audio thoughts: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Complete Radio Series

This is a classic.  There’s no getting around it. Once you’ve experience the Hitchhiker’s Guide radio series, you will probably never want to listen to another boring one-narrator audio book again.

The complete collection includes dramatizations of all five of the Hitchhiker stories.  The first two were the original series, done for the BBC radio back in the early 1980s, the last three were done later on.  It does show when it comes to the writing.  It’s not that the wit/humor isn’t there, it’s more that the ability to write for this audio medium becomes more difficult.  I felt that the Quandary and Quintessential phases were the weakest when it came to portraying the story through clever dialogue and relied too heavily on the narrator for setting up situations. 

But, in the end, it doesn’t matter.  They are forgivable sins because this series is so fantastic.  Having all 5 of these stories together, traveling the galaxy with Arthur, Ford, Zaphod, Trillian, and Marvin make it all worth while. 

It is important to note that the radio series has the Super-Mega-Happy-Ending that was not part of ‘Mostly Harmless’, the book.  It didn’t really bother me, as I always felt the ending in ‘Mostly Harmless’ to be a kind of “Look, I am totally DONE with these characters” from Douglas Adams and insuring that no one could beg him to bring them back.  But the radio shows were produced after Adams’ death, so it just feels weird that they changed the ending.  But that’s entertainment for you.

If you’ve never experienced anything Hitchhiker’s Guide related before, PICK THIS UP!  Buy it or borrow it from the library, but you MUST hear it.  It is a classic in radio production and in science fiction, and humor writing too!  So well done that once it’s finished, you find yourself wondering when you can listen to it again….

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movie thoughts: Burn After Reading (2008)

People throw around the phrase “star power” a lot to describe a certain something about a performance that just works.  ‘Burn After Reading’ runs on star power.  I’m not sure this movie would be as fun or as watchable if it wasn’t being performed by George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, and a bunch of other random people that you recognize from their bit parts on television and movies. 

The plot is pure Coen brothers – totally ridiculous.  You’ll spend the first part of the movie asking “What the hell is going on here?!?” but don’t worry, it all becomes clear.  The long and short of it is that Malkovich’s character is let go from his CIA job and decides to write a tell-all memoir (though he doesn’t have much to tell). It accidentally falls into the hands of McDormand and Pitt – two gym employees – who assume it is top level intelligence.  Pitt just wants to return the memoir, but McDormand decides she is going to blackmail Malkovich. 

Of course, that is the most bare bones description I could come up with.  As with all the Coen Brothers scripts, it’s about the characters and their quirks.  McDormand is obsessed with plastic surgery, Clooney has a thing for jogging, Pitt likes gum….a lot (note to self: add food/eating to list of “how to know if a Brad Pitt movie will be any good” list).  Again, I’m not sure if this movie would be as fun to watch if it wasn’t this cast.  They are just so watchable! 

It’s not their best movie ever, but it is very good.  Be ready to pay attention as the plot twists and turns.  You won’t want miss any of the outrageous moments. 

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book thoughts: What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

Evie Spooner is done with being a kid.  Shelongs to wear her mother’s sinful red lipstick and practices smokingcandy cigarettes with her friend. Evie Spooner is done with being a kid.  She longs to wear her mother’s sinful red lipstick and practices smoking candy cigarettes with her friend.  She wants to be treated like an adult.  Butwhen her stepfather takes the family on an impromptu trip to Florida,Evie soon discovers that the glamorous adult world is more than justplaying dress-up; it is a place full of dark matters and gray areas.

 

‘What I Saw and How I Lied’ by Judy Blundell is takes place a few months after the end of World War II.  Evie’s stepfather, Joe, has returned home from the war and has started a successful chain of businesses in Brooklyn.  Everything seems to be going well, despite what her Grandma Gladys says, until Joe starts to get strange phone calls.  After avoiding a call during dinner, Joe announces to the family that they are taking a trip to Florida.  Whenthey arrive in Palm Beach, they meet a variety of people at the hotel –Wally the bellhop, the rich couple the Graysons, and a handsome youngman named Peter.  Evie falls for Peter immediately but Joe warns her to stay away from Peter because he is not what he appears.  But how can she resist his smile, his blue convertible, and the way he treats her – not like just some kid, but a woman.

 

It is hard to describe the rest of the book without giving away too much of the plot twists and turns (and there are many).  Thestory takes the best things about tales of forbidden romance, noirmysteries, and a historical fiction, and mixes them together with apacing that makes it a hard book to put down. 

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movie thoughts: Hamlet 2

I remember seeing the trailer for ‘Hamlet 2’ and thinking “yeah, no thanks”.  But when the reviews started to trickle in with the “yes it’s stupid but it’s also hilarious” vibe to them, I decided I would check it out. 

‘Hamlet 2’ is about a loser.  He wanted to be an actor of great theater, but instead he ended up making herpes medication commercials, and has now settled on teaching drama at a public high school in Tuscon, AZ.  His initial excitement over his class size increasing at the start of the new semester (due to the fact that the trailer classrooms were full of asbestos) is crushed when he is told by the principal that drama will be cancelled next year.  In an attempt to save the arts program, he writes a play, the story of his life, as told through Hamlet’s eyes!(!!!!!!!!!)

‘Hamlet 2’ is like ‘Tropic Thunder’ – you’re either going to love it or hate it.  It’s just so weird.  There’s jokes in there for anyone who has ever seen an ‘inspirational teacher’ movie.  There’s bits that made me laugh because they reminded me of people I knew in high school.  And some of it is just so wrong it’s right (“Rock Me Sexy Jesus” will be stuck in your head ALL DAY). 

The movie requires minimal knowledge of Hamlet, though you should be up on your pop culture for the last 20 years (especially the works of Elisabeth Shue, who steals the movie as…herself!).  When the writers’ credits consist of people that worked for South Park and Team America, you know that the humor will be low, but clever.  A good one to watch when you need to laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of everything.  Pour yourself a margarita (the size of the one on the cover) and sit back, you wouldn’t want to pull anything while laughing.

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movie thoughts: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

For me, this movie was an example of a good idea.  A very cool idea.  But a cool idea does not a great movie make. 

If you don’t already know, ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ is about a man who is born old.  At birth he has arthritis, cataracts, and deafness.  The doctor doesn’t expect him to live. But this is a folk tale, so magic happens and Benjamin grows younger each day. 

The problem facing the film’s writers is that they have decided to show one man’s entire life in 3 hours.  80 years in 3 hours.  That’s a lot of time to cover, and not a lot lying around for character development.  This was the biggest disappointment for me.  Not at any point in this movie did I cry.  I just saw a man’s entire life play out, yet when the end came, I was left with a sort of “eh” feeling.  I just never felt for him, I had no connection to him. 

Also, we spent the entire movie building up the love story – waiting for Benjamin and Cate Blanchet’s character to finally sync up and be the “perfect” age together.  But when that time finally comes, all we get is a montage of them hanging out.  But you can’t blame the filmmakers, at that point you’re been watching the movie for over 2 hours and the excitement of the moment just isn’t there. 

And there was also some sort of metaphor going on with Hurricane Katrina that just went away.  I kept waiting for the big “oooh that’s what it was all about” moment but instead it felt so “oooh this will make it relevant” in a really “meh” kinda way. 

In the end, it was an interesting experiment.  It reminded me of ‘Forrest Gump’ – lots of great special effects, and the main character touches many people’s lives, but in the end, the main character is the least interesting character.  If felt like it could have been so much more than the Oscar clip reel for next year, because that is what it feels like (I’m guessing a nomination for best picture, best actor, best special effects at the very least). 

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