Monday, May 27, 2013

Biblio Babble: Very...Out There...But Intriguing

The Read: What The Family Needed

The Writer: Steven Amsterdam

The Dealio: Initially, it is really hard to say what the dealio is here. We are introduced to an extended family. One part: comprised of mom, Ruth, (AKA Queen of Drama), her daughter Giordana and son Ben. The other half is made up of Natalie and Peter, (the 'rents) and Sasha and Alek, their sons. From the first moment this family is reunited, it is clear that turbulent waters surround each and every member. Alek is the most obviously...untypical. His first question, upon reuniting with his cousins is, 'OK, if you could have one super power, would it be flying or invisibility?' The cuzzes go along with it. And that's apparently that. Until Giordana finds herself able to render herself invisible. Over time, all sorts of powers appear and are developed, custom-chosen for each recipient. Just when they are most needed. Do they then run around, using their new powers to fight crime and right wrongs? Nope. OK, well, Ben does try, but with no satisfactory results. But what they do get is exactly what each needs most.

The Grading Session: 4.12 pengies out of 5. Heavily downgraded from 5 pengies solely because the sudden transitions in time, character and place are diffcult to follow. Part of that, no doubt, has to do with the fact that I did not read read this novel, but listened to it on MP3, which tends to cut off portions of lead-off words. But, in the home stretch, everything begins to fall into place, and a sweet sort of sighing acceptance as all the wonder settles in for a stay that lasts until the last words.

Lessons Learned: Sometimes people are heavily medicated into pathology. Not through any malice aforethought, but simply because the peeps responsible just do not know what else to do. Also this: a gift is given with the hope that it is used, developed and employed wisely. Try to remember this- especially around the holidays. Lastly this, as my brother Gregg once said, 'Family is everything.' Thanks, Gregg, for the reminder.

Cinema Babble: Absolutely Stunning Art

The Flick: Epic

The Voice Talent: Colin Farrell, Christoph Waltz, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Jason Sudeikis, Chris O'Dowd, Aziz Ansari, Pitbull, Beyonce Knowles, etc, etc.

The Dealio: Based on a book by William Joyce (and, OBTW, I am an absolute sucker for both the art and the storyline of this writer's entire catalogue of works) The Leaf Men and The Brave, Good Bugs. This is the story of a girl, MK, who, upon the death of her mother, returns to the middle of nowhere, where her estranged dad lives alone and -in full mad scientist mode- spends his time exploring the microscopic life of the adjacent forest. To the exclusion of all else, may it be said. Her arrival makes a barely perceptable ripple in his existence, although he has thoughtfully made plans for MK to join him in his hunt for the wee creatures who inhabit the countryside. When a weird quirk of fate reduces MK to the size of the aforementioned creatures, she finds herself equal parts Dorothy in Oz and Amelia Earhart. And she- and her dad- are forced to experience the pain and loss of ignoring one world for another.

The Grading Session: 4.919 pengies out of 5. This film is simply one of the most beautifully-executed ever. No detail is too tiny to be fine-tuned. No expression or transition is left to just happen. And the storyline is an important one, too. Alternately, Dad is frustrated by the daughter's skepticism: 'Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it isn't there.' Daughter, in turn,  is discouraged and saddened by her father's focus on the minuscule creatures of the forest, when she, mourning the loss of her mother, just wants to find her pain eased and be comforted: 'I am right here, Dad! Right here!' Both have much to learn, as do the small ones. Especially the small ones.

Lessons Learned: Ooooh, here's a goodie: 'We are like leaves on a tree: each individual, but all part of the same creation.'  Another one I liked is this: just because you are a slug does not mean you can not act like a Leaf Man. And, lastly this: there is beauty to be found wherever we look...if we only look.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cinema Babble: Whoa!

The Flick: Star Trek: Into Darkness

The Peeps: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto,  Zoe Soldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, etc, etc (etc).

The Dealio: Starting right off with a bang, Kirk and (extremely unintentionally), Spock, violate the primary directive during what is supposed to be just a fact-finding mission. Thus begins a nearly unstoppable action-packed sequel to the Star Trek reboot. Authentic to the brand, with all the gates and touchstones that make Star Trek a legend, even among- or maybe especially among?- those who never saw the TV original, STID flings itself headlong into a perilous and misbegotten series of adventures. Once again, Klingons figure as the main baddies, but there is much more going on here than that. The  addition of Cumerbatch as Khan ratchets up the intensity- but also the involvement of the audience- as he slings himself around the universe, seemingly super-powered and indestructible. A scene where Kirk punches him is classic: both amusing and horrifying at the same time. Everyone has his/her chance to sell it, and most do a really great job. Underutilised is Soldana's Uhuru, though and I do wish that Urban got to do more than offer the occasional snarky punchline. But, I quibble. This is a good and faithful, referential and respectable addition to the Star Trek canon.

The Grading Session: 4.871 pengies out of 5, for the above-mentioned reasons. And, yes, I am looking forward to others in the line-up. As always, your mileage may differ.

Lessons Learned: If a character walks, talks and acts like a duck, then that person, most def, is a baddie. Um, duck. And, then, too, even Vulcans can make, break and save friends and friendships. It just doesn't look like what we are used to seeing in these instances. Lastly this: what would you do, if you could  put yourself into the place of your friend, and act as he or she would have acted in the same circumstances? I am dizzy just thinking about thinking about this! But the results might be really epic. Discuss amongst yourselves.