Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Adventureland - G. Mottola 2009

The A1 acting team signed up with Mottola (on future credits, perhaps? Paul and Clear History are both his oeuvres.) : Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart star along with Ryan Reynolds as seasonal workers, spending their summer of 1987 coming of age at a fun fair in smalltown America. 

Smart & cute enough, albeit rather predictable, and boasting a soundtrack overflowing with nostalgia...

Stewart squeezed this in between 'Twilight' 1 and 2, which can only be seen as further evidence of the sound judgement which along with her irrefutable acting skills will, I am certain, ensure her a long and solid acting career despite the vampire adventure and her glaring reluctance to play the movie-star game.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Lift Your Spirit - Aloe Blacc

You take the voice from Avicii's 'Wake Me Up'. 
You add the kind of black soul music I bought on vinyl in my late teens (James Ingram, Billy Ocean, Alexander O'Neal, Terence Trent D'Arby...).
You update it all to make it sound contemporary, but not trendy.

You end up with a sophisticated, catchy, ingeniously simple and yet overpowering soul album.

Love it (in case I hadn't already been specific enough about that)!


Monday, May 26, 2014

Despicable Me 2 - Coffin & Renaud 2013

Well, perhaps not exactly 'despicable' but certainly not very pleasurable, either.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Not A Star - Nick Hornby

Having recently explained my views on short stories, just to prove my point, I went on and read another one.

Just as Munro is always Munro, though, Hornby is also true to his own self : Sheer genius in depicting everyday protagonists grappling with rather prosaic plights, always carefully avoiding the easy way out. 
(My son is only ten, so hopefully no porn film starring him exhibiting an exceptionally over-sized prick is due to surface anytime soon, but you see what sort of situation I am referring to...)

Where Munro is poetic, Hornby is a lot less so, but then compensates for his elementary style in his ever so deliciously British sense of humour.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Funny People - J. Apatow 2009

A large part of the Apatow posse - Sandler, Rogen, Mann, Hill - and several illustrious cameos - Eminem, Sarah Silverman, Paul Reiser - appear in this comedy mise en abyme where Rogen's aspiring comedian takes up with Sandler's agonizing superstar.
Somewhere in between 'A Star is Born' (though I must confess I haven't seen that one...) and 'The Great Gatsby' (according to but with a lot of cocks & balls-talk.

However, where This is 40 felt soul-less, 'Funny People' was simultaneously darker and more heartfelt. Cancer tends to do that to a film, when well executed.

Globally OK, therefore.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Runaway - Alice Munro

The reason for my dissatisfaction with short stories is this : After I have finished one, I generally feel the need to close my book and mull it over for a while. I need to contemplate the ending and somewhat distance myself from the text. 

Problem is, this is just not very convenient when I am, say, commuting or waiting for something, and still have time on my hands. (I suppose some people can spend time quietly sitting down and just thinking; I'm just not one of them...)

What to do, though, when brilliant authors like Munro simply refuse to play by anyone else's rules but her own and persists in sticking to short stories? 
I comply, that's what I do.

Much has been said about Munro, and I side with most of it; her writing is thought-provoking and laden with meaning despite its apparent simplicity, like all skilled short-story writers.

Her subject-matter is slightly reminiscent of Nick Hornby's; little attention is paid to the setting, she focuses on the PEOPLE. The typical Munro-character, as pointed out by Jonathan Franzén in the foreword, is a bright, penniless young woman and her involvement with the people around her.
Now, I realize that might seem off-putting - especially considering the scandalously sloppy cover of this edition! - but I swear it's a lot more worthwhile than it sounds.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Killer Inside Me - M. Winterbottom 2010

And old-school Noir plot set in the deep South, Hitchcockian imagery, femmes fatales (lethal, unfortunately, mostly to themselves) and the first-person voice-over of a laconic Police detective - not exactly what I had come to expect from super-Brit Michael Winterbottom. 

This convoluted story about revenge and, indeed, the killer inside turned out to be riveting, and Casey Affleck was the creepiest psychopath since Norman Bates! 

... Perhaps the extensive and explicit violence the female characters are exposed to should have bothered me (on a more abstract level, I mean; as it was, I 'merely' fast-forwarded those moments to avoid puking) but I sort of felt they were justified by the plot, which after all stems wholly from his issues with women.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Golden Compass - C. Weitz 2007

This wasn't all that bad, surely?
Stunning scenery, top actors, an intelligent plot (despite extensive cuts in the novel - my son was outraged).

That only this first part of the trilogy was adapted to film is all the more disgraceful when you consider that disasters such as 'Beethoven' and 'Police Academy' were entitled to no less than five sequels each...

My views on the book

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Look of Love - M. Winterbottom 2013

Dream team Winterbottom & Coogan in a rather disappointing for terribly classic biopic about a businessman in porn.

The one fabulous thing about this was the role held by Soho (the London district!) and the settings (costumes, interior decoration, music...) mirroring the English 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s.

Can't help wondering whether there is any way at all to make a biopic function as a work of art?

For newcomers, my views on biopics :

Friday, May 16, 2014

Biba magazine

Where I find many French female magazines, particularly - sadly!! - those destined for a young audience, way too often contain articles entitled 'What do the boys think?' or 'A man's take on the issue', Biba is quite refreshing in its open, though not blatant, feminist message.

Regular reminders that women still make less money than men, for instance, can do no harm to the young generation, nor to anyone else!

Though that may well be its one originality, it's an important one!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

His Dark Materials, The Golden Compass - Philip Pullman

I plowed through this a couple of years ago, adored it and therefore insisted on reading it aloud to my initially reluctant offspring now that I consider them old enough. 
(After a couple of chapters, of course, their unwillingness had given way to enthralment. Good literature IS, after all, good literature!)

Admittedly, the plot can seem somewhat intricate for a ten-year-old, although Lyra's disneyesque 'daemon' alter ego not only tantalizes the kids but also allows for enlightenment and explicating. 
The plot is a young girl's quest in a parallel universe, sharing a common geography with our world, taking her from the Oxford colleges up to the North Pole (= extra fun for Scandinavians).

The trilogy predates Potter by a few years, yet the two have a lot in common (otherworldly exploits of an orphan predestined for great things). 
Pullman is more virulent in his criticism, particularly of the church and of parenthood. (Absent parents are a narrative necessity in books about youngsters - but downright evil mothers are few and far between in YA literature!)

Brilliant writing!

My views on the film

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - S. Spielberg 1989

Old-fashioned matinée adventures are not quite my cup of tea, even when staged by a master in the genre.
If, however, you throw in a young and handsome Han Solo Harrison Ford, plus and elderly and handsome Sean Connery, who was given the opportunity to spice up his dialogue with some Scottish wit, then I will quite willingly spend a rainy afternoon in front of it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Living History - Hillary Rodham Clinton

Clinton cuts straight to the bone and spares us long-winded recollections of her middle-class childhood in a (Republican) Chicago family : In less than 200 pages, we are already in the White House, dealing with the failed health care reform. 

The speed then slackens somewhat, though this remains a readable and interesting memoir, indeed a piece of living history. A bit detached and businesslike, perhaps, as she is after all a politician (more now than in 2003 when publishing the book) with an ongoing career.

The only bone I have to pick would be with the translation, which abounds with trifling but irritating mistakes revealing an ignorance of American civilization rather unbecoming to no less than three translators. 
(FYI, you translators, you might want to look up; Arsenio Hall (although Arsenic Hall was kind of fun), Mary Steenburgen, 'Angela's Ashes', Helsinki and perhaps make up your mind about the French translation of 'To Kill a Mockingbird'...)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Indigo - Frida Sundemo

Slick pop-music; a remote cousin to Icona Pop, but more elegant and laid-back, less in-your-face, though still upbeat.

Very runnable!

Also; her latest single :

Thursday, May 8, 2014

This Is 40 - J. Apatow 2012

This may well be 40 for Judd Apatow, but as for me, I certainly did not identify with any of the characters. 
Of course, that may be due to the sad fact that not a single one of them is anyone you'd ever like to have as a friend, even less resemble.

The 40ish couple seem to spend most of their time yelling at each other, and why they ultimately choose to stay together (spoiler alert, I suppose...) is beyond me. 

Paul Rudd is cute, as usual, yet it's sort of frustrating to think what this film could have been, what with Apatow behind the wheel and his whole posse in front of the camera.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Zero Dark Thirty - K. Bigelow 2012

Not only is Kathryn Bigelow not into romcoms, she seems to be aiming at the complete opposite. Like her previous films (rather few of which I have actually seen, I must admit...) this one was dark, violent and has a very realistic ring to it.
It was also fairly technical and - from what I gather - comparably realistic in its depiction of the CIA's struggle to track down and kill Usama Bin Laden.

It was well-wrought, and all that, yet I'm afraid I kept losing track of the plotline. 
I guess I'm more of a romcom gal, perhaps? 
At any rate, 'The Croods' was way more fun!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Croods - DeMicco & Sanders 2013

As a result from having been dragged to Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks/Other animated films for over a decade, I have developed a severe allergy to coming-of-age stories of all kinds, and nowadays refuse to view them anywhere else than on TV.

As a result from the above, I didn't get to see 'the Croods' until the other night, and I guess that served me right. I can't even remember the last time I had such fun watching an animated film! (The surprise helped, I suppose.)

The main character neanderthal woman was curvier than most children's heroines and - interestingly - had shaved armpits, but she and her bear-like family, evolving in a prehistoric universe extremely remote from any documentary you have ever seen, had me in stitches!


Monday, May 5, 2014

How To Get Filthy Rich... - Mohsin Hamid

Books written in the second person - the narrator addressing the narratee (or, in this case, perhaps the main character?) - are few and far between. And for a very valid reason! It is a cumbersome, constrained way of telling a story. 
Moreover, Hamid uses no proper names, designing his protagonists as "the pretty girl" or "your father" which is yet another stunt to pull off. If you think that is easy, try reading Paulo Coelho...

This life saga is devised as a self-help book, explicitly reminding you of this in every chapter, thus pointedly drawing attention to its own status as an object for you to shape - yet another bold narrative choice.

Much to my consternation (Well, I had never heard of the guy before!) Hamid pulls all these tricks off swimmingly! 
At least for a Westerner (at least for me) it was impossible not to draw parallels between his hero and Dev Patel's adorable character in 'Slumdog Millionaire' (yes, I know it's a book, but it's one I haven't read) (No doubt it's good, though! I read Swarup's second novel, which was first-rate!) and if you add an engrossing main protagonist to skillful writing, there is really no going wrong.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Iconic - Icona Pop

I am itching to label this 'girl pop' yet since I cannot for the life of me figure out what 'boy pop' would sound like (1D?) I won't be able to use that term.

I will, therefore, settle for dubbing it dynamic, catchy, up-to-date and easy-going pop music which is a pleasure to run to! (Probably also works for dancing.)


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Le Guide de la Communication - JC Martin

A guide is a guide, though they may greatly vary in clarity and content.
This one was easy to read, dense and on the whole quite interesting, penned by a former actor and communication coach.

If I didn't learn as much as I had hoped, that's probably due to my university degree and 15 years of practice in teaching. Besides, this guide was very clearly office-oriented, although obviously much of it was transferable to a school-class as well.

One thing I had never thought of but indeed now recognized as true, was that in each group you will find one person playing the role of each of Snow-White's seven dwarves;
Doc - the insufferable know-it-all (Hello, Hermione!)
Grumpy - mumbling and pestering about everything the leader suggests 
Happy - the clown who makes the others laugh
Sleepy - bored, refusing to participate, half-asleep
Bashful - full of insecurities, very little participation
Sneezy - incapable of sitting still for two seconds, let alone 55 minutes
Dopey - who never really gets the picture...

I suppose the similarities have more to do with the universality of human character than with any particular sagacity on Disney's behalf, tough...

Friday, May 2, 2014

Her - S. Jonze 2014

I have always enjoyed going a bit against the current, yet I'd feel a bit silly doing it just for the sake of argument. (At least now that I'm past 40. I'm not going to try to deny I've ever done it...)

I must admit, therefore, that 'Her', was just as excellent - romantic, thoughtful, intelligent, finely tuned, brilliantly acted - as 'everyone' says. 
Loved it!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Star Trek; Into Darkness - JJ Abrams 2013

1) Strangely hard to tell apart from 'Star Wars' which, I guess, was not intentional? 
(Or was Abrams, on the contrary, trying to impress Lucas with his credentials in view of his future Star Wars opus?)

2) Exactly how predictable does a film have to be for two 10-year-olds to foresee pretty much the whole plot before it happens? 
This predictable.