Thursday, March 30, 2006

A review of "Batman Begins"

by Christopher Nolan

Good for a couple of workouts; nice mindless action entertainment. Good effects, all-star cast. It’s a long movie but the plot was thick; I wasn’t bored.

I have to say, I’m impressed with Christian Bale in particular, whom I’ve seen in The Machinist and American Psycho. He exhibits remarkable range as an actor.

A review of "Bubble"

by Steven Soderbergh

These are the people that I’m a little afraid I’ll wind up sitting next to when I take the bus.

I didn’t know anything about this movie before watching it, other than it was a Steven Soderbergh film (which is why I rented it). About 15 minutes in I was about ready to give up – bored stiff. For some reason I kept watching, and things finally picked up at about 45 minutes. From then on, I was reasonably entertained. This makes the American mid-West seem a bit weirder and creepier than it is. I hope.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A story about "The Razor's Edge"

by W. Somerset Maugham

I started reading The Razor’s Edge last night.

After watching the interesting but somewhat confusing movie, I had to read the book to get the full picture.

I picked up my copy of the book at the local library. It’s a 1944 edition. Inside the first few pages there’s a note: “THIS BOOK HAS NOT BEEN CONDENSED. ITS BULK IS LESS BECAUSE GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS PROHIBIT USE OF HEAVIER PAPER.” All in caps, yes. McCall and Co would have liked to make the book bulkier; damn that pesky war.

Anyway I’m about 10% into the book and so far so good. Clearly the movie liberally took plot elements from the book and mixed them around. And already something has been made clear: Elliott Templeton (the wealthy chap played by Denholm Elliott in the movie) is an arts dealer. Apparently back in the day this was a bit of a scandalous way to make a living. Anyway, that’s why all those precious items were laying about and getting knocked over in his Paris home; he was buying and selling them. If that was explained in the movie, I must have been napping at the time.

I’m enjoying Maugham’s style but it is a little peculiar. He has a way of describing people which is a little strange. Here’s how we meet Isabel: “She was comely though on the fat side, which I ascribed to her age, and I guessed that she would fine down as she grew older. She had strong, good hands, though they also were a trifle fat, and her legs, displayed by her short skirt, were fat too….” He goes on, but this short bit with “fat-fat-fat” made me laugh out loud.

Here’s the discussion of Gray Maturin: he was “striking rather than handsome. He had a rugged, unfinished look; a short blunt nose, a sensual mouth and the florid Irish complexion; a great quantity of raven black hair, very sleek, and under heavy eyebrows clear, very blue eyes. Though built on so large a scale he was finely proportioned, and stripped he must have been a fine figure of a man. He was obviously very powerful. His virility was impressive….” Doesn’t this passage make you want to giggle? Later we hear that he “strained his heart playing football” so he couldn’t get into the army to fight in WWI. Gee and I thought things like that only happened during the Vietnam war!

In making these descriptions, was Maugham planning out who would play the characters on the big screen (and yes there was a 1946 movie version of The Razor’s Edge, starring Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney, which I now feel compelled to consume as well)? I’d swear this is done by many best-selling authors these days, but I guess I’m a little surprised if it was being done back in the forties already.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A review of "Mr. & Mrs. Smith (Widescreen Edition)"

by Doug Liman

Yes, this is a silly movie. Unplug your brain and enjoy!

A review of "Digital Fortress : A Thriller"

by Dan Brown

This book is hardly worth a review. Suffice it to say, "Digital Fortress" is not nearly as interesting as "The Da Vinci Code". The plot here is much less compelling, with fewer twists and turns. The book might have been interesting at half the length; as it is, so many scenes were drawn out that I kept thinking “will this ever end?”

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Why I recommend "The Interpreter"

Sydney Pollack does a good job with The Interpreter, a story of corruption and justice. It was suspenseful and twisty enough that I was never quite sure what was going to happen, and not disappointed with what did. Sean Penn does a fine job as the emotionally wounded, gruff cop; Nicole Kidman is ok as the traumatized PTSD-suffering interpreter. Notable performances among the cast: Yvan Attal, Earl Cameron.

Absolutely worth the watch; a good solid thriller, revolving around real-world issues. As a bonus there's all that great footage of NYC.

Why I recommend "Flightplan"

by Robert Schwentke

I watched the first half of Flightplan during my rowing workout last night, and it kept my attention. I ran over my preset rowing time without noticing. But I found the second half of the movie sort of disappointing – it didn’t carry through on the suspenseful buildup. Jodie Foster and the rest of the cast were all great; the plot was too far out, and I couldn’t suspend my disbelief.

It’s light material, probably be a good movie to watch when you’re sick, working out, etc.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A review of "The Razor's Edge"

by John Byrum

I watched The Razor’s Edge with a friend over the weekend. It’s the story of a somewhat shallow guy who acts as an ambulance driver in WWI, is shocked by the experience, and finds his life dramatically altered. He is unable to continue on the path waiting for him when he gets back home, and goes off to find the meaning of life.

The movie has flaws. There are several points in the film where I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on – motivations were not clear or well-developed. I plan to read the book, which I’m hoping will be better.

Nevertheless, the cast was very good. I find Bill Murray a fascinating actor, and his job here is quite good. If you liked him in Broken Flowers or Steve Zissou, you should like this. There are also fine performances by Catherine Hicks (who currently plays Mrs. Camden in Seventh Heaven), Theresa Russell, and Denholm Elliott.

My friend found the ending unsatisfying – she wanted to know what happened to everyone, and didn’t feel that the lead character showed much change after going on his quest for meaning. I disagree, though; I feel like it was a pretty realistic picture of what can happen on such a quest. Definitely worth the watch, for me.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Fun javascript demo

This javascript demo is fun. Keep dragging out more bubbles and watch your CPU hit the bigtime. When you stop the animation, your CPU returns to normal.

Trading with the Enemy

I actually did finish reading "Trading with the Enemy: Seduction and Betrayal on Jim Cramer’s Wall Street" by Nicholas W. Maier in February. Check out my review.

Why I recommend "Trading with the Enemy: Seduction and Betrayal on Jim Cramer's Wall Street"

by Nicholas W. Maier

Years ago, I read "Liar’s Poker", by Michael Lewis, and "Burn Rate" by Michael Wolff. Both very enjoyable books.

"Trading with the Enemy" is in a similar vein, but not as well done as either of those books. Nicholas W. Maier needed a good editor, or he should have put more work into this book himself. It’s just not well put together and at some points it gets a bit boring. The problem could be that there’s simply not enough story to tell and he tried to stretch it out.

Despite all that, there’s the core of a good story in here, and it is worth the read. I wouldn’t recommend buying it; check it out from the library if you can.