July 25, 2009

Movie Review: Brick



Just saw this really good movie called Brick. It's like a film noir (Think The Maltese Falcon or Chinatown) set in a modern California high school. It starts with a note dropped in a locker. The note leads to a pay phone, where our protagonist, Brendan, gets a phone call from his ex-girlfriend, Emily. She's scared, and she won't say why, only sobs out some words like bad brick . . .Tug . . .poor Frisco. . .the Pin. What do these words mean?

Brendan goes back to school, where he hasn't shown up for months and talks to Brain, who is the eyes and ears of the school. He doesn't fit in with any clique, but he knows everyone and everything that goes down. Brendan is stand up guy. He doesn't want to get back together with Em, but she asked for his help so . . .

So starts a search for the truth that will have Twin Peaks fans and film noir fans drooling. To get to the truth, Brendan will have to use all of his connections, both positive and negative, to navigate this course. We meet school administrators, druggies, brainiacs, jocks, drama geeks, and drug lords that will all help solve the mystery. And of course, we meet the femme fatale who will maybe or maybe not end up being who she seems to be. You will be guessing until the end. The movie was loads of fun.

July 23, 2009

Movie Review: The Soloist

Got a chance to see the Soloist the other night. This film showed in a concrete way that you can't force someone to change unless they are ready.

This is based on a true story, and it's believable. Steve Lopez (Robert Downy, Jr in another great role) is a cynical journalist. He knows how to find the good story out of the most mundane circumstances. He isn't above interviewing anyone if it means he will get some readers to enjoy his column. He makes a personal bike accident sound thoughtful and provoking, as he rhapsodizes about the state of a neighborhood hospital.

One day he comes upon Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) , who is homeless and rambles when he talks. Yet he tells Lopez that he used to attend Julliard. After checking out his story, Lopez takes a special interest in Ayers and decides he would make a good human interest piece. Lopez interviews him and listens to him play, but it's all word related---at first. Then he starts to get involved in Ayer's life, and he begins to take a genuine interest in Ayers. Lopez sees the talent in Ayers and he wants to see that talent get used. Here is where I think the movie flopped in most people's eyes.

We all love an underdog story. We want to see that homeless person defeat all of his monsters and settle down in a nice, normal life. Lopez wants him in an apartment, possibly giving concerts and sharing his music with the world. And if he (Lopez) gets some of the credit for bring this talent to light, well that's quite all right with him. In the traditional film, Ayers would have pulled himself up by his bootstraps and live happily ever after. We like that.

What happens instead is much more realistic and true.

July 20, 2009

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith


This book was different, I will give you that. Seth Grahame-Smith takes Austen's classic Regency novel and adds an extra element to the story. While Elizabeth Bennet and the incorrigible Mr. Darcy are turning circles around one another, alternating between hatred and passion, zombies are trying to infiltrate homes and lunch upon brains, brains, brains! The Bennet girls are all of them masters of all manner of zombie killing skills, trained in a real dojo. This explains Elizabeth Bennet's liberal manner. So much of the original text is included. This is the first time I have been able to read all the way through the book, and I have tried before. I love all of the Jane Austen films, but I have found the reading to be dry. It can be difficult for a reader to adjust to some of the old-fashioned style of writing. The zombies add a much needed zap of humor to the mix. For example, when Darcy and Elizabeth finally fight zombies together, they laugh together because they catch the zombies eating cauliflower, mistaking it for brains. The zombie episodes add just a dash of interest. So this is a great way to get teens or horror lovers to read a much beloved classic.