Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2

The Flick: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

The Peeps: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham Carter, etc.

The Dealio: Quick question: are you a Potter fan or not? If you are, know the dealio. If you aren't: read the books, people. Read the books, then prepare to go on a cinemabiblio journey the likes of which you have not encountered in, well, 14 years. If for no other reason than the marvelous-ness of bringing kids- and their elders- back to reading- this entire journey would be worth the sadness of saying farewell. We knew it was coming. We knew the outcome of any battle to the end between the Boy Who Lived and He Who Must Not Be Named. OK, maybe we didn't have all the grace notes. But, in our hearts, we knew. We have sat on the sidelines- though it often felt that we were actually part of the roster- as Harry and Co. grew, matured, assed-off the way teens will, and finally, finally, found themselves. It was a magnificent tour de force. Now that it is over, there are tears as well as cheers. But, mostly, there are generations caring. That has got to be worth something. And, to me, it definitely is.

The Grading Session: Overall: 4.791 pengies out of 5. HPATDHP2: 4.967 pengies out of 5. Many have said that strong story lines were deleted (agreed. But did we actually want a 6 hour movie, or a HPATDHP3?). But for sheer no-character-left-behind, this movie excels. The special effects were wondrous, scary, elegiac and beautifully executed. I do not truck with two things: dawdling service and 3 D, so this was seen in standard movie house fare-type 2D. And I did not miss a thing. And the wonderful lagniappe of the whole deal was that we got to catch up with the people in whom we had invested so much time and energy. How did they turn out? Well, like the books and the movies: wonderfully. Go see this movie. But, really? You haven;t read the books? My niece read the books before she was a preteen! You definitely owe it to yourself. Get thee to a library, bookstore, eReader or audio book. (I can not recommend the audios enough. Jim Dale rules- creating a library of distinct voices. You owe it to yourself!). But don't take my word for it...

Lessons Learned: There is simply no substitute for an engaging cast of characters, a wonderful, flowing story line and a tremendous commitment to follow-through. Oh, yeah, and this: Harry and crewe rock!

The Tiger's Wife

The Book: The Tiger's Wife

The Author: Tea Obreht

The Dealio: This is a story ostensibly about one little child- and her grandfather. However, what this actually is, is a collection of short stories, strung like pearls in an Ethiop's ear, lucient and beckoning, scrumptious in description and spun as finely as the very highest grade silk. But. Still, short stories. The author- who is 25 years old. At twenty five, she is as poetic and lyrical a composer as any I have encountered, and spins a web of sheerest gossamer. Then, she moves on to another time, another starring character and another world. Either you buy into the conceit, or you do not. I wantedwantedwanted in desperately. But, for me, this did not happen. I got one-third through the book before I lost patience and...well, I moved on.

The Grading Session: 3.981 pengies out of 5. For sheer lusciousness, you can not beat the prose in this story. But, for me, this would have been better served as poetry. I -at my advanced age- refuse to commit more than 200 pages, less my age, to any book. Unfortunately, this one did not meet my curmudgeonly standards. If you like short stories, and adore delicious turns of phrase- this, certainly, is the book for you. For all others, maybe something with a longer string may be more what you desire.

Lessons Learned: Beautiful phrasing and elegantly descriptive flights of fancy may carry the day for many. Maybe even the majority. But for the rest of us, let us have something into which we can sink our teeth, our energies and our devotion. If you are here for 25 pages, then- POOF!- evaporating into thin air...well, I pass. Catch you the next time around. Or not. Depends.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thirteen Reasons Why

The Book: Thirteen Reasons Why

The Writer: Jay Asher

The Dealio: Clay Jenson comes home from school one day to find a wrapped shoe box, containing 7 cassette tapes, leaning on his front door. He soon learns that the tapes were made by Hannah Baker, a girl on whom he has an enormous crush. Here is what she says: 'If you are listening to this tape, that means that I have killed myself. And you are one of the 13 reasons why.' What follows are 13 stories, told from Hannah's perspective, about people who touched her life, and then cornered her in such a way that she felt driven to end it. The vehicle for telling the story is mainly call and response between Hannah's taped messages, and Clay's real-time reactions to her tales. But this is no mere Scheherazade, staving off her certain demise by weaving tales of fancy and fiction. This is the last, desperate restating of events , hoping for an eleventh hour reprieve. As such, it is gut-wrenching.

The Grading Session: 4.803 pengies out of 5. First of all, this is a strong, powerful, evocative story. But- as is usually the case with adolescence- there is so very much drama and eventfulness, that it is, at times, too-too-too. That was my first reaction. Then, I thought back to my own teen years, and began to recall how everything is as urgent, as important,as life-and-death as everything else. There doesn't seem to be any sort of sliding scale at work. And then, the book began to lose that sense of hysteria and breathlessness for me, and began to ring so-unfortunately- true. Context is, after all, a valuable thing. I also was pleased with Hannah's final words. I got the impression that Clay was one of the few (maybe the only?) one to actually hear them.

Lessons Learned: Never, ever would I want to be a teenager- or even a preteen- again. Next this: it doesn't take much to give a person in peril and pain a reason why not. I often think about a similar situation my son experienced: a classmate told him she wanted to kill herself over the weekend. His response? 'I really wish you wouldn't! I would miss you so much!' Of course, he came home and told us, and I, narc that I am, gave the info to the school and asked them what the plan was (counsellors like you read about on site the next AM ).
Finally, this: evil grows when good people do nothing. So- if you don't like what you see, if what you see worries something. Say something. It really does matter. You really do matter.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Transformers 3: The Dark Of The Moon

The Flick: Transformers 3: The Dark Of The Moon

The Peeps: Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Patrick Dempsey, Frances McDormand, Alan Tudyk, John Malkovich, etc.

The Dealio: The Toys With Attitude R Back. With a bigger budget. The (Earth- and Earthling-friendly) Autobots become aware that a spacecraft- the Ark- that carried an Autobot leader, (the Leonard Nimoy-voiced Sentinel Prime), to swing the outcome in the final battle for supremacy on home planet Cybertron, was hit by enemy fire and crashed on the Moon. Now, there is evidence that not only was the crash site was uncovered by astronauts during the first lunar landing, but also, that pieces recovered at the crash site were brought back to planet Earth. And, of course, placed in hyper-secrecy, in some sort of ultra-safe, Health and Human Services urban storage facility slash car-impound lot. In downtown Chicago. Well, at least it's not NYC or LA.
Fast-forward to present day, when our hero, Sam, is being a) supported by new hot-babe-GF, Carly, b) hounded by his RV-wheelin' folks to just get a job and c) fighting jealousy of Carly's multi-millionaire-boss, Dylan, who, clearly, is after his girl.
After failing to land job after job, Sam wanders into the madhouse masquerading as a high-tech firm run by Malkovich's Bruce Bezos. He is offered a a mail-room attendant. Which he accepts. Chaos ensues as he is sought out by a weird- and weirdly paranoid new coworker (the frenetic and vastly amusing Ken Jeong) and given a cache of documents outlining some strange doings afoot in the great Chicago metroplex. Before you can say 'Autobots, transform!' Sam and Co. are back in the Decepticon-hunting biz.

The Grading Session: 4.00612 pengies out of 5. Where do I start? OK, how about here: what did you think you were going to get when you walked into a theatre offering a movie called Transformers 3? Most of the special effects were decent. The soundtrack was clever and well-placed. Everyone got to shine for a few moments, and that can be challenging when you have to act to a blue/green screen. Face it, no one chews scenery better than Malkovich (OK, sorry, Christopher Walken. You do, sir). Turturro returns as conspiracist-in-recovery Seymour, and McDormand does her blandly-threatening bit as Sec Def. But this movie was still waaaaaaay too long. There is no excuse for this to go on so long that even viewers who roared with approval when the theme music came up in the beginning, began to grumble in their seats.

Lessons Learned: Again with the aliens/alien spacecrafts-as-bugs? Come on, peeps, let's get a little more creative. Next, in the words of Tyrese's Chief Epps: 'Why do the Decepticons always get the best ess-aitch-eye-tea?' Please see my rantique of X-Men: First Class. For the life of me, I can not see how the good guys ever win in these deals where they are out-gunned, out-finessed and out-numbered by the bad guys...until they do. This seems to be a historical template, dating back from Star Wars. Maybe earlier. Lastly this: Do not go to work for a guy who will not let you have red coffee cups on a yellow floor. This way lies madness. And, maybe, doing battle with some bug-esque creatures.