Category Archives: movies

You sell what?

Since today is Release Day and we had some time on my hands, we stopped by Barnes & Noble to look for new releases, the two mentioned in my earlier post (Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook and the new Nora Roberts contemporary).  And I left with…neither book.

Entering the store, the nook display has been displaced, as have the usual “new releases” shelves.  The tables of trade paperbacks had been reduced to a single table.  Going upstairs, the mystery and romance sections have been moved (to the back of the building) and reduced by more than half.  Teen paranormal is now a a large section of its own.  The biography and history section is much smaller, and there’s a huge games/puzzles/toy section right next to the YA shelves.

I was not impressed.

The Roberts’ book was out, but after reviewing the cover copy I felt ambivalent about the book and coming series.  Renovating an inn in Boonsboro, Maryland?  Like Roberts’ just did?  Eh, that seems a little too close to reality and also potentially “see my cool town! sell my cool town!”.  The Brook steampunk was, in theory, on the shelves or an end cap.  But I couldn’t find it and neither could the salesperson handling the helpdesk:  not in romance, SFF, not on the new release table or shelf, nowhere to be found.  #lostbooksale

Here’s the thing:  I went into the store looking to spend at least $30 on books.  And I left with a single book, Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason, a mystery, instead of the books I was looking for.  I want to support my local bricks and mortar store…but it doesn’t seem interested in what I’m looking for as a customer.

 

After B&N, we saw Anonymous, which was very interesting to someone without a great deal of knowledge of the period.  I know enough to recognize the names and the political tensions, which fed the plot very well.  And Rhys Ifans was excellent as Edward de Vere.  I always associate him with flakier roles (the roommate in that Hugh Grant-Julia Roberts romcom, Xenophilius Lovegood, etc.) but he was terribly good at this dramatic role.  Vanessa Redgrave was brilliant as usual.

 

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SBD: Quick thoughts on 50/50

50/50 is both a comedy and a drama.  It’s been a while since a single movie made me laugh and also made me cry.

Pros:

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt is very good, with his squinty eyes and smile and young/old face.
  • For the first time, I was able to sit through a movie with Seth Rogen.
  • Anjelica Huston is a goddess, and more screen time would’ve been nice.
  • Excellent soundtrack.

Con:

  • Cheap, cheap way of dealing with a relationship that was already faltering and then foundered under the weight of serious illness.

For all that Adam (JGL) has a girlfriend in the beginning of the movie, goes barhopping with Kyle (Rogen) and has a casual hook-up after breaking up with that girlfriend, and then has the prospect of another relationship on the horizon at the end of the film, the key relationship of the film for Adam isn’t with a woman.  It’s Adam’s friendship with Kyle.  Kyle seems like Rogen’s standard character at first, but he’s the person who sticks around when Adam’s illness gets worse.

It’s a bromance.  Except unlike a lot of recent comedies, the relationship isn’t a function of slapstick adventures and it doesn’t produce toilet humor.

Very pleased.

Check out Ebert’s review.

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Drive

If I drive for you, you give me a time and a place. I give you a five-minute window, anything happens in that five minutes and I’m yours no matter what. I don’t sit in while you’re running it down; I don’t carry a gun… I drive.

The actors: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, plus others. The actor who plays Gosling’s mentor, Bryan Cranston, looks familiar but I didn’t know his name until I looked the film up at IMBd.

The plot: Gosling’s character, who has no given name and is listed merely as “Driver” in the credits, is exactly what his label says. He drives. Stunt cars, getaway cars for robberies. His own Chevelle (I think) for hours on LA’s highways. When he isn’t driving cars, he’s working on them.

He meets Mulligan’s character, Irene, and her little boy, Benecio. Is he attracted to her? It seems so, although he never articulates it and seems to have a more intuitive connection with Benecio. Whatever might develop is cut off when Irene’s husband, Standard, is released from prison. Standard seems defensive at first about this guy encroaching on his territory, but seems to recognize Driver’s inner badass and takes a big step back — he wants to stay clean and Driver isn’t imposing. But then a debt he owes comes back to haunt him, and Driver steps in to help. It doesn’t go exactly as planned, leaving Driver to clean up the mess despite his standard disclaimer of being involved only in the five minutes while the theft is going on and then the getaway.

Brooks was good as a sort of B-movie, connected criminal/investor. Perlman was grotesque (intentionally, I assume) as a lower level Jewish mobster angry with the racism of his organization. Mulligan was cute — she didn’t have a huge scope. Gosling was excellent as Driver.

At the outset, I wasn’t sure what to think of Driver. He’s taciturn, watching everything, judging, planning, but expressing little verbally or with his body language. Is his mentor taking advantage of him? Is he so shy that he can’t even express his admiration or desire for Irene? Staring contests and cartoon-watching with Benecio are the scenes in which he seems to connect best with another human being. Even his most physically intimate scenes with Irene (holding hands while driving, kissing in an elevator) are prompted either by her (reaching out) or something external (seeing an armed man who’s come for him step into the elevator with them). The most emotional statement made by Driver is over the phone, with resounding silence as a response. The silence of the entire film, in terms of soundtrack and background noise, is striking.

It isn’t until half way through the movie that Driver’s capacity for violence is revealed, and even then the revelation is just a hint of what is to come.

In a lot ways, Drive felt like a western. Where did that masked man come from? Where did he go when he rode off into the sunset? Except I’m not sure if Driver would have worn a white hat or a black one. Nominally, he is the hero for Irene and Benecio, keeping them out of the cross-hairs of an organized crime family. But would they have been better off if he hadn’t gotten involved at all?

ETA: Driver wears a quilted, white satin (or silk?) jacket with a huge gold scorpion embroidered on the back. At first I disregarded the scorpion but then when he first began to emerge from his stolid silence, all I could think of was the fable of the scorpion and the frog…which he later refers to when negotiating.

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Coming soon?

Saw a preview for “The Visitor”, in which Hiam Abbas has a role. She played Amal in “The Syrian Bride”, and did an excellent job, so I’m thinking that I’ll probably check it out if it comes to the new Landmark Theatre that opened on the east side of the harbor.

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The Syrian Bride

I watched a very good movie last night, The Syrian Bride. Set in the Golan Heights, it follows the fictional wedding day of a Druze woman who is marrying by arrangement a Syrian cousin. Once she crosses into Syria, though, she will never be permitted to return.

The small scale dramas are all about her family: her sister Amal, who is trapped in an unhappy arranged marriage; her brother Marwan, a very slick guy engaged in “business” (I assume smuggling or something black/grey market); her brother Hattem, who married a Russian woman and was disowned; and her father Hammed, a political dissent recently released from prison, who is caught between the political/religious elders, Israeli security, and his family.

The larger issues are political, of course. Israeli bureaucrats create a special stamp just for Mona’s passport, which the Syrian border guards cannot by law accept because of the dispute about the ownership/nationality of the Golan. The UN person is utterly frustrated by the attempt to be an intermediary between the two, ultimately abandoning the situation in order to catch her flight home to France. So Mona is left sitting in no man’s land, not permitted to go back home (her passport had been stamped with the exit stamp already, you see) but not allowed to enter Syria.

The dialogue varied between Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, English and French. Sadly, I grasped much more of the scant Russian dialogue with my defunct Russian than I did of the Arabic. Most of the Arabic I caught was numbers, greetings, nouns and verbs; just words, random shards of dialogue.

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So far behind

It’s been too long between classes and my laziness has caught up with me. I’m so far behind and floundering in this next class that I probably would’ve been better to repeat the last one before moving on. Ouch.

Random information: watched The Kingdom last week. Not really impressed with the movie as a whole. Could catch numbers and a few words in Arabic — greetings, thanks, etc. Was very impressed by Ashraf Barhoum.

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