Arrival

A movie review from The Movie Snob.

Arrival  (C).  The critics are giving this cerebral new sci-fi flick a lot of love, but I just can’t join the chorus.  The set-up is one you’ve probably seen before: giant alien spaceships suddenly appear in several different locations around the globe.  They appear to resist or ignore our efforts to communicate with them–at first.  A serious army guy (Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland) recruits a top-notch linguist (Amy Adams, Man of Steel) to help with the communication efforts concerning a spaceship in Montana.  She teams up with a physicist (Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker) who is somehow also supposed to be able to help crack the aliens’ language.  Meanwhile, military guys around the globe are getting really itchy trigger fingers.  Although I agree with the critics who are lauding Adams’s lead performance, the movie as a whole just didn’t really do it for me.  I liked director Denis Villeneuve’s last effort, Sicario, much better.  But maybe I just wasn’t smart enough for this one.

The Warden (book review)

The Movie Snob pens a book review.

The Warden, by Anthony Trollope (1855).  I quite enjoyed this short (203 pages) novel, which is the first by Trollope I have ever read.  The action takes place mainly in a fictional area of England called Barsetshire, and I think most fans of Jane Austen (and perhaps Downton Abbey) might feel quite at home here.  The action of the story is quite simple.  The “warden” is Septimus Harding, a mild, minor Anglican clergyman.  For several years, he has had a comfortable living off a very old charitable bequest, for which all he has to do is look after twelve impoverished old men who have come to live at a place called Hiram’s Hospital.  But similar arrangements are coming under scrutiny in other parts of England, and there have been scandals when people discovered that the modern arrangements don’t really match up to the terms of the ancient bequests.  When a fellow of reforming temperament starts to look into Rev. Harding’s set-up, the good clergyman is shaken to the core to think that he has not been entitled to the money he has taken from the trust and rather freely spent over the years.  A fierce archdeacon (who happens to be Rev. Harding’s son-in-law) fights back vigorously against the reformer and assures his father-in-law that they will prevail in court, but to Rev. Harding’s credit he doesn’t want to win—he wants to be right.  It’s an enjoyable story, and although the stakes are pretty low, I still found myself sympathizing with Rev. Harding’s distress.

Mistborn (book review)

A new book review from The Movie Snob.

Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson (2006).  A friend recommended this fantasy novel to me, and I liked it.  This fantasy world is a dismal place.  Ash frequently rains from the sky, most people are serfs or slaves, and there’s a nasty Lord Ruler who has tyrannized the realm for like 1,000 years.  But a few people still dare to plot his overthrow, and a resourceful young female thief named Vin gets pulled into their seemingly suicidal circle.  The system of magic in this world is pretty complicated, and I didn’t really try to follow it all that closely.  Only a relatively few people have magical powers, and to access them they have to ingest and “burn” various metals to achieve the particular metals’ magical effects.  (One of the main magical effects these people can pull off is to manipulate metal a lot like Magneto from X-Men.)  Anyway, I enjoyed it even without trying to remember what all the different metals can do.  Apparently it is the first book in a substantial series, but it also works as a stand-alone tale.

Offshore (book review)

Another book review from The Movie Snob.

Offshore, by Penelope Fitzgerald (1979).  This is another very short novel by Fitzgerald.  I liked the first novel of hers that I read, The Bookshop, and I liked this one even better.  It’s about a handful of interesting characters who live on boats (mostly on barges lashed together) docked out on the Thames.  Apparently Fitzgerald herself actually lived on such a houseboat for a while, so it may be somewhat autobiographical.  I won’t go into the plot since it is a very short book, but I will say that I found the characters interesting and their stories involving.  Six-year-old Tilda (Matilda) James is particularly likeable.  I recommend it.