Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Book a Week - Double Indemnity

Book Fourteen of the Book-a-Week Quest

Double Indemnity
by James M. Cain (1943)

Having just watched the movie recently (as part of my Classic Movie Reviews that I'll be getting back to soon), I was very excited to read this short novel. I really love the movie (see review here for a plot description which I won't repeat in this book "review") -- probably one of my Top Ten movies of all time. I was worried that the book was inevitably going to be a disappointment...and it was.

I just finished reading James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice a little over a week ago and I enjoyed it quite a bit (review here). Cain's writing style is incredibly similar in this book, too -- very minimal physical character descriptions, no usage of words like "he said" or "she replied" after bits of dialogue. For these short novels (they're both over 100 pages, but less than 150 pages), the style works.

It's not that this book was's just that when you compare it to the movie, it pales in comparison. Screenwriter Billy Wilder was seriously one of the best in his craft. There were huge amounts of sex appeal, wit, and suspense in the film...with Cain's novel, there's suspense, but the sex appeal and wit are seriously lacking.

Plus, there is quite a different ending in the novel than in the movie. You can't forget that this is a noir which means things likely won't turn out happy in the end...and they don't in the novel either, but there is a pretty substantial change from the book to the movie and in Wilder's movie, the denouement is infinitely more satisfying, substantial, and shocking.

I realize that Cain's book came first, but this is the rare case where the movie is better than its source material. Now, the book is not bad at all...but when compared to one of the best movies I've ever seen, it certainly falls a little flat.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Movie Review - Monsters Vs. Aliens 3D (2009)

featuring the voice talents of Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, Hugh Laurie, Kiefer Sutherland, Rainn Wilson, and Stephen Colbert
directed by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon
written by a bunch of people

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge Disney fan. Anyone who knows me knows that I typically despise Dreamworks films. They lack heart, they lack soul, and they get all their humor from pop culture references. Last year's Kung Fu Panda was moderately successful (review), but it still fell apart at the end. With Monsters vs. Aliens, Dreamworks is continuing to improve...although they definitely haven't reached Pixar's quality level yet.

When a meteorite with special unearthly powers lands on Susan (voiced by Witherspoon) on her wedding day causing her to grow to gigantic proportions, she is seized by the government and placed in a holding tank with four other monsters -- a blob named Bob (Rogen), a man/cockroach (Laurie), a Creature from the Deep (Arnett), and a giant furry insect. A friendship develops between them all, and, this being a kid's film and all, they come together despite their differences and fight the evil alien invader Gallaxhar (Wilson) who desires to destroy Earth.

There is very little story here. In fact, the whole story is in that paragraph above. And while the film tried to develop the characters (especially Susan), it fell flat...although Witherspoon's vocals were engaging.

There is definitely humor in this one that does not stem from the pop culture variety (although there are a few of those jokes here and there). I am utterly sick of Seth Rogen as a one-note actor, but he was hilarious here (well, his voice was hilarious). Kiefer Sutherland's General W.R. Monger also provided quite a few laughs. I guess the problem is that even though I laughed quite a bit (a lot, really, when comparing it to other Dreamworks films), there's not enough story to connect those laughs. It's like watching a stand-up comedian and only laughing at every third joke. You feel like it's good when you're watching it, but when you really think about it, you realize that you feel like you didn't quite get your money's worth.

Still, the film is Dreamworks' best effort ever and is certainly worth a look.'s certainly NOT WORTH A LOOK in 3D. There is no reason to shell out the extra bucks and see this in the 3D format. There is an incredibly corny 3D effect at the beginning that I literally rolled my eyes at, but after that, there is very minimal 3D-ness to this film. Unlike other films I've seen in 3D, there's very little depth to this one either. If you decide to see this in a theater, there's no reason to see it in 3D. I can't imagine this 3D "fad" lasts if companies keep putting out films with lackluster effects.

The RyMickey Rating: C+

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Book a Week - Anything Considered

Book Thirteen in the Book-a-Week Quest

Anything Considered
by Peter Mayle (1996)

I had read Mayle's autobiographical A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence in French class in high school and I remember thinking that I enjoyed them more than I thought I would.  However, this book was a novel, and I wasn't sure Mayle's writing style would fit well into something that wasn't "real-life."

I was moderately surprised at how much I enjoyed the book.  It's pure fluff and there's nothing to rave about, but considering that the book is about a secret plot to steal the formula to grow the best black truffles in the world (yes...that's right, it's a caper about truffles...only in France!), I thought the book flowed rather nicely.

Bennett, an Englishman living in the French countryside, is strapped for cash and places an ad in a French newspaper that says he's seeking "unusual work."  Mysterious millionaire Julian Poe rings him and hijinks relating to the aforementioned truffles ensue.

It's a light and breezy read with hints of humor and a surprisingly well-developed main character in Bennett.  He strikes me as the stereotypical somewhat uptight Englishman at the beginning who gradually loosens up as he gets pulled deeper into an underground world the likes of which he hasn't seen before.

The story gets wrapped up much too quickly and there really is a complete lack of anything "important" here, but it was a nice, pleasant book that I'd certainly recommend if you're looking for something that doesn't require a lot of thought on your end.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Apologize...Now Go Buy Triscuits

I have no idea why, but ever since I checked out the site this morning, some audio advertisement telling me to go buy Triscuits and Kraft cheese has popped up as soon as the page loads. It's not a pop-up window, so I guessing one of the embedded videos has that at the beginning of it, but I can't for the life of me figure out which one it is...there's no Triscuits video loading when I quickly scroll down the page.

Oh, well...hopefully it'll go away soon...but for now, I'm going to go enjoy the hearty taste of of the least appealing crackers of all time...

Edited to add: Now the ad is telling me to go buy Wheat Thins! Aargh! It's like Sophie's Choice here! Admittedly, I'd go with the Wheat Thins by a mile, but I just read that they're not a very healthy cracker...kind of ironic, since you'd think they were having "wheat" in their name and all...of course, that's probably the reason why I like them infinitely better than the sandpaper-like Triscuits.

Second Edit -- 3:30am Friday -- The video in question has been bumped to page if you're reading this now, you'll have no idea what I'm talking about...feel free to still enjoy Triscuits (or Wheat Thins), though...whichever floats your boat...

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Book a Week - Watchmen

Book Twelve in the Book-a-Week Quest

Watchmen (1986-87)
writer: Alan Moore
artist: Dave Gibbons
colorist: John Higgins

I knew nothing about Watchmen going into this.  Not a thing.  Unfortunately, I don't know if that hindered my enjoyment of this graphic novel.

I'm not used to reading "graphic novels" in the slightest.  I had to read a few comic books for an English class in college, but they were of Batman and Superman -- superheroes that are known by all.  Plus, they were only 70 pages long, tops.  This one clocked in at at least over 200.  

I don't know if it's the nature of a graphic novel or just the nature of this particular graphic novel, but I had a tough time following the story and getting emotionally attached to the characters.  There were times when I would literally have to thumb back through the book to try and remember who particular people were...and there were many times where I gave up on this endeavor and just kept reading.  Despite the fact that there were pictures, I just felt zippo connection with any of these people.  And when these people just rang so false to me.  And then when they talked about science stuff, I got bored much too quickly.

I mean, I guess part of the problem with that is that I didn't know whether I should be rooting for these masked "ordinary" do-gooders or not.  Should I care that they're being murdered...killed off one by one?  I mean, I guess they were doing good, but for some reason the government didn't think they were and maybe the government was right.  Of course, that's all resolved in the end, but it took a while to get there.

There was this whole subplot with this comic book inside of a comic book that I'm sure makes sense and ties in with the greater story...but I just found myself waiting for that to be over (fortunately, I've heard that subplot was nixed from the movie...although the movie's still an ungodly 165 minutes long...I mean, I read the book, and I can't see how the hell the movie is that long...).

In a similar to respect to this rambling review that I'm writing, the novel just seemed to go all over the damn place...and maybe that's what "graphic novels" do.  One minute you're with this guy, you turn the page and you're with someone else, then in the next frame, you're back with the original guy.  Didn't like that one bit...

Plus, as a comic, it seemed like there were way too many pages that were separated into 9-block rectangles.  I don't know...maybe I'm just not remembering the comics I read for school, but it seemed like they broke the monotony up a lot more by varying the amount and size of blocks on each page.

Alright, I realize that this whole thing so far has kinda been trashing the book, but I can't say that I didn't like it.  There's something about it that I kinda found interesting.  The ending was unexpected to me, and it did kinda tie things together (although it took way too long to do so).  For some reason, I'm intrigued by the book.  Now, I'm never gonna re-read it, and I'm sure people will tell me that if I did, I'd find so many hidden secret things that foreshadow everything else that would happen...I don't care even remotely enough to do that.  However, this was by no means even close to the worst thing I've read in this book-a-week quest, and I'll admit that I'm somewhat intrigued to see the movie now (if only to see what they did at the end, as I've heard it's quite different from the book).

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Book a Week - The Postman Always Rings Twice

Book Eleven of the Book-a-Week Quest

The Postman Always Rings Twice
by James M. Cain (1934)

Frank Chambers is a roaming drifter who happens upon a little gas station/diner run by Nick Papadakis and his wife, Cora.  Within days, Frank not only is working for Nick, but is also screwing his wife.  Like all great noirs, Cora is not happy with her life and she conspires with Frank to kill her husband...for, you see, a noir without a conniving woman is simply not a noir.

For a book written in 1934, Postman was incredibly sexual.  By chapter two, Frank is biting Cora's lip and drawing blood as a means of foreplay, and I can't even count how many times he ripped open her blouse and slapped her around.  Truly a very masochistic take on love that easily could've been written today, rather more than over seventy years ago.

I loved the book, but I love a good noir (see my Double Indemnity movie review here).  Cain's writing style was completely non-descriptive, almost to the point where I longed for more details (and I usually despise when authors just add words to add words).  The way he writes dialogue was odd, too.  I don't think that at one point in time in the book he wrote, "she said" or "he replied".  The dialogue was just there and you kind of had to figure out who was saying it.  Odd, and it didn't always work out.

Plus, I didn't get the title at all.  There is no postman in the book at all and no one rings any doorbell or telephone twice.  After doing a little research, the postman may be symbolic for Fate as he seeks retribution for the ills of the main characters...but a weird title nonetheless.

However, I truly thought the story was riveting and the genre was right up my alley.  Rest assured, there will be another James M. Cain novel review in the near future.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Book a Week...So Far

Here's a quick run-through of the ten books I've read so far in the Book-a-Week Quest. While I don't rate books, in this "round up" I'm listing these books from best to worst, along with a quick blurb from my "reviews." Clicking on the title should (and I emphasize "should") take you to the full "review."
  1. Of Mice and Men -- Short, sweet, and to the point. Clocking in at less than 100 pages, it is certainly a simple story, but a touching (and shocking) one, detailing the lengths one will go to in order to protect a friend.
  2. Revolutionary Road -- Yates excels at dialogue. So much of it rings so true. Entirely believable, I could hear the words being spoken as I read it.
  3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close -- By the end, I really did come to care for this odd little kid, and I was genuinely moved by this story of loss and love. Now, it's still a weird read, and it's definitely not for all, but it was certainly interesting...definitely the most "experimental" book I've ever read.
  4. The Eyre Affair -- The quote from the cover by the Wall Street Journal says that it's an amalgamation of "Monty Python, Harry Potter, Stephen Hawking, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird -- Characters were well developed and interesting, the writing style was easy-to-read, and the story was fine, though a little dated (to be expected, however).
  6. Of Human Bondage -- Maugham's writing style is very "readable." There's not a whole lot of superfluous descriptions and details, but he does have a tendency to go off on philosophical or artistic tangents.
  7. Pride and Prejudice -- I don't know if it's Austen in general or this book in particular, but I think that if you're born with a 'Y' chromosome, you're just not going to enjoy it as much as those missing that gene.
  8. Hocus Pocus -- It's just random thoughts. There was no cohesion here...names were thrown about here and there, were forgotten about for a hundred pages, and then mentioned again as if I was supposed to remember them.
  9. The Reader -- I can see why this was an Oprah Book Club selection (my first in that prestigious *pause for laughs* club). Very melodramatic. Oprah strikes me as someone who would fall head over heels for a romance between a female Nazi and a teenage boy...As I type that sentence I'm actually not sure whether I was trying to be funny or not.
  10. The 39 Steps -- Author Buchan's writing style is not the least bit interesting at all. At times he's way too descriptive and at times he is much too straight-forward...Dialogue is written in varying English dialects and I literally could not understand what people were saying...Maybe it worked in Britain in 1915, but it didn't work in 2009 America.
Short story Rear Window probably fits in between 9 and 10. By the way, I'm only one week behind on the book-a-week quest which is a whole lot better than I thought I'd be at this point. This may actually be an achievable goal...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Book a Week - The 39 Steps

Book Ten of the Book-a-Week Quest

The 39 Steps
by John Buchan, 1915

I saw the Broadway play adaptation of this last summer and it was a slapstick suspense-comedy. I thought this was going to be a wasn't even close.

It's only saving grace was that it was short (a little over 100 pages...but the print was super-tiny so it seemed infinitely longer).

When Englishman Richard Hannay returns home from a trip, he meets a man named Scudder who recently moved into an apartment in his building. Scudder is certain that there will be an assassination attempt on a Greek political figure with the hope of providing the impetus to start a war throughout Europe. A few short days later, Scudder is murdered in Hannay's apartment and Hannay must flee for his life through the hills and valleys of England.

Certainly a decent premise for a story, but author Buchan's writing style is not the least bit interesting at all. At times he's way too descriptive and at times he is much too straight-forward. It literally seems like nothing happens in the book except during the first and last chapters. Dialogue is written in varying English dialects and I literally could not understand what people were saying. I re-read things and tried to speak things out loud and was still at a loss. Maybe it worked in Britain in 1915, but it didn't work in 2009 America.

This one was a bust, for sure.

Monday, March 16, 2009

DVD Round-Up

Here's a trio of "foreign" flicks...some of which are better than others...

I've Loved You So Long (2008)
If only this movie were a little shorter, it certainly would've ranked in the top five of 2008 movies I had seen. Nevertheless, this French film is definitely a winner because of two great female performances. Kristin Scott Thomas is Juliette, a woman who was imprisoned for fifteen years for murdering her son, and Elsa Zylberstein is Lea, Juliette's sister who longs to create a relationship that has been missing for so many years. These two actresses are really just neither of them got Oscar nominations is beyond me. Like I said, it certainly lulls in parts, but the revelation that occurs at the end was shocking to me and threw a whole new perspective on the movie and Thomas's performance in particular.
The RyMickey Rating: B+

- - - - - - - -

Let the Right One In (2008)
I don't know if I've ever seen a Swedish movie before, but I can be certain that I've never seen a Swedish vampire movie. Definitely different, the film is good, but not as great as the raves it was getting at the end of 2008 (it showed up on many Top Ten lists). Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is a twelve year-old boy who is constantly bullied at school and finds some solace in Eli (Lina Leandersson), an odd girl who just moved into his apartment complex. Perhaps the reason she's so odd is that she's actually a vampire. The film focuses on some vampire lore that I've never seen before in movies and it's certainly not the least bit scary (although there is bloodsucking, but what would a vampire flick be without bloodsucking?). Although the two young leads are stellar (I really can't say enough about the two of them...they were great), the relationship set up between them feels way too adult. There were scenes between the two of them that made me incredibly uncomfortable...they were much more, for lack of a better word, sensual than anything I've seen in any American flick. Add to that uncomfortableness, the director paces the film incredibly slowly. There were definitely whole scenes that could've been removed to make it flow better. Nevertheless, not a bad movie and certainly a different movie. Worth a rental if the general idea of the film intrigues you at all.
The RyMickey Rating: B-

- - - - - - - - -

Australia (2008)
This is likely the only one of these three movies that most people have heard of and it's by far the worst of the three. Unfortunately for the film, I'm liking it less and less the more time passes after watching it. Nicole Kidman is awful in this. Wide-eyed and oddly theatrical, I laughed at her when I shouldn't have. As far as Hugh Jackman goes, he was serviceable in his role, but he was nothing special. I (used to?) appreciate Baz Luhrmann as a director, but his goal to produce an "epic" film fell tremendously flat. The film veers from over-the-top in the first thirty minutes to way too serious in the last hour (with a crazed villain thrown in for good measure) and he never finds an appropriate balance. The film is a simple love story between two unlikely people and there's not enough story to last 165 minutes. Plus, the film seriously could've ended an hour earlier. The whole war saga at the end was completely and utterly unnecessary. I remember that when we first got the movie at the theater, the film broke, we had to pass the theater, and people asked me, "How much of the film was left?" I said, "At least an hour," and they said, "Really? It seemed like it was ending." Well, it could've ended after 105 fact, Baz even throws in a montage and voice-over narration that you might expect to see at the end of a movie, but he then makes it go on for over an hour more. My appreciation for Baz certainly lessened after watching this one.
The RyMickey Rating: D+

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Movie Review - Taken (2009)

starring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, and Famke Jannsen
directed by Pierre Morel
written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen

Admittedly, this was an incredibly fun movie to watch. It was certainly enjoyable to see Liam Neeson -- Oskar Schindler himself -- taking names and kicking some ass. Who knew that Liam had it in him?

However, Taken is not a perfect movie. The flick has a very simple premise (which in and of itself is not necessarily a negative in a film). Girl goes to Paris, gets kidnapped, and her father decides that he will do anything to get her back. The problem I had with the film is twofold:

1) Both Maggie Grace as the kidnapped daughter and Famke Janssen as her mother and Liam's ex-wife were both horrendously awful. What 17-year old literally runs and skips towards her father not once, not twice, but at least three times in the span of a week? "Daddy! It's you! Let me run to you with my arms outstretched!" Okay, I know this sounds like nothing important, but it completely took me out of the movie. It was something incredibly simple, but it was completely ridiculous. And Janssen...she was playing ice cold über-bitch and there was no need for it. I'm not sure if this is the fault of the actors or the director, but whenever either of them were in a scene with Neeson, they paled miserably in comparison.

2) The first half hour drags on endlessly. There's a pointless series of scenes involving Neeson being a bodyguard for a pop singer. I understand that it was in there to show that Neeson can kick butt, but I just found myself waiting for the daughter to be kidnapped.

Now, the flick is completely and utterly unbelievable. The amount of people that Neeson's character kills was astronomical, but who really cares in a movie like this. You'll notice that I never mentioned Liam Neeson's character's name...the reason is because despite that endless backstory in the first 30 minutes, this isn't a movie where you come out remembering little things like that. Instead you remember the scene where Neeson electrocutes a guy by shoving nails into his kneecaps and hooking them up to jumper cables. When stuff like that happens, who cares what his name was?

The RyMickey Rating: B

A Year of Firsts - Medical Edition

Fun, fun, fun was had this past week in the form of utilizing my medical insurance to its fullest possible potential.

- Had my first MRI done
- Had my first echocardiogram done
- Had my first arterial ultrasounds done

All is fine...all is well...just a little "scare" that turned out to be not a big deal.

Hey, but I can at least add all that to the wonderful year of firsts.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Book a Week - The Eyre Affair

Book Nine of the Book-a-Week Quest

The Eyre Affair
by Jasper Fforde (2001)

Alright...full disclosure here.  There was some trepidation before I started reading this book.  It was given to me as a gift by my aunt and uncle and when they told me about it, I honestly thought I'd be too dumb to comprehend it.  I mean, the cover's got the title in fancy flourishing cursive and it's about Jane Eyre and that's all British and the British are all uppity and serious and serious really wasn't something I wanted to deal with right now and...well, I could go on.

All that worry was for naught, however, as I enjoyed this book quite a bit.  The quote from the cover by the Wall Street Journal says that it's an amalgamation of "Monty Python, Harry Potter, Stephen Hawking, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and that's about right on.  

The story takes place in an alternate 1985 London where dodo birds have been recreated, vampires and werewolves run through the night, and people can literally travel into books.  And that's where heroine Thursday Next comes into play -- she's a LiteraTec operative who keeps a close eye on classic books to make sure that no one messes with the integrity of them.  Sure enough, in a very Harry Potter-ish vein, mega-villain Acheron Hades wants some respect and is willing to mess with the classic works of Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë to achieve his maniacal goals.

The book's not perfect -- the vampire/werewolf stuff was unnecessary and a huge subplot involving Britain's war with Russia over land played much too big a role -- but it was certainly amusing, humourous (notice the British spelling there), and smart.  Apparently this is book one of a series of Thursday Next novels and I eagerly look forward to reading another.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Theatre Review - Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men
written by John Steinbeck
directed by Adrian Hall
When: Sunday, March 8, 2009, 2pm
Where: Thompson Theatre at the Roselle Center for the Performing Arts (University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware)
Type: Play, Drama, Professional Theatre

It's kind of cool that the University of Delaware is now home to a professional troupe of actors.  In addition to their graduate-level theatre program, the school is now also showcasing the Resident Ensemble Players (REP) -- nine actors and actresses who have graduated from the University's Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP) and have decided to come back to their "roots" and perform for the public while teaching the current crop of students.  This is the first season for the REP and they are off to a rousing start.

Having just read Of Mice and Men a few short weeks ago as part of my Book-a-Week Quest, when I saw that there was a production of this on the REP's schedule, I immediately jumped at the chance to see it.  I wasn't expecting a whole lot, to be completely honest...I mean, sure they're professional actors, but this is at a college...they couldn't have a budget, could they?

As soon as I entered the theatre, I knew I was wrong.  First off, the theatre itself is quite nice.  Ample leg room, relatively comfortable seats...this place even had a balcony.  I wasn't really expecting that, but I can't imagine that any of the 450 seats would really give a bad view.  Onto the production itself, as soon as you walked in, you could see bits and pieces of the set and knew that they definitely are spending money on scenic design of these productions.  The set was definitely on par (if not more intricate) than what I had seen in the Broadway production of Avenue Q.  There was absolutely a true sense of being in a barn in 1930s California.

Director Adrian Hall starts the play with a projection of newsreel footage of FDR speaking to the country about the Depression and telling us that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.  Apparently, the director was trying to align the tale with our country's current financial troubles...although, if I'm being completely honest, the only reason I know that is because I read it in the program.  Still, it definitely puts you into the mindset that this play is taking place in an incredibly difficult time in American history.

I'm not going to discuss plot (you can look at my previous book "review" for that), so I'll just jump to the actors themselves.  Really, they were all top notch, with the exception of a few in small bits who threw in some awkward pauses here and there.  The caring relationship between Mark Corkins' dim-witted Lennie and Michael Gotch's protective George is established right away and only makes the ending that much more difficult to bear.  Both are quite good, but Corkins truly shines.  Playing a mentally challenged, slow-witted adult is bound to be difficult, and while he played it for laughs at times (which is definitely how the script plays it, too), there was a huge emotional connection there with his character.  John Plumpis' old-man Curley is spot-on, too (and looking at his picture in the program, I can't believe how young he is in real-life).  Also excellent was Carine Montbertrand's portrayal of Curley's wife.  That's a role that could so very easily be taken over-the-top -- for, you see, she's essentially a tramp who longs to sleep with guys other than her husband -- but Montbertrand is able to tone it down and make it incredibly relatable.  Her scene at the end of the play with Lennie was probably my favorite in the play.

The production has two more performances -- next Saturday and Sunday, March 14-15.  If you're able, I'd strongly recommend going.  All tickets are under $20 (I believe it's the same price regardless of where you sit) and this is real theatre, people.  Real theatre in a little state like Delaware.  Whodathunkit?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Coming Attractions

A look at some upcoming movies...


Best movie of the summer? Best movie of the year? I don't know...I'm not getting the Wall*E excellence vibe from this one. If I lower the expectations, I know I'll like it more...

Star Trek

I wouldn't call myself a big Star Trek fan, but I definitely remember watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on Sunday nights when I was little...that would be the John-Luc Picard/Worf era...Nevertheless, this trailer looks quite good. J.J Abrams is a favorite of mine, so I'm hoping he succeeds with this one.

Terminator: Salvation

I'm the only person I know that actually liked the third Terminator movie (I didn't love it, but I liked it). I'm looking forward to this one, too. The addition of Christian Bale definitely adds something positive in the actor department. The trailer looks like your typical generic action movie trailer, but that's not necessarily a bad thing for a movie like this.

500 Days of Summer

A perfect antidote to regular summer fare. Some really funny lines in this trailer. Plus, it uses a Hall and Oates song! Long live Hall and Oates!

Classic Movie Review - The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

starring Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo, Anne Vernon, Marc Michel, and Ellen Farner
directed and "scenario et dialogue" by Jacques Demy
Geneviéve: Absence is a funny thing.  I feel like Guy left years ago.  I look at this photo and I forget what he really looks like.  When I think of him, it's this photo that I see.

My first foreign film to review on this site and it's certainly a different one.  It's essentially an opera (without the booming, overpowering opera voices).  Every single word of dialogue is sung.  This film would never ever work if it was done in English.  I wonder how the French felt watching this...was it weird for them to see their native language sung like an opera?  It wasn't the least bit weird for me, but about halfway through, I was saying to myself that there is no way I wouldn't be laughing if this was in English and I was hearing someone sing "Bring me some tea.  There's water in the kettle."  In French, it wasn't so English, I'd have probably turned this off.

The plot is super-simple...almost too much so.  Told in three parts, in part one, "The Departure," we meet two young lovers -- Guy and Geneviéve -- living in the small town of Cherbourg.  Guy gets called off to war (let's not even get into the fact that a Frenchman is going to war which in and of itself is laughable), ending the first part with a beautiful song -- "I Will Wait For You" -- and a beautiful shot at a train station.  Part Two -- "The Absence" -- focuses on Geneviéve dealing with Guy being gone.  Something rather surprising is unveiled early on in this segment and it ends rather sadly.  Unfortunately, Part Three entitled "The Return" bring Guy back, but things are not even close to the same as when he left.  The plot is simple, as I've already said, but things don't always go the way you think they would in a French romance.  

The film is intriguingly shot.  At times, there are some odd directorial choices, but it works for some reason.  In other movies, I might think these shots would scream "PRETENSION!" but in this basic story, they work.  Apparently, the film is noted for its use of colors and there is certainly a wide palette on display, which adds to the visuals without a doubt.  

The music is also superb with enough changes in tempo to never grow boring.  It's not that you're going to be able to sing the songs (they're in French, obviously), but you may be humming the music at the end.  As I mentioned above, the song "I Will Wait for You" has a stunningly beautiful melody that is played several times throughout the film.  Additionally, I found it incredibly intriguing that it never looked like the actors were lip-synching.  For all I know, maybe they were singing live on-set, but I can't imagine that they were (as that hardly ever happens in a musical).  Nevertheless, the lip-synching was dead-on perfect all the time.

So, if you can get past the fact that there is no spoken dialogue, this one is definitely worth a look.  You'll never have seen any film like it, I can guarantee that.

The RyMickey Rating: B+

Thursday, March 05, 2009

A Book a Week - Rear Window

Book Eight-and-a-Half of the Book-A-Week Quest

Rear Window (original title - It Had to Be Murder)
by Cornell Woolrich (1942)

This one was a short story, so I can't legitimately say it was a book (which is why this is book 8.5). 36 pages just doesn't count.

When I started reading it and I looked and saw how many pages it was, I was utterly confused how Alfred Hitchcock could've made such a great movie with it.

The reason Hitchcock succeeded is that he added so much to it. Heck, Grace Kelly's character wasn't even in the novella...and Rear Window without Grace Kelly would've been sacrilege! (Not to mention the fact that the novel didn't even include the great character actress Thelma Ritter's role as Jimmy Stewart's nurse)

It was pretty much just "eh." That's the best way to describe it. The movie fleshed everything out and was much more suspenseful. In this one, the guy suspects that his next-door neighbor has murdered his wife and then we discover whether he did or didn't. That was it. There was nothing exciting to it.

Do yourself a favor. See the movie. It's one of Hitchcock's best and one of my favorite movies of all time.

You can skip the book.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Book a Week - Revolutionary Road

Book Eight of the Book-A-Week Quest

Revolutionary Road
by Richard Yates (1961)

If you read my previous review of the movie version of Revolutionary Road, you'll know that I loved the movie -- one of the best of 2008 to be sure.

The book did not disappoint either.  It's really amazing that Yates wrote this in 1961.  It feels so current -- the themes of an unhappy home life, cheating spouses, and unrequited dreams would easily fit if the characters were transported to 2009.

Yates excels at dialogue.  So much of it rings so true.  Entirely believable, I could hear the words being spoken as I read it (and this wasn't just because much of the dialogue was taken word for word for the film version).  The way he wrote the characters' inner monologues -- from main characters Frank and April Wheeler to secondary characters like real estate agent Mrs. Givings and next-door neighbor Shep -- were realistic and spot-on.  I truly think this book contained some of the best dialogues I've ever read.

Although I think I like Of Mice and Men a little better (likely only because I had no idea what happened in that book and Revolutionary Road was closely mirrored in the film version), this one was a great read -- and an easy one, too.  By that, I don't mean it was light, by any means.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  While Yates' writing style may be eloquent, it's a sad, depressing read.  But sometimes sad, depressing reads are what you're in the mood for.  And if that's the case, Revolutionary Road fits the bill to a tee.