Wednesday, February 16, 2011

David Nicholl's One Day becomes a movie

Posted by lea at 2:54 PM 2 comments Links to this post
Hey remember the book One Day by David Nicholls? It's been turned into a movie with Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. This is the lovely poster for it:

I love the implied motion in the image, like he's going in one direction and she's going in another, but they clash in the kiss. The sepia colouring is gorgeous too.

Jim Sturgess looks much as I'd imagined Dexter while reading the book (cocky, a bit rumpled but charming - a little something like Dylan Moran), but I'm not so sure about Anne Hathaway as Emma. For some reason I imagined Emma as a blonde (I can't remember how the book describes her) or a bit smaller or whatever. But I like Anna Hathaway. She can do the gorgeous-loser insecurity thing well (like a girl who doesn't know how pretty she is) but I hope her British accent's up to scratch.

If you haven't read it yet, get yourself over to the library/bookstore/Book Depository and get onto it. It's hefty but a good one.

Monday, February 14, 2011

How Do You Know: 2 minute movie review

Posted by lea at 5:11 PM 1 comments Links to this post
This movie has copped a fair bit of flack by reviewers, quite possibly because it's not your typical romantic comedy. Directing producing legend James L Brooks (Broadcast News, Jerry Maguire, As Good As It Gets, etc) has created a more grown-up type of rom-com, where we meet two of the main characters at their lowest points.

While most rom-coms have the metaphorical neon 'they get together' arrows pointing to the love interests throughout the movie, this one's not so sure-footed with the characters, which makes for an interesting film even if it isn't bursting your sides with laughter.

Jack Nicholson overplays his part a bit, but Reese Witherspoon is quite charming in a totally non-Legally Blonde way. Most of the comedy comes through Owen Wilson, and Paul Rudd is... well Paul Rudd. A little bit of a bumbling nice-guy who you root for.

I have two free tickets to the movie at any cinema if anyone wants them. Up for grabs. Anyone? Leave a comment or email me by Friday 18th Feb and they're yours.

2010 Reading List

Posted by lea at 4:55 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Standouts: Light Boxes (Shane Jones), The Millennium Series (Stieg Larsson), The Sandman (Endless Nights, graphic novel), Neil Gaiman, Confederacy of Dunces re-read (John Kennedy Toole), Family Man (Elinor Lipman), Les Miserable (Victor Hugo), Cat's Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut)

Bombs: Fly Me to the Moon (Alison Noel), Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte), The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (MA Shaffer & A Burrows), The Case of the Imaginery Detective (Karen Joy Fowler), Air Kisses (Zoe Foster)

... which begs the question: why do I keep going back to chicklit?

Special Mentions: The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Muriel Barbery), Beat the Reaper (Josh Bazell), anything by Alexander McCall Smith.

Hmm, there's very little in the way of non-fiction, or even self-improvement type books or the ones that expand your mind. Shame on me.

Total: 69

City of Tiny Lights, Patrick Neate: book review

Posted by lea at 4:35 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I'm back on The Great Library Challenge after a bit of a break, and for my N author I chose Patrick Neate's book City of Tiny Lights, mainly because of the cool cover art and Frank Zappa reference.

The protagonist is 'Paki-immigrant Ugandan Indian English' hard-boiled detective, Tommy Akhtar. The story starts with such a corker of a private eye cliche (his client is a hooker who's looking for her hooker flatmate who's been missing since her johnny, a prominent politician, was murdered in a fleabag motel) that at first I thought the book was taking the piss out of the genre.

It wasn't. But neither does it take itself so seriously that you can't enjoy the ride.

In the way of good detective novels, the story starts with a simple premise that becomes increasingly complex as the Akhtar digs deeper into the case. What's unique about this particular detective novel is that the hero is an immigrant with a complicated background and completely dysfunctional relationship with his father and brother, which is actually kinda explored (though not fully) and not just glossed over.

I have to admit I got lost a few times as the plot increasingly moves forward at a frenetic pace, and there are a lot of minor characters that are easy to lose track of, as well as a host of MI5 and CIA agents, terrorists and 'thug-lites' who pop their heads in. But overall it was an enjoyable read, quite witty and patched together with a light touch.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

True Grit: 2 minute movie review

Posted by lea at 10:38 AM 5 comments Links to this post

Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld and Matt Damon are an unlikely avenging trio in this remake of a John Wayne classic.

I loved this movie for so many reasons:
  • the idea of a strong-headed 14 year old girl in the old west seeking to avenge her father's death is unique
  • the characters are really well drawn and they were beautifully acted
  • the Coen brothers did a great job handling the story, which is great because frankly I think they've had some hits and misses recently. 
It really stands out against a lot of the movies being made at the moment too (which is something the Coens do well) because Hollywood tends to make a lot of me-toos. There's never just one disaster movie, there are three all being made at the same time by rival studios, or two similar animated films or several romantic comedies all starring Reese Witherspoon.

In that environment, it's a refreshing change to see a major film genre (the wild west) being represented by a single film, and one that portrays some complex relationships with such understated simplicity. I say it deserves a liberal sprinkling of Oscars all round.

What a lovely story

Posted by lea at 10:23 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Check out this incredible story from the ever-reliable UK tabloid The Sun (I know that sounds sarcastic but it really is a fantastic story):

STUNNED Richard Morwood has discovered his missus is the same girl whose message in a bottle he answered 30 years ago.

Mandy English was just 13 when she hurled the note requesting a penpal into the sea during a 1979 school trip to Scotland.

Two years later Richard, then just six, spotted the glass bottle on the beach and sent a reply by postcard.

Mandy never wrote back because of the age difference.

But while sorting through keepsakes last week, she found the 1981 card and realised its schoolboy sender had the same name as Richard, her boyfriend since last June.

She asked the road maintenance worker, now 36, if he remembered the message in the bottle - and it suddenly dawned on them that they had "met" before.

Mandy, now a 44-year-old mum of three, said: "It was amazing. I then realised he was the little lad who sent me that lovely postcard all those years ago. I was so shocked I nearly passed out."

Now for Hollywood to The Notebook it. You can see the couple's picture at The Sun, but what's the bet that when the movie poster comes out, brunette Mandy will become pouty blonde Scarlett Johanson and Richard will look like Ashton Kutcher?

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Fighter: 2 minute movie review

Posted by lea at 4:00 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Christian Bale steals the show but Mark Wahlberg delivers the final KO.

Inspiring in the way you'd expect but still don't mind watching, The Fighter is a true underdog story. Christian Bale is fantastic as Dickie Eklund, a washed up junkie ex-boxer whose lost opportunities are now conferred to half-brother Micky Ward, played by Wahlberg (Bale's come a long way since Laurie in Little Woman).

The ladies are particularly confronting (Amy Adams as Micky's girlfriend versus his manager-mother and tough lot of half-bred sisters) but all the performances are solid and it's a very rewarding small-town-boy to champion-of-the-world story.

I Am Legend, Richard Matheson (graphic novel) book review

Posted by lea at 11:24 AM 1 comments Links to this post
The graphic novel version of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend borrows heavily from the original novel and follows the plot practically scene for scene. It's a little wordier than your average graphic novel, but that's understandable considering there isn't a lot of conversation, and most of the story is told by a third person narrator.

The text sounded to me like a dumbed-down version of the book, although I discovered rather to my surprise that apparently most of it is taken word for word from the novel. It sounds like they only took the most obvious sentences though: 'Robert Neville is inside the house. The zombies are outside moaning for him to come out.' (Okay, this is my interpretation and not a direct quote, but seriously the narration was just like that).

What's particularly disappointing about the graphic novel is that the images, which I think have a responsibility to add to the drama and read between the lines of the text, do nothing of the sort. If the text says, 'Robert Neville drinks a whole bottle of whiskey', the image shows him actually drinking a bottle of whiskey. Come on.

The best graphic novels, like the best children's books, have illustrations that add a new dimension to the story using layers and sub-text, but there's no attempt to do that here. There's nothing slick or sophisticated in the illustrations, and Ruth, the only other seemingly proper human being apart from the protagonist, is drawn very differently in different scenes. The first time they meet she's quite attractive, but when they meet a second time, she looks like a completely different person with a bulging forehead and bloated face, and there's no reasonable explanation for this fact. Did she suddenly contract down syndrome?

I think the only people who would really enjoy this are the ones who can't be bothered to read the original novel and want the story told in a simple format or young teenage boys. Actually scratch that last one, I think I may not be giving young teenage guys enough credit.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Black Swan: 2 minute movie review

Posted by lea at 11:31 AM 2 comments Links to this post

Natalie Portman goes mad, but does so very beautifully.

It's no wonder this is an Oscar contender - it's a beautiful movie and so tightly wound you can't relax for a moment. All the performances are eerily great, and the much-touted lesbian sex scene between Portman and Mila Kunis is anything but gratuitous.

It leaves you with a lot of questions, which I imagine is exactly what director Darren Aranofsky intended. I'd classify it as a psycho-thriller with a little bit of horror, but it's so beautifully made it doesn't look like it belongs in that kind of cheesy genre.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Freedom, Jonathan Franzen book review

Posted by lea at 3:50 PM 3 comments Links to this post
You'll have to forgive me because I'm about to gush. I LOVED this book. I loved the way Franzen manages to get so far inside a character's head it's hard to believe they're not really in your world. I loved the way the relationships between the characters dip and dive in a rhythmic pattern much like a dance. And I particularly loved Franzen's writing. It's seemingly simple but layered with complexity and insight in a way that makes you catch your breath at just how exquisitely one can wield the English language.

On the surface it's about a suburban New York couple, Patty and Walter Berglund, and the course of their marriage. They're ordinary people - so terribly ordinary - Walter the earnest nice guy and Patty smiling-so-hard-it-hurts to be the person she believes she should be but is falling short of. But it's in their very ordinariness that the novel becomes quite extraordinary.

In a way I think Freedom is about our need for particular people in our lives, and how it can inhibit our desire to pursue our individual liberties (our 'freedom') when what we want and what they want don't align. The way relationships tie people together, so when we pull at our end of the string, it can't help but affect those attached to us. Action and consequence are no better highlighted than in Patty's desire for Richard Katz, Walter's best friend and weathered rock star.

Katz, oddly, becomes one of the most intriguing characters for me. His love for Walter seems at odds with his image, yet when he hurts him, it's almost like he's doing it more for Walter's sake than to betray him. In the end you wonder if Katz, despite not really knowing himself, is actually the best judge of the human heart in clearly seeing what Patty and Walter's marriage really was (which neither of them were able to do or at least admit to), and then smashing it in order to put it together as intended. Or was he just a selfish bastard? There's that too.

All the main characters are complex and completely three-dimensional. There are even instances where things are set up so you expect a certain outcome, but the character's thoughts and feelings defy your expectations of what-should-happen-in-a-book with the realness of their instinctive response. It is simply marvellous. For example, when Richard goes back to see Patty and is full of coolly hesitant anticipation, but when he sees her he realises she's a pain in the butt and she's gotten kinda old. But it still doesn't stop him from wanting her.

The reversal of expectations extends through to the plot, where Patty and Walter's relationships with their kids crossover at a point when they're at their worst and in most greatest need. Patty basks in the glow of Joey's confidence and success while Jessica is an image of her responsible dad. Yet when the shit hits the fan, all the allegiances change and they find strength in the opposite parent/sibling. There's a certain elegance to this, as it shows just how much Patty and Walter need the influence of the other in their lives.

Despite how much I enjoyed Freedom, I'm ready to admit it's not a perfect book and it's not for everyone (if you get easily frustrated, don't even bother). There are a few things that, in my mind, weren't quite resolved. Like Connie's weirdness. Okay, we do begin to like her better by the end of the book, especially as she rises in Walter's estimation. But still - are we supposed to forget that she's a complete kook? Ultimately I thought she must have a mental disability (causing her unhealthy obsession with Joey), but I guess that's pretty true to life. From my time working with The Salvation Army and their clients, I realised there are a LOT of mentally unbalanced people out there somehow managing to function in the world, so I guess it's a reflection of reality.

If we're talking themes I think it's about human nature: our raw motivations, our inability to quash unhealthy desires even in the face of the purest love, the influence of the family on the individual, and the difficulty (but not impossibility) of changing our base and often selfish nature. But there is still hope.

It's easy to see why Jonathan Franzen is touted so hugely in America as a rising literary force (what a cliche, but in this case true). He could write the back of a cereal box and it would very likely win the Pulitzer Prize. I'm giving this 10/10.

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