First off, I need to give a shout out to , who gave me a premium membership as thanks for doing a commission for him, which you can see in his gallery if you're at all interested in checking out a piece that I put a lot of time and effort into:
Okay, now on to my book and movie recaps.
This is kind of unusual. I only have a couple more books under my belt since last time. That's not the unusual part. What is unusual is that the number of movies I've watched lately barely surpasses the number of books I've read.
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
I really need to read more of Terry Pratchett's work. To my chagrin, I think I had this Discworld book for nine years before I finally sat down and read it. The plot is ostensibly about a girl's attempt to become the first female student at Unseen University, a school for wizards (unlike at Hogwarts, in the Discworld, traditionally, only males are wizards). I enjoyed the book a lot and laughed out loud several times while reading it, but maybe I thought the story could have been a bit less meandering. They don't actually get to the school until relatively late in the narrative and so the part about struggling to be accepted into the school actually takes up a surprisingly small portion of the book. But it was a fun read. I want to read more about a couple of the characters that were introduced in the book now.
Not Quite Dead Enough by Rex Stout
Another Nero Wolfe mystery. Actually, it's two mysteries. It gives the impression of being a novel, but when the murderer is caught halfway through the book, I realized that it's really two novellas linked together by the fact that Wolfe and his assistant, Archie Goodwin, are involved in the war effort in both. It's a mostly an amusing read, but not the best. Also, I was once again perturbed by another ending in which Wolfe manipulated the murderer into committing suicide. Usually, he's at least a little sneaky about it, but in this case, he's overtly cold-blooded, giving the murderer the choice of either taking their own life or facing scandal and ruin. If I'd been the killer, out of sheer vindictiveness, I might have taken Wolfe and Goodwin out with me; there was a pretty good opportunity to do so. And it always seems like Wolfe would prefer the killer to end things quickly, not so much out of some sense of justice, but just because his lazy ass doesn't want to have to deal with a lengthy trial. Just once I'd like the killer to surprise him and not play along with his manipulative game. Even though Archie is the narrator and arguably the real main character of these stories, in none of the ones I've read so far have we really learned what he thinks about Wolf "playing God," leading me to assume that even though he and Wolfe aren't on the same page 100% of the time, in this respect they are. If he displayed some moral qualms about Wolfe's methods, things wouldn't feel so one-sided and I'd be more okay with it when the stories terminate this way.
Woman in Gold
I'm not sure I'd even heard of this movie until my dad recommended it, which does not necessarily mean anything, as I am to a large extent out of the loop when it comes to what is playing in theaters these days; it's not like I can afford to be going to the movies much anyway. But my dad handed me money to pay for a ticket, so I felt obligated to check it out. It was good, but I can't say that I liked it quite as much as he did. If you're as ignorant about this movie as I was, in a nutshell, it recounts the true story of the legal fight over art that had been stolen by that Nazis... most notably, a couple of Klimts... in particular, the painting of Adele from which the movie gets its title. Instead of being returned to their rightful owners after the war, they remained hanging in an Austrian museum for decades.
I'm a bit wary of movies that are based on true stories. I don't question the main storyline about the paintings, but there were parts where it definitely felt like the human elements had been embellished in order to mold the real life events into a more conventional Hollywood formula. Specifically, I was a little dubious about Ryan Reynolds' young lawyer character, who starts out only caring about the worth of the paintings and then learns a valuable lesson about appreciating his Jewish heritage more. That felt like something that had been added to give his character more of an arc. And Helen Mirren's imperious old lady felt more like a cliche than a real person at first.
In spite of the rather cliche stuff that put me off early on, I have to confess that it ultimately managed to push my emotional buttons- enough so that I had to hold back the waterworks a couple times because I didn't want to cry in public, even in a darkened theater with only about six other people in it. It's not like I really needed a reminder, but this made me all the more aware of what a bunch of thugs and criminals the Nazis were. Now I need to finally watch the documentary upon which this movie was based. I'm pretty sure it had been in my Netflix queue at one point, but I unsubscribed from Netflix a long time ago as a money saving measure, so I just kind of forgot about it.
I saw the trailer for this on YouTube, then found that someone had uploaded the whole movie on there. The picture was not great quality and presumably due to copyright reasons, the sound cuts out during a scene where a couple of characters are playing Dance Dance Revolution, but since I don't have Netflix, and the library is probably not likely to have it (I'd probably be too embarrassed to be seen checking it out anyway), it was the best I could do under the circumstances. Anyway, I'm not sure it would have been worth renting.
This Australian coming of age drama is about a teenage boy dealing with the suicide of his father who weasels his way into a job as a gardener for a French dominatrix. You'd think this sort of thing would be up my alley, but the kinky stuff really did nothing for me and the movie as a whole was a bit of a bore. Despite having certain things in common with him (and I'm not talking about his sexual tastes), I really couldn't empathize with the kid as well as I wanted to- he was just too much of a brooding pretty boy with his cigarette dangling from his mouth. Actually, I was a little creeped out by his obsession with this older woman. He first finds out what she does for a living when, after his first brief meeting with her in a park, during which he unsuccessfully hits on her, he walks over to her house uninvited, lets himself in, wanders upstairs and stumbles upon her with a client. I half-expected his stalkerish behavior to lead to some sort of tragedy, especially since the imdb description I read said that the "innocent affair" turns into a "dangerous obsession," but I thought the opposite turned out to be the case. The kid started being dangerously obsessed with this woman, but things become more innocent when they get to know each other and he learns to sees her less as this fantasy figure and more as a human being, warts and all. The worst thing he does is have a couple temper tantrums.
Artists and Models
Dean Martin is an aspiring artist who gets a job drawing comic book stories which are inspired by nightmares his roommate (Jerry Lewis) describes in his sleep. The plot is pretty unfocused and inconsequential; it's just a backdrop for Lewis' schtick and Martin's singing. Frederick Wertham's crusade against comic books is satirized, but the movie doesn't really take a strong stance on either side of the issue. In fact, despite the affinity the filmmakers seem to have for the medium (the movie was directed by Frank Tashlin, a former animator) considering that Jerry Lewis' spazzy man child is the main comic book devotee in the movie, they almost seem to be making Dr. Wertham's case for him. Maybe this is hoping for too much from a Martin and Lewis vehicle, but the movie would have been more interesting to me if they'd had something more substantial to say about the issue instead of just spoofing it- like if they'd made it the central thrust of the plot- but then that thread is entirely abandoned in the third act when the story takes a random detour into into an espionage caper. Still, the movie has a few amusing moments and it's nice to look at it- it's bright and colorful and also chock full of sexy ladies, such as the guys' two romantic interests, played by Shirley MacLaine and Dorothy Malone.
Probably part of the reason I haven't seen more movies lately is because I've been binge watching Blood+. The 50/50 challenge is only intended for books and movies, but since watching this TV show has also taken up a fair chunk of time, I might as well mention it. Plus, it kind of fits, since there were fifty episodes.
I started watching that show when it originally aired on Adult Swim in 2007, but only got about fifteen episodes in before I had to move. I couldn't afford cable, so I lost track of that show, as well as a few others I was into, and it wasn't until after I moved for a second time that I finally stumbled upon it again. My dad gave me a Roku a couple Christmasses ago, and I never hooked it up, because it required a wireless router to work, which I didn't have until I had to have internet installed in my new place. I could tell my dad was annoyed that I never used the thing, which is ironic, since he always used to complain that I watched too much TV. But my sister helped me get the Roku to work during a recent visit, and I found I'm able to get a number of free channels through there, including Crackle, which has Blood+. I guess I could have just watched it on my computer as well, without the Roku, but I didn't know that at the time. I might not have powered through all fifty episodes so quickly if I hadn't been worried it might be removed from the channel, like some movies on there I'd been meaning to watch again. I'm still figuring out how this stuff works.
It's not the best anime I've ever seen, but it was nice to be able to finally see that show in its entirety- it had been so long, that I had to go back to the beginning and start over. I thought some of the mysteries dragged on a bit longer than was necessary, especially since I could figure out a fair amount before the characters or already knew stuff because of spoilers, but it was pretty good; I got a little emotional at the finale. Still, I was kind of relieved when it was over. I'd always kind of assumed that if I ever wanted to find out what happened in that series that I'd probably have to get it on DVD, but since I don't know when or if I ever want to sit through it again, I'm happier that I was able to see it for free... and legally. I'm not crazy about piracy, but I confess that part of what keeps me relatively honest is the fact that I'm normally not technically savvy enough to illegally download stuff.
Several years ago, I bought the movie upon which this series is based, Blood the Last Vampire, from a used bookstore, though to describe it as a movie is perhaps a little generous. I was surprised/disappointed when the credits rolled forty minutes in. Even though I got it used, I still probably paid too much for it. There's also a live action movie with the same title (because it's also based on the animated movie) that I rented once. That was pretty hokey, but I found it enjoyable... perhaps more so than the original. At least that was a real movie. I'd kind of like to see it again.