Digging Out From Under the Pile


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – Review

Production companies: Kerner Optical, Paramount Pictures, Lucasfilm, Amblin Entertainment, Santo Domingo Film & Music Video
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchette, John Hurt, Ray Winstone

Rating: 4

As I think I once mentioned, I go into movies with the only expectation being that I’ll be entertained. I was entertained by Indy 4, but it just didn’t seem quite…in tune. I think part of the reason why I’ve given it as high of a rating as I have is because of the good will that I have towards the franchise, and the movie certainly didn’t kill the good will. I’ll probably go see it again on Monday with family, and I’ll probably buy it when it comes out on video to keep my collection complete.

But getting back to the movie. Indy himself has aged fairly well. I think one of my favorite bits was when he was escaping the Soviets and ran straight into a nuclear testing site. The exposition of what he’s been up to since we last saw him fell in line with what I would have expected of the character. I think the hardest part for me was the loss of Denholm Elliott as Marcus Brody. I appreciated the acknowledgment of his loss, but when they had Jim Broadbent’s character entering Indy’s classroom the way Marcus used to, it felt wrong. There were other little things similar to this that just struck a wrong chord for me, but I’ll acknowledge it could very well be because I am such a long term fan of the series. Plus, I’m one of those people with a degree in anthropology thanks in part to Indiana Jones. There were bits in the movie I did greatly like, such as the scene with one of Indy’s students in the library as they’re trying to escape KGB men. I also loved seeing Karen Allen as Marion again. The banter between Marion and Indy in parts was pretty darn close to what it had been in Raiders.

Overall, and I can’t believe I’m agreeing with a professional movie critic (spoilers!) here, but I think the weakest part of the movie was Lucas’ script. It was uneven and missed a lot of what worked in the previous films. The actors and Spielberg definitely did their best with what they had to work with, but Blanchette’s character in particular seemed cartoonish. As an Indy villian, I found Amrish Puri’s Mola Ram so much more real. The more I think about this, I think the root of these issues is Lucas’ attempt to change the genre of Indy from world adventurer to science fiction, “the aliens are out to get us”. Yes, I get that pulp storyline’s more in keeping with the time period of Crystal Skull, but I’ve always been more a fan of the ’30’s adventurers, even with the paranormal elements. When Indy 4 was announced, I really feared Lucas would be the one to sink the ship after the way he screwed with Star Wars (Phantom Menace, ick). He hasn’t sunk the ship, but he sure as hell didn’t help it with the insistence on alien intervention. Probably the best part of the movie were the action scenes and Ford, Allen and Shia LaBeouf put on a great show.

Final analysis, if you’re a fan of the Indy series, go see it to catch up with favorite characters Indy and Marion. If you enjoy action adventures in your summer movies, this is a good bet. If movies with some cheese and ’50’s alien theories aren’t your thing, stay away.

One more thing I found hilarious, I stayed past the credits just in case there was an easter egg scene. Not the case, but I was there with a bunch of high schoolers waiting for the same thing, and I heard one kid say “that’s the end of the movie?” Interesting how we’ve been conditioned to expect an extra scene after the credits with “summer blockbusters”.

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Iron Man – Review

Production Company: Marvel
Director: Jon Favreau
Stars: Robert Downey, Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow

Rating: 4.5

Review:
I’m a summer blockbuster kind of girl, and this was a perfect kick off to this year’s summer offerings. I brushed up on my knowledge of the Iron Man mythology before going to see the movie, but I didn’t feel like it was a necessary thing to do after the movie was over. I’m not sure how long-term fans of the franchise will feel about the movie, but I found it completely accessible to those with little or no knowledge of the character.

The back-and-forth of the opening timeline was a little jarring, but overall, I think Favreau and Downey did a solid job of establishing the base character of Tony Stark. This is a guy who enjoys himself to the hilt and makes no apologies for who he is. You can take him or leave him for all that he cares, but if you’re a hot lady, he’d prefer you take him. There are some points in the beginning which make this a slightly more mature summer offering, namely the bedroom scene with Tony and Christine Everhart, a reporter trying to force Tony to comment on warmongering, as well as the battle and torture scenes in Afghanistan. As I’ve never stepped foot in a war zone, I can’t comment on their absolute realism, but I felt as if they were realistic and Favreau and company were not romanticizing combat. Stark’s friendship with Yinsen is a great piece of characterization, and allows for Tony to grow beyond the playboy mentality to where it’s no longer all about him.

I think this was a great role for Downey, and really, can you now imagine anyone else in the role? Okay, maybe Jude Law, but Downey had Tony Stark nailed. I was also pleased that Gwyneth Paltrow didn’t annoy me as much as she normally does. If you were worrying about the repeat of a Katie Holmes in Batman Begins debacle, fear not, Paltrow displays some vivacity in this role. I would go so far as to argue her signing on again to the Pepper Potts role would not be a bad thing.

Iron Man is well worth the trip to the theater.



Rating system for movie reviews
May 5, 2008, 4:16 am
Filed under: movie reviews, reviews | Tags: ,

I finally thought up a meaningful system for myself for these things. First, I have naturally low expectations for movies, which means I’m usually entertained. Second, I’m very picky about what I’ll pay full price to see in the theaters. I give you my movie rating sytem:

5 – Would happily pay full price any time, and probably multiple times.
4 – Would happily pay full price only if I was going to see with friends and/or family. Matinee, otherwise.
3 – “Dollar” theater.
2 – Wait for DVD. Preferably from your library. If your library doesn’t charge.
1 – Don’t even bother with the DVD.



The Sugar Queen – Review
May 4, 2008, 4:03 am
Filed under: book reviews, reviews | Tags: , ,

Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Publisher: Bantam Books
Release Date: May 20, 2008
Rating: 5

Review:
Sweet story of newfound love, rediscovery of old love, and breaking out of old habits. A worthy follow-up to last year’s spectacular, and award-winning, Garden Spells.

I recommend both of Allen’s books to those who liked the movie adaptation of Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic, but couldn’t get into the book.

I picked up this advanced reader’s copy at the Public Library Association Conference in Minneapolis at the end of March.



Scream for Me – Review
May 2, 2008, 6:06 pm
Filed under: book reviews, reviews | Tags: , ,

Author: Karen Rose
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: May 13, 2008

Rating: 5

Review:

One of the best things about this book is how much story there is. Rose perfectly interweaves the romance and suspense of GBI Agent Daniel Vartanian’s story. Scream for Me picks up about a week after where Die for Me left off. Daniel is still contemplating what to do about the pictures he discovered in his serial killer brother’s cache when he is put back on duty to investigate a brutal murder a little way outside of his hometown. When one of the deputies processing the scene mentions the similarity to a brutal rape and murder that occurred 13 years earlier, Daniel is stymied that someone so well knows the particulars of the murder, but the man convicted of it is still in jail. When he investigates the original murder, he is shocked to discover the face of one of the girls in his brother’s photos. The shocks continue when he finds a woman waiting to talk to him who is the slightly older image of the murdered girl.

Alex Fallon has come back to Dutton, GA to take custody of her step-sister’s little girl when her step-sister disappears. The lack of respect she gets from the local authorities when pushing them to investigate the disappearance frustrates her, and she turns to the GBI. Alex has her own issues with the town as her identical twin was the girl murdered 13 years ago, her mother committed suicide right after identifying the body and Alex survived a suicide attempt of her own before her aunt, uncle, and cousin took her back with them to Ohio. Alex has never forgiven the town that shunned her mother, but she won’t give up on her step-sister, despite the obstacles constantly thrown in her path.

I could not put this book down. Well, I did the first night, but the second night I stayed up until 2 a.m. because I had to finish it. This is a book well worthy of Rose’s hardcover debut and I urge anyone who loves romantic suspense to run out and get their hands on it. If you feel the absolute need to read things in order, pick up Die for Me first, but I think Scream for Me can stand very well on its own.

**Edited to add: I got this advanced reader copy at the Public Library Association conference in Minneapolis at the end of March. I’d been salivating for this book to come out after reading Die for Me last year, and I almost tackled Heather at Grand Central for an early chance at the ARC. I restrained myself, however, so I’d remain in her good graces 😉



Bobbie Faye’s (Kinda, Sorta, Not Exactly) Family Jewels – Review
May 2, 2008, 3:05 am
Filed under: book reviews, reviews | Tags: , ,

Author: Toni McGee Causey
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: May 27, 2008

Rating: 4.75

Review:
I highly recommend this series to anyone who likes their action with a heavy dose of comedy and romance. This sophomore effort in the Bobbie Faye series doesn’t quite have the new shine the first can claim, but Causey more than makes up for it with her delving into what makes her characters tick, flaws and all. Causey perfectly layers an adrenaline-laced plot, with the slapstick humor of the universe, and spices the stew with alpha males who both greatly care for Bobbie Faye. Definitely a book to savor and enjoy, while railing against publishing schedules for making you wait until the next one comes out.

I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. This review is cross-posted to my LT account.



Rating system for book reviews
April 30, 2008, 5:44 pm
Filed under: book reviews, reviews | Tags: , , ,

As this is where I’ll be posting my various reviews, I thought I’d come up with my own little system for rating the books I read. I’ll probably do a similar system for movies, but more on that later. From best to worst:

5 – Shoot! I have to wake up for work in 15 minutes…Need. To. Finish. Book.
4 – I’ll skip dinner so I can go to bed on time.
3 – Cue bookmark. Cue favorite TV show.
2 – Does my kitchen need cleaning?
1 – Blech. Pull out the next book in Mount TBR.