Tuesday, March 30, 2010

read: Coma

Coma Coma by Robin Cook

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I was expecting more from this book. After all, it was a best-seller and launched both a major motion picture and Robin Cook's career. I'm not entirely sure why. Somehow the story manages to stumble along and keep the reader interested, but it has a number of problems. I personally hung with it only because I knew something would (or should) eventually happen. The characters are unsympathetic and stereotyped (to this 21st century reader) and the plot is thin. To top it all off, the writing is overwrought and overburdened with medical terminology (yes, I know it's a 'medical thriller', but still) and repetitive introspection and self-loathing. Disappointing. [More...]

View all my reviews >>

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"The Hurt Locker" [A-]

This is intelligent and compelling film-making at the highest level. The director succeeds in making the viewer a member of the bomb diffusing team. You're concerned. You're scared. You make it out alive. Or not.

The Hurt Locker (IMDb)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"The Informant!" [B+]

A light, entertaining film that works on a number of levels. Matt Damon is rock solid. All of the supporting characters are well done with several surprises mixed in (watch for Tom Smothers). Nice to watch a movie that doesn't end in a gun battle or a car chase.

The Informant! (IMDb)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

read: Pirate Latitudes

Pirate Latitudes Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Nothing to see here. Move along. This isn't the pirate book you're looking for. You want action. You want colorful characters. You want thrills and suspense. That's all stuff that Michael Crichton can provide. We've read it and seen it before, in The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, ER, and others. But this book doesn't deliver the same goods.

Instead, we have a bare-bones plot filled with stereotyped characters and pedestrian writing. The entire time I read it, I kept wondering when the wonder would kick in and it never did. I'm convinced that Mr. Crichton never intended for this version to be published and would be sadly disappointed that it was (or as murph wrote on his behalf, "If only I'd have encrypted my hard drive...."). Well researched, but woefully under-executed, you're better off watching Pirates of the Caribbean for the 14th time or reading the non-fiction The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down.

View all my reviews >>

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"Love Happens" [C+]

An odd love story that doesn't know if it's tragic or comic and never seems to generate heat or sparks. It would have helped if there were better chemistry between the two actors. Burke (Aaron Eckhart) is too obviously damaged goods, but we don't get any real clues about exactly why until the big reveal at the end. Oops. Eloise (Jennifer Aniston) is also damaged goods, whose chief talent, besides arranging flowers, is to act more interested in this odd man than she really is. Really just an average story [C], but gets an extra point for showing off Seattle (with the usual caveats about unrealistic geography).

Love Happens (IMDb)

"Alice in Wonderland (2010)" [B]

As expected, this Alice in Wonderland was a visual sensation, though I'm not sure the 3D added as much as it seemed to for Avatar and Coraline. One problem I have with 3D is that it seems to blur even more than 2D during motion sequences, which is distracting. I could barely make out all of the supposedly delightful bits that Alice fell past as she traveled through the rabbit hole. Once in Wonderland (or Underland), it seemed better.

There is definitely more story to this Alice than the classic animated version. Even so, the characters, with rare exception, did not move beyond the stereotype with which they were branded. Pity. That would have added a dimension. At least Johnny Depp got to stretch his acting chops by being both mad and devious. But why, exactly, did we need to have a grand battle in this story?

Go see this in a theater, but keep your expectations in check.

Alice in Wonderland (2010) (IMDb)

Friday, March 12, 2010

"Up in the Air" [B+]

Very snappy and stylish for the first half of the film. It almost made you want to be that guy, the one you see that gets tens of thousands of miles a year, that gets to stay in nice hotels, and wear nice clothes, and eat nice meals. But that's an important almost, because you still feel the emptiness of his existence, even though he doesn't see it yet. The second half is slower and more heartfelt. Yet, the two halves work together and tell a complete, though unfinished, story.

I thought Clooney was first-rate, as was the supporting cast. He starts out with just the right touch of smarmy professionalism--the same trait that he brought so well to Michael Clayton, where he also did a bang up job--that he then turns ever so delicately, with director Jason Reitman's help, into heartbreak in the second half. Good script, too. I can see why it got all the Oscar nominations.

"Up in the Air" (IMDb)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

"Battlestar Galactica: The Plan" [B-]

I appreciate what it tried to do. Sometimes it succeeded. Not very compelling. If I didn't remember enough of the series, it would have been incomprehensible. This is not good, a work should be able to stand on its own.

"The Plan" (IMDb)

Friday, March 5, 2010

read: Isle of the Dead

Isle of the Dead Isle of the Dead by Roger Zelazny

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I was never sure if this book was science fiction trying to be a little bit fantasy or vice versa. Zelazny systematically avoids giving us enough detail to make it clear. From the first sentence, it is philosophical. At times it seems merely a prose poem reflecting on life, death, love, wealth, and revenge. The sparse story is just a wireframe on which to arrange those deeper thoughts. Yet even these seem belabored, cold, and distant. The only character that comes alive is Frank Sandow. In the end, I wonder if we really care about him (or were even meant to).

View all my reviews >>