Friday, October 30, 2009

A hilarious masked caper

Posted by lea at 11:21 AM 0 comments Links to this post

They had to be drunk, didn't they? God I hope so. These two clever fiends drew their own masks to burgle an apartment in Iowa.

Ananova reports:

Two burglary suspects who drew 'masks' on their faces with a permanent marker pen have been arrested in the US.

A witness told police that two men with painted disguises were trying to break into an apartment in Carroll, Iowa.

Police soon spotted a 1994 Buick Roadmaster that matched the vehicle description and stopped it. They found two occupants with mask-like scribbling on faces, Iowa's Daily Times Herald reported.

Matthew Allan McNelly, 23, and Joey Lee Miller, 20, were arrested at gunpoint because of reports they might be armed, but neither man had a weapon.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Whip It

Posted by lea at 1:36 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Watch it because:
  • Juliet Lewis is awesome as the bitchy captain of the opposing team
  • it's all about girl-power – tough chicks who bruise but don't cry
  • lots of warm and fuzzy friendship themes
  • awesome skater pseudonyms: Babe Ruthless, Smashley Simpson, Bloody Holly
  • some very good acting – except Drew Barrymore, who seemed to mistake this for a stoner movie and overplays her part (funny considering she actually directed it)
  • Maeby Funke appears as Bliss's best friend, Pash

Miss it because:
  • there's nothing particularly new: underdogs make good, girl comes of age
  • the emo love interest, which is kinda sweet but still... you know, emo
  • with the co$t of movie tickets, you could easily wait for the dvd

The Bride Stripped Bare, Anonymous (Nikki Gemmell)

Posted by lea at 12:03 PM 0 comments Links to this post
The Bride Stripped Bare delivers what the title promises: complete and explicit disclosure on the most intimate thoughts of a new bride. After overhearing a conversation implicating her husband in an affair with her best friend, the anonymous bride (whom everyone considers 'the good wife') embarks on a journey of sexual liberation in some pretty lit-erotic scenes.

The book purports to be a manuscript written by the bride, a modern day parallel to a sixteenth century text called Woman's Worth, also a manuscript of liberation written by an anonymous housewife. Using a very intimate second-person narration (‘Your husband doesn't know you're writing this. It's quite easy to write it under his nose. Just as easy, perhaps, as sleeping with other people.’) in a series of 'lessons' (instead of chapters), the writing is lyrical and even almost poetic at times. It conveys the sensitivity and insecurities of the anonymous bride, even as she revels in living out her sexual fantasies in a range of illicit activities.

The author (now outed as Nikki Gemmell) said she published the book as anonymous because it allowed her to write without reservation or embarrassment (although she's now had plenty of both, as well as royalties to boot). I can see why that might be – it’s easy to assume that she’s channeling her own sexual fantasies and living vicariously through her character. But to her credit, the book has more depth than just ‘the sex parts’. The bride struggles to contain her conflicting desires – her love for her husband (who doesn’t fulfill her sexually) and engaging in an adulterous affair (which meets her every sexual need) – and it is this internal struggle that lies at the core of The Bride Stripped Bare. It's the age old question of Madonna or whore – submissive wife or sexual aggressor – told using a different perspective.

One big thing that I don't think works in this book is the 'grab' that sandwiches the contents – we are informed that the bride has suddenly disappeared. It's intriguing at first, but ultimately it's a flimsy device that doesn't quite have the intended effect because her disappearance isn't anchored to any event in the book, leaving us with a big ‘huh?’ at the end.

The Bride Stripped Bare is like reading the journal of an extremely insecure and confused 30-something woman – something that many chicklit readers may relate to and enjoy. Personally I couldn't relate to the character's point in life at all, but still enjoyed the book. Recommended.

Friday, October 23, 2009

One Day, David Nicholls

Posted by lea at 11:17 AM 2 comments Links to this post
This is a big novel, in both length and content, but very easy to read. Spanning two decades in the lives of Emma and Dexter, One Day opens on their first night together after their university graduation, and revisits them each year on the same day for the next 20 years.

This is much more than the usual short period of courting followed by the inevitable get together that you see in most books or movies about relationships – instead you get the whole deal. Career highs and lows, yearnings that go unsatisfied for years, the idealism of youth, the cynicism of disappointment, and the onset of middle-age. Nicholls takes you right inside the characters where everything is exposed. They become your best friends and you get to know them more intimately than most fictional characters – they really get into your skin.

Dexter is cocky, good-looking and confident while Emma is less sure of herself – passionate, idealistic and utterly in love with Dexter while trying desperately to hide it. Their trajectories touch and skim and weave in and out through the years, and through it all, there's a strong magnetism that holds them together – friendship, yearning, goodwill and love. It's not soppy in any way – if anything it's too real. It's a funny book, well written and very enjoyable, and very very moving. It's not a 'tear jerker' but you will cry. And then it'll stay with you when you turn the last page and wish for more.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Spellman Files, Lisa Lutz

Posted by lea at 3:15 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I like my comedies funny, and bookwise, they don't get much funnier than this. The kooky Spellmans are a family of private investigators (Spellman Investigations) who are completely and utterly endearing. Mum and Dad Spellman fell in love over a stake-out many years ago and the kids grew up learning how to pick locks, tail suspects and solve mysteries.

Lisa Lutz's narrative voice is pitch-perfect as Izzy (Isabelle) Spellman, 30-year old wild-child with a perfect lawyer brother and adorably precocious younger sister. Izzy considers herself the family screw-up, but it's obvious to see the PI genes run thick in her blood, as she's not afraid to get into some tough corners to solve a case.

You'd be excused in thinking that Izzy may have ADHD, because the book has chapters and sections that seem to jump all over the place, but the underlying thread being unravelled is the story of the Spellmans through Izzy's eyes, and her place in the family. When baby sister Rae goes missing, she is launched into the most personal case of her life.

The Spellman Files is highly recommended if you like a laugh and are in the mood for a quick and funny read. There are two sequels: Curse of the Spellmans and Revenge of the Spellmans, both of which I've ordered from the Book Depository, so expect to hear more about the Spellmans from me.

You may also enjoy:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Heliopolis, James Scudamore

Posted by lea at 4:50 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Heliopolis is a gritty book told from the point of view of Ludo dos Santos, a baby born in the slums, who eventually becomes adopted by one of the wealthiest families in São Paulo. Straddling the chasm between the two classes, Ludo's is a mind that is not at ease with his good fortune. He, more than ever, recognises the fucked up state of the world, where people from the favela (city slums) struggle for scraps while the rich avoid traffic by flying overhead in personal helicopters, which has a particularly personal bearing on him as he struggles with a sense of unbelonging.

The story is well paced and interesting, and the rich, teeming pulse of São Paulo is as strong a character in this novel as any of the human-characters. However the real revelation is in the writing. James Scudamore is a brilliant writer. No other way to put it. From the first page you understand that you're in the hands of a master. He can take the reader where he wants us to go, so our journey takes us into the twists and turns of the struggling mind and partially-formed identity of Ludo, who is spared from being spoiled (despite all his money and opportunities) by his self-doubt, constant self-scrutiny and lack of identity. Alternating chapters take us from his present world (sleeping with his married adopted sister, working in a job he hates, accidentally inciting a shooting) to glimpses of his past, and wondering about the mysterious father he never knew.

Heliopolis is a book about identity and belonging, written by a truly talented young writer. It's messed up but beautiful in its own way, as we see Ludo try to make sense of his place in the world.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Gave me a laugh today

Posted by lea at 1:44 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Education, film review

Posted by lea at 1:39 PM 0 comments Links to this post
An Education is a coming of age tale about a bright young schoolgirl who is seduced by an older man. Thanks to a great script by Nick Hornby and the direction of Lone Scherfig, this story, based on the memoir of British journalist Lynn Barber, manages to be charming, light and even funny, without deprecating any of its characters.

The synopsis (from Sundance Film Festival):
Attractive, bright, 16-year-old Jenny is stifled by the tedium of adolescent routine; she can’t wait for adult life to begin. One rainy day her suburban existence is upended by the arrival of a much older suitor, David. Urbane and witty, David instantly charms Jenny and introduces her to a glittering new world of classical concerts, art auctions, smoky bars, and late-night suppers with his attractive friends. He replaces Jenny’s traditional education with his own more-dangerous version. Just as the family’s long-held dream of getting their brilliant daughter into Oxford has seemed within reach, Jenny is tempted by another kind of life.

The film depicts post-war 1961 London with authenticity – alternating between the dreariness of Jenny's Twickenham home and her well-meaning parents with their limited understanding, and the glamour of city life with David and his sophisticated friends. The actors, including a roll call of British talents like Emma Thompson, Peter Saarsgard, Alfred Molina, Olivia Williams and Rosamund Pike, do a wonderful job, but Carey Mulligan, a relative unknown, shines in the star role.

The script, in my opinion, is nothing short of brilliant, and exactly what you'd hope for from Nick Hornby, author of About A Boy, High Fidelity and Fever Pitch, among other very good books. His dialogue is pitch-perfect, making the story charming rather than sordid, wry and moving instead of sad. Rather than focusing solely on the inappropriateness of Jenny and David's relationship, it explores the person and journey of the very charming and intelligent Jenny, whose verve strains against the limitations placed on her as a young female in the 1960s. Perhaps it's a rather ideal view of what Barber calls, 'a dark, shameful memory', but Hornby's interpretation creates 'sunlight and glamour' in a life lesson learnt the hard way.

Monday, October 12, 2009

We Are All Made of Glue, Marina Lewycka

Posted by lea at 5:11 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Marina Lewycka has a way of bringing really interesting relationships to the page. In We Are All Made of Glue, copywriter Georgie, whose husband has just left home, forms an unlikely friendship with the glamorous bag lady down the street, Mrs Shapiro. When Mrs Shapiro is forcibly moved to a nursing home, Georgie attempts to come to her rescue, battling dodgy real estate agents, bossy hospital administrators and useless home renovators along the way.

There are some truly funny moments in We Are All Made of Glue, and Lewycka's strength as a writer is shown in the fact that these moments, as slapstick as they are, do not appear corny or contrived – they are genuinely laugh-out-loud funny.

As with her previous books, Lewycka's fascination with immigrants is evident (something I love about her work), with an underlying theme here being the attempt to understand the Israeli-Palestinian war. Depicting characters from both sides of the scene, this book is neither judgmental nor sit-on-the-fence, but really focuses on the effects of the fallout on the micro level of everyday human affairs.

Mature and genuine humour seems to be the hallmark of Lewycka's writing, and this is evident in We Are All Made of Glue. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The power of dance

Posted by lea at 5:30 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Not since Elaine has any other dancer elicited this sort of response from me...
Just loved it!

500 Days of Summer

Posted by lea at 5:15 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Shakespeare wrote, 'the course of true love never did run smooth' (A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1959) – a statement Hollywood has been trying to debunk since the inception of romance films. And this is why 500 days of Summer is so refreshing – love doesn't go smoothly and the guy doesn't get the girl. We're told that from the outset (the film's tagline is 'Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn't.'), yet this is a more truthful, energetic and enjoyable romance film than most.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Tom, a greeting card writer who meets, falls in love with, is heartbroken by and finally gets over Summer in 500 days – hence the title. Summer (played by Zooey Deschanel) is a beautiful and complex character who is cynical about love, but does like Tom. The fact that love doesn't work out perfectly between these two already gives this movie an edge over its predecessors in the genre – it's more realistic, more grown up.

While I found the character of Summer annoying at times, both leads were quite believable. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was also a much better fit in this film than his role in G.I. Joe.

The most enjoyable parts of this film were the creative quirks, like the sudden breakout song and dance, the reality/expectation sequence, and the back-and-forth calendar countdown throughout the movie. I also loved the chalkboard wall.

500 Days of Summer is worth watching in my books – especially if you like your movies with a good dose of clever creativity.

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