movies you missed: Quiz Show (1994)

quizshow01

A big-money, high-stakes TV game show becomes the subject of scandal when a Washington investigator uncovers corruption behind-the-scenes – implicating both the current and former champs.

I saw Quiz Show when it was first released on VHS back in 1995 and I instantly fell in love with it. I’m not sure why – I was 14, why would a movie about a quiz show scandal in the 1950s resonate with me? There was no murder, no mayhem, no car chases, no lightsabers yet it held my attention and kept me on the edge of my seat, leaving a lasting impression as a film I enjoyed.

A few weeks ago, I wanted to show it to a friend. I hadn’t seen it in a long time, maybe since the 90s, but I still remembered it just being good. We sat down to watch it and for a moment I was worried it might be awful, that maybe I was the only person who remembered it because I was a teen when I saw it and glossed over any problems with the movie. Luckily, I was wrong.

The movie is still perfect and still scarily relevant. It deals with issues of racism, ethics, rich vs poor, the American Dream, television, politics, and the definition of entertainment. It’s about money, self destruction, our idea of justice and the reality of our justice system. It is about the invasion of technology and how it changes our culture. It’s about growing up and trying to earn the respect of your peers and the temptation to do whatever it takes to become famous.

Robert Redford directed this movie and he FILLED the cast with amazing actors, down to the random guy in the background. Every single actor in this movie is amazing. Rob Morrow as Richard Goodwin hits it out of the park as the Jewish lawyer from Washington D.C. who manages to straddle the two worlds that John Turturro’s Herb Stempel and Ralph Fiennes’ Charles Van Doren inhabit. He understands the prejudices that Stempel faces as a Jewish man from Queens and he longs for a life like Van Doren’s where being over-educated is respected rather than suspected.

These three men carry the weight of the movie on their shoulders, but then you have the rest of the supporting cast. Mira Sorvino plays Goodwin’s wife who spends most of her time trying to help him see both sides when he gets caught up in one of them. Hank Azaria and David Paymer play the two tv executives behind the fixed show “Twenty One” and they both manage to make these men into real people and not just caricatures of the fast-talking jerks they could have been. Paul Scofield as Mark Van Doren, the father of Charles, elevates the film with what little screen time he has, breaking your heart as he tries to support a son who just wants to get out from under his shadow. And Johann Carlo as Herbert Stempel’s wife, who loves her husband and her family, no matter how crazy they make her. And even the tiny role of the owner of Geritol, the sponsor of “Twenty One” is played by Martin Scorsese who gives a fantastic performance.

If you’ve never seen Quiz Show I highly recommend picking it up ASAP. Heck, if you saw it back when it was initially released, pick it up again. You’ll be amazed by how little has changed.

books read in February

Glory O'Brien's History of the FutureGlory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another strong story from one of my all time favorite authors. If you have never read any A.S. King, she has this wonderful sense of magical realism. Her stories are grounded in reality but there is always something different about this. In this one, the book starts with Glory and her BFF drinking a dead bat and then they feel like they are hallucinating visions of the past and future. But really it is about growing up, that weird realm of existence right before high school graduation, when you know that the people who have been around you for the past 4 years are going to go away soon, that you are no longer a child but an adult…King’s books always hit me right in the feels and the voices of her characters are very real.

Saga, Volume 4 (Saga #19-24)Saga, Volume 4 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just keeps getting better and better. I actually feel like this collection is the best it has been since the first trade. I just really hope that BKV has this all planned out. It has been compared to ‘Game of Thrones’ in it’s complexity which means it could be awesome or it could all fall apart if they don’t know where it will all end. Right now I am enjoying the ride.

Andre the Giant: Life and LegendAndre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My only knowledge of Andre is from the movie The Princess Bride. This was a fascinating look at the world of wrestling in it’s early form as an entertainment and the examination of a man who was unlike any other. Box Brown does not pull any punches (unlike the wrestlers) so you get a very balanced look at Andre, his life, his work, and his legacy.

Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across AmericaCarsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America by John Waters
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think this might have fared better as a blog that waters updated on the road rather than as a book. I think the only reason I made it through this was because Waters was reading it to me. The first half of the book, heck, the MAJORITY of this book is Waters fantasizing about the best and worst things that could happen to him on the road. I really did enjoy the last part of the book, the ACTUAL real rides of the trip. Probably not as exciting as Waters or his publishers had hoped (perhaps that was why they felt the need to create more dramatic rides in the beginning?) but fun.

If you are going to experience this book, definitely pick it up as an audiobook.

Adventure Time: The Flip SideAdventure Time: The Flip Side by Paul Tobin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Not the best one. I think the story could have been half the length, which would have helped. I ended up speed reading/skimming the last few “chapters” just to see how it all ended.

My Little Pony:  Fluttershy and the Fine Furry Friends FairMy Little Pony: Fluttershy and the Fine Furry Friends Fair by G.M. Berrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s “Babe” meets “My Little Pony” is another adorable chapter book. Totally loved this one!

movie thoughts: Into the Woods (2014)

I only watched three movies this past month, mostly because we’ve been marathoning too many tv shows to make time for a 2 hour film. But the one movie I actually went to the theater to see was Into the Woods, the big screen adaptation of the award-winning Broadway musical.

into-the-woods-poster1

Let me say up front that I am a HUGE fan of the original musical. My parents taped the live performance off of PBS when I was a kid and I watched it over and over. I had the soundtrack and memorized it. I was very nervous about the film from day one of its announcement. And after getting to think about it for a month, I finally have coherent thoughts formed about the motion picture version.

It is really hard to separate my knowledge of the stage production, the FULL STORY, from what we ended up with on screen. I know which songs were cut, which characters were lost, and what moments were missed.

The movie was alright on its own. Obviously it loses some of the charm, being a movie versus stage. I don’t think people truly understand the magic of seeing something on stage, having a performer belt out a tune, hit all the high notes, singing with a LIVE orchestra – no retakes, no edits. You can’t appreciate seeing the sets shift and move right before your eyes. That is the magic of theater, not the movies.

Continue reading

Books read (or at least finished) in January 2015

My Little Pony: Pony Tales Volume 1 (My Little Pony Micro-Series #1-6)My Little Pony: Pony Tales Volume 1 by Thom Zahler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Super fun collection of stories that captures the magic of the tv series. A must for fans!

Adventure Time: Marceline and the Scream QueensAdventure Time: Marceline and the Scream Queens by Meredith Gran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Captures the fun and randomness of Adventure Time. This collection is all about Marceline and her band and Princess Bubblegum going on tour.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess BrideAs You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great book and a fantastic audiobook. If you are a fan of ‘The Princess Bride’ or movie making in general, you must listen to this book, as told be the actors who lived it. Heart-warming, inspirational, and charming. Elwes’ narration makes it that much more endearing.

Adventure Time with Fionna & Cake Vol. 1Adventure Time with Fionna & Cake Vol. 1 by Natasha Allegri
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Captures the brilliance of the gender-swapped Adventure Time universe episodes and transfers them onto paper. It’s probably magic…though I’m sure Prince Gumball would insist it was science. But it’s MAGIC!

Great artwork, a fun story, lots of action and humor. What the math are you waiting for?

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own AutobiographyNeil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This audiobook had everything I could ask for and more! And having NPH read it made it SO much more fun. Just the right mix of humor, life lessons, adventures, romance and behind the scenes gossip.

Undivided (Unwind, #4)Undivided by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can see why Shusterman felt it was necessary to make this a 4 volume series. He had a LOT of ideas floating around, a lot of different angles to cover, and as he was writing these books, REAL science and REAL politics kept moving in a direction that the story tries to warn us from. For a finale to a series, there were a lot of new plot lines introduced in this book.

But the ending was satisfying and just as intense as the rest of the series. Shusterman knows that it is unrealistic to try to tie up problems in a neat little bow. You may not be sure of how the world will be but the last paragraph leaves you hopeful that the characters can find some kind of peace.
My New Friend Is So Fun! (Elephant & Piggie, #21)My New Friend Is So Fun! by Mo Willems
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a fear that I think a lot of us have, but especially children – what if your best friend finds a new best friend?!? Would you be replaced!

As usual, poor Gerald has a bit of a breakdown when he hears about Piggie hanging out with Brian the Bat.

<3

Book Series Thoughts: Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman

Book Series Thoughts: Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman

unwind dystology

When I read Unwind in 2009, I had no clue it was going to be a series. The book was published in 2007 and the story seemed to end on the final page. At least, I felt like Connor and his friends would keep fighting and surviving even if I wasn’t reading along with them.

Then in 2012 I saw Unwholly on the new books cart. I was skeptical – was Shusterman just cashing in on the “YA series” craze? Could the story still be as powerful in a second time?

I was not disappointed, with Unwholly, Unsouled, and Undivided raising even more questions and issues. It was the kind of Science Fiction I loved – one that takes ethical dilemmas we are dealing with right now and throwing them to an extreme, but an extreme that doesn’t seem too far off (as Shusterman regularly points out by including actual articles from the past few years, complete with URL information in case you wanted to follow up).

The Unwind Dystology, as it has come to be known/marketed, is the story of the near future. After the Heartland War, a war that came about because of the abortion debate, a truce of sorts was reached – parents had until the age of 18 to decide if they wanted their child or not. If a parent no longer wanted a child, they could be unwound, a process by which the body parts are extracted and sent somewhere to be used. No waste, the child is technically still “alive” but their body is being “put to good use”. Connor Lassiter makes several mistakes and pushes his parents to the point that they feel he should be unwound. Connor manages to escape from the transport when he takes a hostage, Levi Calder. Levi is a tithe from a very religious family who has been raised to be unwound as a sacrifice. While on the run, they also meet Risa Ward, a girl from a state orphanage who is being sent to be unwound because the government can no longer support the funding.

There is a WHOLE lot more to this story, especially now that it spans four book, but it is better to read it and experience it than me spoiling it for you. You will be confronted with issues like biomedical ethics, terrorism, politics, propaganda and more. I was on the edge of my seat, up until 2am reading the finale and it was worth it. The scene from that final page will stay with me. Actually, there are several moments from this series that will haunt me.

A recent Huffington Post article compares it to The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins, though I would not pit the two against each other. While both have to do with the aftermath of war and it’s effects on the next generation, Collins and Shusterman are focusing on completely different issues beyond that.

This is a must-read series for anyone over the age of 16. There is SO much to discuss here. And while the last two books falter a little bit (I think Shusterman could probably has published a HUGE third book and gotten away with it but he clearly had one too many ideas he wanted to get down so the fourth book came to be as he hashed out the details) this series is one of THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION SERIES.

Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 backlog

76151-toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is:

Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To!

(Some of this is because I am a SLOW reader…well, a distracted reader (Dragon Age:Inquisition is just like reading a choose-your-own-adventure book…that takes 60+ hours because of side quests!). Others are because I’ve been on the wait list at the library FOREVER. Either way, I’m hoping to get to them all early in 2015)


Undivided by Neal Shusterman
The final volume in the AMAZING Unwind series. I’m actually halfway through the book now and have no idea how it will all play out on the last page. I’m scared!!!


Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King
A.S. King has to be one of my favorite authors of all time. I love all of her young adults novels. She has a very real voice and she avoids falling into cliche plot and characters. I cannot WAIT to read this (and bonus, while blogging this, the book appeared on my desk at work! Now I really have to finish Undivided)


Nightmares by Jason Segel
Segel READS THE AUDIOBOOK! How can I resist??


How Star Wars Conquered the Universe by Chris Taylor
I do love non-fiction about my favorite franchises and after Dunc’s positive review I am eager to pick this one up!


Joss Whedon: The Biography by Amy Pascale
He is my Big Damn Hero so I need to know ALL THE THINGS about him.


Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
I’ve had this book come across my desk several times and just didn’t get a chance to read it before having to pass it on to the next person. The wait list is finally gone so this will be read soon!


The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
I’ve been meaning to read some Murakami and this one seems small enough that I can get through it quickly. Also Evelyn said I have to read it so we can talk about it.


Andre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown
This has been on my to-read list since May but after listening to ‘As You Wish’ (about the making of The Princess Bride) I really want to read this graphic biography!


Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
I credit Scott Westerfeld with turning me on to YA book with his Uglies trilogy so I am really looking forward to reading his latest.


The Dumbest Idea Ever by Jimmy Gownley
Jimmy Gownley’s “Amelia Rules” series is one of my favorite realistic fiction comic series for kids.