movie thoughts: 500 Days of Summer (2009)

In a summer filled with intergalactic adventure, giant fighting robots, and boy wizards, 500 Days of Summer is a nice break.  No, it’s not the best movie evar but it does what it sets out to do well and at an hour and a half in length, it’s perfect for a quiet summer evening. 

Tom is a hopeless romantic, waiting for his perfect girl, and he knows it will be love at first sight.  Summer is the opposite – a free spirit who tries to avoid getting into serious relationships as she finds them too messy.  And so the story begins…or middles…see, 500 Days of Summer is told in a non-linear style, taking the audience to random days in the 500 days of this relationship (starting from the day Tom first sees Summer until the day he officially moves on).

It’s a really sweet movie and it’s heart is in the right place.  Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt work really well together as this on screen couple.  Clearly, this movie is targeted toward my generation, or more like the one right before it, with references to Star Wars, Knight Rider, The Smiths, and many more random pop culture jokes. 

Oddly enough, it reminded me of ‘How I Met Your Mother‘.  Tom reminded me a lot of Ted – and not just because of the random narrator that follows them both around (a part of the movie I was never 100% comfortable with, but I guess it worked to get some of the gags out).  Their mission for their soul mate is about the same.  So if you’re a fan of that show, you’ll probably really enjoy this movie.

500 Days of Summer is a nice way to relax – there’s are no villians or evil doers.  It’s just a sweet store. I think the humor and writing will appeal to both men and women.  If you can find a theater close by playing it, I totally recommend grabbing some friends and heading over.  (Comedies are always better when you have someone to laugh along with).  If not, def. put it on your Netflix list.  It doesn’t have any big budget special effects, so seeing it on the big screen isn’t crucial. 

And yes, like every good summer indie flick should – it has an awesome soundtrack. 

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book thoughts: The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan

Clearly Guillermo Del Toro has had enough of this Twilight crap too.  You won’t find any sexy sparkling vampires in this store.  It’s 100% horror. 

The Strain is the first book in planned trilogy.  It’s always hard to judge Part I when you have no idea what Part II or III will bring.  But here goes nothing…

A plane lands at JFK airport in New York City and almost everyone on board has mysteriously died.  But their bodies were not discovered hunched over their seats or with horrified looks on their faces – they were all sitting peacefully in their seats.  A small group of 4 passengers survived and are rushed to the hospital.  Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (“Eph” for short) drags himself away from a weekend with his son to examine the incident.  But things don’t add up.  There’s no evidence of terrorist attack, there’s no problems with the plane…the strangest thing they have found is a large wooden cabinet in the cargo hold filled with dirt…

Del Toro’s vampires are not supernatural demons – they have more in common with Scott Westerfeld’s vampires in Peeps – an ancient virus that takes over the host body and sets up its own shop.  It’s not possession so much as a plague.  It’s not two pointy fangs you’re dealing with, but a jaw that unhinges like a snake and a stinger that sucks the life out of anyone it can reach. 

Del Toro and Hogan blend in a good amount of random facts and pseudo-science.  It was like if Michael Crichton had written a horror novel.  You’ll learn a lot about New York City’s subway system, rats, and more!  Look kids, it’s educational too! 

This first book spends a lot of time introducing you to the characters.  Part of it was that horror movie feel – let’s meet all these people – WHO WILL LIVE AND WHO WILL DIE!  Made it a bit more tense when an infected person arrived at their doorstep.

The sequel won’t be out until 2010 and the ending does have a cliff hanger, though it surprised me with how it ended.  If you want a spooky beach read, I definitely recommend picking it up, but just remember, it doesn’t really end and if you’re easily frustrated by a cliffhanger, you might want to wait a couple years. 

For more on The Strain, check out the official site which has interactive bits of information you can read, like the medical report on the passengers and the notes of exterminator Vasily Fet, plus a link to their YouTube page with some disturbing video of two pivitol scenes in the book.

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movie thoughts: Public Enemies (2009)

Full Disclosure:  Gangster movies are like Roller Coasters for me.  I’m not a fan of roller coasters, but every time I go to a theme park and see people having fun, I think I should maybe try one again.  So, once a year I hop on a roller coaster, remember all the reasons I don’t enjoy riding them, and go back to waiting at the exit to each ride, holding everyone’s bags and eating ice cream. 

Gangster movies tend to work the same way – I just can’t get into them.  But so many people were raving about this movie on their blogs, I felt I should give it a try.  Heck, it has Johnny Depp AND Christian Bale. 

Public Enemies covers the end of John Dillinger’s career, the middle of Agent Melvin Purvis’, and the start of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.  Yeah, that’s a lot to cover in a single movie, isn’t it? 

To me, the movie felt like it was written backwards – like the screenwriter read about Dillinger’s demise and was like “OMG that would be an awesome end to a movie!” and then worked from there.  So the start of the film is really slow and plodding, and you never really get to know the characters.  By the end of the movie, I was still more connected to the actors than the characters, but the action had picked up and the last bit was a lot more interesting (though it too could have moved faster). 

The best thing about the movie for me was Marion Cotillard who played Billie, Dillinger’s “true love” (or, as gangsters tend to do, the woman he decided to obsess over after seeing her from across the room).  She has one of those amazing faces, like Depp, that make the character seem deeper than the writing ever did.  I was happy any time she was on screen. 

In the end, the movie was too long.  I think if the editing had been a bit tighter and if the writer/director could have just picked ONE theme or ONE story, it could have been a stronger film.  As it is, it’s a mediocre movie that you can watch once but won’t really stick with you beyond the initial viewing.

I’m gonna go get some ice cream.

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book thoughts: Castration Celebration

Just look at that title.  Look at that cover art.  That’s a lot for one book to live up to.  Perhaps it would have been better if I had just imagined a plot to go along with the both of them.  But instead I read the book…

Castration Celebration is about Olivia, who is attending a drama summer camp after a very rough year (she walked in on her father fooling around with one of his students).  So Olivia decides to swear off men, and to put all her energy into writing a musical – Castration Celebration!  Of course, as soon as she arrives at camp, she meets a charming young man and the two begin to flirt like crazy…

Someone on GoodReads mentioned Kevin Smith – this is def. more of a Jay & Silent Bob Strikes Back kind of book, rather than the Chasing Amy story I was hoping for.  Wizner goes for crude humor and shock value but forgets that he’s supposed to also tell an interesting story.  That’s the reason movies like Clerks, Chasing Amy, The Hangover, Superbad are so watchable – you’re connected to the characters, even when they are dropping f-bombs and making sexual innuendos that would make a sailor blush.  I kept waiting for Olivia and her crew to become more than static characters, but it never happened.

Olivia makes references to Much Ado About Nothing in the first part of her play, so I was hoping that perhaps the book would be a twist on that tale.   Yeah, no. 

The idea of having the reader go through Olivia’s play as she writes it quickly becomes boring.  I waiting for the parts of each chapter that turned into script, and tended to skim them by the end of the book because they had no baring on the actual story anymore. 

An interesting premise but poorly executed – Castration Celebration can’t live up to its cover art. 

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