

Gilead, by Marylynne Robinson. This book won the Pulitzer Prize two or three years ago, but it is only the second novel by Robinson. Her first, Housekeeping, came out 20 years earlier and was about two sisters and the eccentric aunt who raised them. This one is about fathers and sons. It is in the form of a long letter that an Iowa preacher named John Ames is writing to his 7-year-old son. The year is 1956, and Ames is some 76 years old and believes that he will die of heart disease sooner than later, so he decides to write an autobiographical letter for his son to read when he is older, so that he will know what kind of man his father was. The answer, it turns out is a very good man, devoted to his ministry and his flock and his much younger wife whom he married late in life. But the virtuousness of the narrator does not mean his story is uninteresting. He writes about his wild abolitionist grandfather, who knew John Brown and shed blood for the anti-slavery cause. And his pacifist father. And his good friend Boughton, and Boughton’s black-sheep son who has just returned to the town of Gilead for reasons Ames does not know but fears nonetheless. And as befitting a minister, the letter includes occasional theological musings as well. It is a quiet, thoughtful novel, not one to be raced through. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


From The Movie Snob

Becket (B+). A local theater is showing this 1964 classic starring Peter O’Toole (Venus) as King Henry II and Richard Burton (Exorcist II: The Heretic) as Thomas Becket. It is an interesting and well-done historical piece about the friendship between the two and their eventual falling out after Henry made Becket the Archbishop of Canterbury. Becket, who had been a gifted but amoral servant of the crown, suddenly discovered his sense of honor and duty to the Church, to the king’s great displeasure and even grief. Burton is excellent, O’Toole is eccentric, and there is plenty of great dialogue, including the fateful line for which Henry is remembered to this day — “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

TMNT, The Prestige

New reviews from Nick at Nite


My two and half year old son was such a trooper on Sunday that when he asked to see a movie we relented. He couldn’t sit still or even close to still during Happy Feet and so we were concerned that a movie would be a bad idea, but we didn’t want to disappoint him. So, recognizing that the only thing near family friendly was the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, we set aside our better parental judgment, loaded the family wagon, and headed to the theater. I thought about giving the movie two reviews, one as if I had gone by myself and one as I went, with my little buddy. I decided that was not fair to the movie or my son. Honestly, if you are over the age of twelve and you go to this movie, by yourself, on a date, or in another group of adults … you need to put away the Dungeon and Dragons set and move out of your mom’s basement. My son loved this movie. When he was not staring at the screen munching away at popcorn, he was asking us to look at the movie, clapping, and cheering on the Ninja Turtles. He stood for a good portion of the movie, leaning over the seat in front of him, and desperately trying to get close to the action. Watching him enjoy the movie was worth the price of admission. As for the plot, something about a 3000 year old curse and bad guys with Ninja skills fighting against the Ninja Turtles who are trying to remember that they are brothers and really need each other to accomplish their goals. I give it a “B.” My son would give it an “A,” assuming he realized “A” meant really good.

The Prestige

Huh? It is a little hard to follow. Is it a flash forward, a flashback, or something different altogether? Or was it simply hard to follow because Christian Bale’s accent is thicker than anything dealt with in My Fair Lady? All in all not a bad movie. It is not as good as the other illusionist inspired flick, The Illusionist, but it is worth a view. The movie stars Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale who as magicians and illusionists become rivals following a terrible accident that kills Hugh Jackman’s wife. There are many twists and turns as these rivals try and out do each other and sabotage one another’s magic tricks. I had no idea where the movie was headed until the very end. So, I give it an “A” for originality, but a “C” for not being as good as The Illusionist, which gives the movie a “B” average.

The Solitude of Thomas Cave (book review)

Book review from The Movie Snob

The Solitude of Thomas Cave, by Georgina Harding (Bloomsbury 2007). Well, this will teach me not to buy a book simply because Entertainment Weekly magazine gives it an “A” — even if it if also “EW’s Pick” of the week. The premise was interesting. In the early 1600’s, a whaling ship is going about its business off the coast of northern Greenland. Summer is coming to an end, and soon the ship will head home for the winter. One sailor tells a story he had heard of a man who was stranded and stayed in that harsh wilderness all winter long and was still alive when the whalers returned the next summer. No one believes it is possible, except one man, Thomas Cave. A wager is made, and the ship leaves him there with plenty of supplies. And most of the rest of the book is his story of survival, and his grappling with an unspoken sorrow from the past through the long, dark winter. It was an okay story, but I didn’t particularly buy the author’s attempt to make her writing and the dialogue sound like the early 17th century. And I didn’t care for the epilogue. Mediocre.

Bridge to Terabithia

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Bridge to Terabithia (C). This movie is not the family-friendly feature I was expecting. In fact, it’s a big old downer of a movie that you should hesitate to take your young children to. Most of the movie is an ordinary, not particularly interesting story about two fifth graders, Jesse (Josh Hutcherson, The Hunger Games) and Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb, Race to Witch Mountain), who are sort of misfits at school. They become friends, play together in the woods, and imagine they are having adventures and fighting monsters in the fantasy land of Terabithia. Some mild special effects do little to enliven the picture. Then, without warning, a serious tragedy strikes and turns the remainder of the movie into a surprisingly dark tearjerker. Also, religiously minded parents might have some difficulty with the Enlightenment views expressed by one of the stars.

300: A Second Opinion

From The Movie Snob

300 (B). Okay, I am no Comic Book Guy, so I did not go into this movie with any preconceived notions or particularly high expectations. Under those conditions, I enjoyed it. I found it hokey from start to finish, with the geysers of blood and the severed heads and hacked limbs cited by CBG in his review. The scene in the decadent throne room of the Persian king was a hoot. But even though I laughed at some parts that were probably not intended to be funny, it was also a good old tale of good vs. evil, freedom vs. tyranny, courage vs. cowardice. No big-name stars, but one of the leading Spartan warriors (David Wenham) played Faramir in two of the Lord of the Rings movies, and the guy who plays the unctuous Spartan politician (Dominic West) was in Chicago. A fun movie, as long as cartoonish carnage doesn’t bore you or gross you out.


New review from CBG


As a former comic book store manager, I love all things comic related. Except maybe Ghost Rider. Oh, and Daredevil, and could Elektra suck any more? Anyways – 300 is based on a graphic novel (that’s a big splashy comic book for those of you who haven’t seen a comic book since you were a kid) by Frank Miller, who was also responsible for Sin City. And since I love all things comic, I must love this movie, too. And I do. It tells the story of 300 Spartans, led by King Leonidas, who stand against the massive Persian army at the battle of Thermopylae. This movie has all the elements that make for great film. Action. Violence. Special Effects. Sex. What more do you need? And since we’re on those subjects, let me briefly discuss each.

Action: The movie is pretty much nonstop. Clocking in at 1 hour 57 minutes, it moves at a pretty swift pace and there’s enough going on that even when it’s slow (exposition, character development, etc.) it moves pretty quickly. You won’t be glancing at your watch as your eyes will be glued to the big screen and all that…

Violence: If you’ve seen the comic, this movie is practically a verbatim translation of the comic’s graphic images to the big screen. And this movie is graphic. Hacked limbs. Severed heads. The bodies pile up (literally). The tag line “Prepare for Glory” might as well be “Prepare for Gory.” The combat sequences are unbelievable and will keep your interest, especially because of the…

Special Effects: I’ve got to believe every shot is an effects shot. The computer graphics enhance every single frame of the film which help it capture the look and feel of the original material. It is a cornucopia of visual artistry. Yes, it’s over the top but isn’t that what you go to the movies for? Certainly, it’s not for the…

Sex: there’s only a few minutes devoted to love and lust but the whole film is steeped in homo-erotic machismo. I mean, you’ve got a bunch of super buff guys hanging around in bikini bottoms and capes. Need I say more? Oh, and wait till you catch a glimpse of Xerses, the Persian King.

So all in all, an awesome movie. But as I left the theatre, I started to wonder. This film glorifies war and violence. It pits western values (yeah, the Spartans were all about democracy and freedom – right) against the inhuman barbarian hordes of Persia (I think it’s called Iran now) in a struggle for survival. Is this some piece of right wing propaganda designed to get me fired up? Is Big Brother watching me? Wait a second…. what am I talking about? This is just a movie. And what a movie it is. Go check it out. It won’t be the same on DVD.

Rallying the Really Human Things (book review)

Book review from The Movie Snob

Rallying the Really Human Things: The Moral Imagination in Politics, Literature, and Everyday Life, by Vigen Guroian (2005). A collection of essays by a theology professor who is, I gather, an Armenian Orthodox Christian. Includes essays on G.K. Chesterton, Flannery O’Connor, the college dating scene, Brave New World, and the rhetoric of George W. Bush. It’s okay, nothing to write home about.


DVD review from Nick at Nite


I am so creeped out by this movie. Really, what could have possessed Nicole Kidman (Genius) to make it? Did she need the money? No. Was she bored? Can’t see how, what with all the drama in her personal life. Was it for the sake of art? If you believe this is art, then I have some blank canvasses to sell you. Personally, I think she did it to spite Tom Cruise. Basically, Ms. Kidman plays a widow who is taken by an eleven year old who claims to be the reincarnation of her deceased husband. Sound creepy? It is, especially when you know about the bathtub scenes. This makes it sound worse than it really is, but it is still pretty bad. To make matters worse, I am not exactly sure what happened in the movie. The ending makes no sense. Was it real, was it not, is Ms. Kidman crazy, was the kid crazy? Ultimately, I watched it to see what happened and because I could not take my eyes off of the train wreck. I give it an “F.”

The Lives of Others

From the desk of The Movie Snob

The Lives of Others (A). I was starting to wonder whether I was getting tired of movies. I’ve watched a lot of Oscar nominees lately, and although they were all pretty good I couldn’t give any of them an “A.” Then I watched this German film, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. It restored my faith (or at least hope) in the movies. The film is set in East Germany, 1984. Roughly 100,000 people work for the dreaded Stasi, the secret police, and many more people than that are Stasi informers. In the German Democratic Republic, it was almost impossible for a citizen not to be compromised in some form or fashion, as this movie brilliantly illustrates. Captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe, The Castle) of the Stasi is a true believer who supervises the surveillance of Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch, Bridge of Spies), a playwright who is also a true believer in “socialism” but whose idealism inevitably cracks in the face of the corrupt reality of the GDR. More remarkable, Wiesler’s communist convictions begin to crack at the same time. Martina Gedeck, who was so good in Mostly Martha, plays Dreyman’s actress girlfriend. An engrossing look at the society that may have come closest to achieving the dystopia of Orwell’s 1984. It’s a must-see.