A book review from The Movie Snob.
The Book of Strange New Things, by Michel Faber (2014). I don’t remember where I read about this sci-fi novel, but the premise grabbed me—in the near future, a Christian preacher is selected to journey to another planet and preach the faith to the humanoid aliens who live there. So I eventually found it at Half-Price Books, and I have to say it was a really good read. I won’t say anymore, but if the premise sounds appealing at all, I urge you to check it out. Incidentally, it was only after I finished the book that I realized that Faber also wrote the novel Under the Skin, on which the indelibly creepy Scarlett Johansson movie was based. If I had realized that fact earlier, I might have been scared off from reading The Book of Strange New Things. Glad I wasn’t!
The Movie Snob riffs on the riffers.
Rifftrax Live: Mothra (C). I thought this was a mediocre effort by the fellows at Rifftrax. They started with an okay short in which a little boy learns lessons about personal hygiene from a bizarre nighttime apparition called “Mr. Soapy.” The main feature was the Japanese monster movie Mothra, about a giant moth who destroys a bunch of Hot Wheels cars and styrofoam buildings after two tiny (like Barbie-doll sized) women get kidnapped from Mothra’s tropical island. The movie was, of course, quite ridiculous, but I didn’t think the riffing was particularly great. Part of the problem was that the movie was so incessantly loud it was occasionally hard to hear the jokes. Also, I thought the riffers used a little more off-color humor than they usually do, and I didn’t think it was very funny. So it was a bit of a let down, on the whole.
A book review from The Movie Snob.
Churchill, by Paul Johnson (2009). This is a biography of Winston Churchill, and it is only 168 pages long. If you think that sounds like an impossible feat of compression, you are correct. It is just too short to give any sort of real flavor of perhaps the greatest man of the twentieth century. I have enjoyed some of Paul Johnson’s other books, especially Modern Times, but this one just didn’t do it for me. On the plus side, though, it is a very quick read….
The Movie Snob goes to the movies. And regrets it.
The Legend of Tarzan (F). If you see only one critically panned action movie starring Margot Robbie this summer . . . see Suicide Squad. I haven’t seen it myself, but it has to be better than this stinkbomb.
As our story begins, Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård, Zoolander) has long been civilized into Lord Greystoke and lives in some Downton Abbey looking manor with his wife Jane (Robbie, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot). He is persuaded to return to his old ‘hood in the Congo by an American fellow (Samuel L. Jackson, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) who thinks that the colonizing Belgians might be enslaving the locals. But the American is unwittingly part of a trap being set by Belgian King Leopold’s nefarious agent Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz, Spectre), who needs to lure Tarzan to the jungle for reasons of his own. So most of the movie consists of Tarzan’s attempts to rescue the hapless Jane (who spends most of the movie in Rom’s clutches, chained to the rail of a Congolese steamboat), some okay flashbacks to Tarzan’s humble origins as an adopted gorilla, and some ridiculous action sequences. I probably would have given this charmless film a D if the director (David Yates, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I) hadn’t thrown in a couple of anti-Catholic bits. The villainous Rom uses a rosary as a murder weapon, and Robbie’s character insinuates that he was abused as a child by a Catholic priest. Wholly unnecessary, and offensive enough to drag this otherwise lame movie completely off the rails into the abyss.
Another book review from The Movie Snob.
A Horrible Experience of Unbearable Length: More Movies That Suck, by Roger Ebert (2012). When I read a book of movie reviews, I frequently skip the reviews of good movies I’ve never seen, so as to avoid spoilers. But that wasn’t a problem when I read this one—I read it cover to cover! Actually, this book’s title (which is drawn from Ebert’s review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) overpromises a little bit. This collection covers not only truly terrible movies, but also plenty of movies that my fellow critic gave one and a half or even two full stars. Ebert even admits in the foreword that “[s]ome of the films herein are only fairly bad.” Nevertheless, the reviews are all enjoyable. I can’t resist quoting another line from the book, which I have quoted before. In Ebert’s review of National Treasure: Book of Secrets, he lists off several members of the cast, which included Jon Voight, Helen Mirren, Ed Harris, and Harvey Keitel, and concludes, “You could start with a cast like that and make one of the greatest movies of all time, which is not what happened here.”
The Movie Snob has been slacking off at the movies–so here’s a book review:
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel (2014). This “National Bestseller,” as the front cover proclaims, is well deserving of its fame. There’s a global pandemic of deadly flu that kills over 99% of humanity, destroying civilization as we know it. Nevertheless, twenty years later, the survivors persevere. Some of them have formed a wandering troupe known as the Traveling Symphony, and they journey from settlement to settlement, performing Shakespeare and classical music. The novel flips back and forth from the time of the pandemic and its immediate aftermath to events years later, but it’s not too hard to follow. It’s exceptionally well written, and the characters come to vivid life. In short, I thought this was a great read. Even if you’re not a fan of science fiction or dystopian fiction, I think you ought to give it a try.