April 30, 2008

Movie Review: Thumbsucker

Do you have a childhood habit you can't stop doing? Sure, everyone does. Whether, it's biting your nails, picking your nose, or rocking back and forth, we all have things that bring us comfort. In Thumbsucker, we are introduced to Justin, a boy who sucks his thumb, even though he is a teenager.

Like most teenage boys, Justin has a troubled relationships with his parents, brilliantly played by Vincent D'Onofrio and Tilda Swinton. His thumbsucking brings comfort to him. His Dad ignores him unless it's to chide him for his habit, and his Mom treats him more like a buddy. Case in point, she takes him shopping for pretty dresses and insists that he call her by her first name to make her feel younger.

What follows is similar to what happens to Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes in Justin's life. He tries multiple things to make his life more meaningful: achievement, love, sex, drugs, and therapy. In the end, it's all meaningless. None of the things he tries ends up being the magic button that sticks. It's a journey of discomfort, pain, and growing to be a man. But this isn't just a depressing movie about how meaningless everything is. Instead, it's about how we try to make our life more meaningful through achievement or a relationship or an addiction that makes you feel fun or just numb. In the end, we're still just us with a thumb or ragged nails.

The performances in this film were great. There were many supporting characters that are part of Justin's path. Each of them plays the role convincingly.

April 21, 2008

Book Review: Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is one of the most popular authors out there. Her signature style is to confront controversial issues by taking multiple perspectives and writing about each of them with equal empathy. She has amazing talent. Change of Heart is a great addition to her body of work, but I have one major complaint. For the first part of the book, this story reminded me too much of Stephen King's The Green Mile. The perspective of Lucius could almost have been taken directly from the Green Mile serial novel. After the first half of the book, the similarities ended, but to me, the similarities were a distraction.

Shay Bourne is a convicted killer on Death Row. Eleven years ago, he was convicted of killing a little girl and her stepfather. Now he is convinced that he needs to donate his heart to the murdered girl's sister, Claire Nealon, who needs a heart transplant if she's to finish out the year.

The state of New Hampshire only carries out executions by lethal injection, which won't allow for an organ transplant. But, if Shay can be executed by hanging, he can be brain dead but have a still viable heart. Enter ACLU lawyer, Maggie. She wants to help Shay donate his heart to the little girl and, if possible, strike a blow for her anti-Death penalty beliefs. Then, there's Father Michael, the Catholic priest with a secret of his own: eleven years ago, he was on the jury that sentenced Shay to death. He wants to clear his conscience and help Shay make peace with the Lord before he dies.

Everyone wants to use Shay for their own cause, but no one is prepared for how Shay will impact their life.

Book Review: Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going

Take one obese suicidal teenage boy and put him with an anorexic looking superstar of a guitar player, and what do you get? Apparently, a band named Rage Tectonic. Troy is considering the best way to kill himself when he is interrupted by Curt, a guitar player who is famous at Troy's high school. Curt decides he wants Troy to be the drummer for what will be the next breakout punk band, Rage Tectonic. There's only one problem: Troy can't play the drums. Undeterred, Curt pushes, cajoles, and manipulates Troy into thinking maybe he can learn. Are Curt's optimism and spunk enough to turn Troy from a fat loser into a punk rock drummer?

Life has never been easy for Troy. His mom is dead, his dad is a repressed ex-Marine, and his younger brother can't keep the contempt out of his voice when he speaks to Troy. What does Curt see in Troy? It turns out Curt has problems of his own. But Curt doesn't need anyone. He's a free bird. The characters are extremely lovable. The narrator is witty, lonely, and filled with pain. We learn who this fat kid is from the guts out.

Let me tell you, boys will love this book. Parents won't. Be very careful who you recommend this to. There is tons of language and sexual innuendo. Troy is a very sexually repressed teenage guy who has never been noticed by girls. He notices them a lot in this book. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone under the age of 16.

April 02, 2008

Remember Me by Sophie Kinsella

I love Kinsella's books. They are fun and fabulous. The characters get themselves in the most awkward situations, and you, as reader, think there is no way things can be right again. Then, presto, BLAMO, life is beautiful and perfect again. It makes you absolutely jealous. You also want her flawed female protagonists to be your best friends.

If you woke up and had everything you had ever dreamed of, would you be happy? In Remember Me, Lexi Smart awakes from a coma to discover she can't remember the last 3 years of her life. Right before her accident, she was going nowhere in her career, had just been stood up by Loser Dave, and her father had just died. When she wakes up, she has the perfect career, the perfect husband, and the perfect body and face. She almost doesn't recognize herself.

But everything isn't as perfect as it seems. Lexi has no friends since she became a cut-throat businesswoman. And her husband, although handsome, seems a little shallow. Can Lexi find happiness in being this new, "improved" version of herself?

For more of Kinsella's books, I highly recommend the Shopaholic series, starring the lovable Becky Bloomwood.