March 24, 2008

Book Review: Phantom Nights


Take one rape and murder case, add a misunderstood child, and mix it all with some good old Southern hospitality, and you get a ghost tale that will make your skin crawl. Phantom Nights is an absorbing tale of murder, lust, racism, greed, and guilt. If you liked To Kill a Mockingbird or the film, In the Heat of the Night, you will find much to appreciate here.

Priest Howard, a wealthy Southern gent, has just died. Moments before his last breath, he accused his son, Leland, of being a thief in front of his black nurse, Mally Shaw. Leland is sure that Mally has evidence that will sink him in the upcoming elections. In the hopes of retrieving the evidence, Leland pays Mally a "friendly" visit, which ends badly for Mally. Leland covers up the evidence and believes the incident is over. There are only two problems. One, there was a witness. And two, Mally's ghost can't seem to rest until Leland's sins are brought to light and punished.

The characters are clearly drawn. The prose is written in a lyrical style that is poetic. This has real Southern flava. Has there ever been a more despicable character than the Bobby Gambier's mother-in-law? Leland Howard is the perfect bad guy, who starts out the book a suave, confident politician and gradually shrinks to a pathetic shrimp with an oral fixation. Readers who enjoy murder mysteries, ghost stories, or Southern fiction will love this so it has wide appeal. Read it in the summertime with a nice, tall glass of lemonade.

March 12, 2008

Movie Review: Be Kind Rewind

I expected Be Kind Rewind to be a seriously funny movie. I find anything Jack Black says to be funny. And I don't just mean the regular "funny" here. I mean laughing on the ground, snorting through your nose type funny. I was surprised instead to find a heartwarming tale of a community and how it comes together to support one of their own against that Big Bad Wolf called consumerism.
It is set in one of those neighborhoods where everyone knows everyone. There are crazy, quirky characters. They tolerate each other and even feel fondness for one another. On the corner is the little video shop where you can rent a video for a dollar a day.

The video shop is owned by Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover), an aging man who is proud of his shop. He is equally proud of the history and tells everyone how Fats Waller was born in that building. The loyal clerk is Mike (Mos Def). Jerry (Jack Black) is Mike's friend who is always talking him into doing stupid stuff. On one such occasion, Jerry gets electrocuted, and his brain is magnetized. Mr. Fletcher is "out of town" doing research at the chain video store (think Blockbuster). When Jerry comes into work the next day, his magnetized brain erases all the videotapes.

Mike and Jerry decide to "remake" Ghostbusters to keep one of their regular customers happy. The re-made videos are shot like home movies with cheap special effects and lousy versions of the theme song. The two know they are in big trouble . . . but then . . .the unthinkable happens. People like the videos, and they want more. Mike and Jerry, along with some new friends, start re-making movie after movie. It becomes a pet project. They are raking in the cash. Will it stop the big, bad city builders from tearing down their beloved shop?

This was a cute film. Not a great one, but it shows the power of movies to bring people together. I found the end to be the best part.

Book Review: Candy in Action by Matthue Roth


Candy is the girl we all want to be: smart, beautiful, popular, and seemingly cold as ice. She runs with the pretty people all over the globe, mostly her wealthy friend, Velma. Although her parents are wealthy, she chooses to live on her own economic means. She goes to college, works part-time as a waitress, and part-time as a model. Where love is concerned, she makes herself as unavailable as possible. She is aware of her good lucks and effect on men and uses it to full advantage.

All seems kosher until she achieves the ultimate celebrity dream and meets her own personal stalker, a rich man named Preston with access to all sorts of transportation and manpower. He wants to hunt her down and force her to date him. When she refuses, he brings in manpower. Candy is equally determined not to date him and runs around the globe trying to avoid him. Oh, and did I mention she knows kung fu?

March 07, 2008

Library Program: Passion for Chocolate


What do you have to do to get guys to come to a teen program? Apparently offer fondue. My passion for chocolate program was a hit with guys and gals alike. The biggest surprise was that I had more guys than girls, though.

We started off by playing a few games. First, I had a jar of chocolate M & M's. They had to guess how many candies were in the jar. The winner got to take home the jar.


The next game I got from the ya-yaac listserv. I divided the groups into two teams. Each team got a pair of mittens. Each person had to run to the end of the room, open a mini chocolate with the mittens on, eat the chocolate, and run back. The people on the winning team each received a box of message heart. It was messy and lots of fun.

March 06, 2008

Movie Review: No Country for Old Men


I went to see this movie last weekend. After the big Oscar win, No Country came back to the local theaters. The movie is about accidents and being at the wrong place at the wrong time and how being evil sometimes comes with a code of morals.

There are three major players: Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who stumbles across a drug deal gone bad, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), who starts out chasing Llewelyn for the money and ends up chasing him because of the fact that his chase is taking so long, and Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), a sheriff who cracks up and becomes useless. It has a signature Coen brothers look: lots of dreary landscapes and very macabre characters. This is a great movie for all of those cynics out there.

I think of this movie as mostly a character study. It got an Oscar for screenplay, which I don't think was the strongest part of the movie for me.