movie thoughts: Easy A (2010)

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Olive was happy being off the high school radar.  She went to all her classes, did her homework, got good grades and had no issues with being unnoticed.  Then she is overheard while telling one little lie about losing her virginity and all hell breaks loose!   

That’s the simple version of the plot of the sweet comedy “Easy A” starring the adorable Emma Stone as Olive.  After she makes up a story about a wild night of passion with a college boy, Olive’s reputation as a good girl goes down the drain.  She does her best to ignore it all, but then one of her friends, gay guy, asks if she could say she had sex with him so the jocks will leave him alone (a scene that is very awkward to watch in light of the recent suicides, you could feel the audience tense up a bit…I wonder if ‘Easy A’ would have been pulled and re-edited if it had not already been in theaters).  ANYWAY, because Olive is a nice person, she agrees to help him.  This, of course, snowballs when he tells his other outcast friends about her “favor”. 

At it’s core, the movie is a huge love letter to John Hughes (Olive even references the Hughes catalog in her narration of events).  So, if you enjoyed movies like ‘Ferris Bueller’ or ‘Say Anything’ or ‘Breakfast Club’, you’ve already got a place in your film-viewers heart for ‘Easy A’.  But what really makes this movie so much fun is Emma Stone.  She is just too awesome for words.  The confidence and attitude that she gives Olive make it hard to not root for her, even when she gets a little over-the-top and embroiders a giant “A” on her chest (they are reading ‘Scarlet Letter’ in her English class). I’m not sure this movie would have been as much fun if it wasn’t her in the lead role.  Even though she is gorgeous, I could still believe that, if she wanted to, she could hide in a crowd. 

Stealing second base (see what I did there?) is Stanley Tucci as her father.  All of her conversations with Olive and the rest of the family are so natural and funny, you really feel like this family could exist (another interesting thing about this movie is both Olive and her brother are adopted children.  This is casually mentioned in one scene but they don’t make a big deal out of it and I sorta loved that). 

Whether you go to a theater or add it to your Netflix, it’s a simple decision to watch ‘Easy A’.

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book thoughts: Packing for Mars: the Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach (2010)

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When it comes to getting to the tough questions involving space science, Mary Roach will ask them!  I’m not talking about hard-hitting interviews or Barbara Walters-esque tear jerking…I’m talking about the stuff we REALLY want to know deep down…like…has anyone ever had sex in zero gravity?  How hard is it to eat a sandwich?  What about…you know…AFTER you’ve eaten the sandwich?

If you’ve ever wondered about any of the above, the more practical problems of trying to take a creature that evolved on Earth and send them elsewhere, then you will enjoy this book.  The main focus of the book is NASA’s next big goal: getting humans to Mars. Author Mary Roach takes us through a brief history of NASA and space travel – not just the big flights we all know about but the little side missions that did not have the rigth kind of stories to be made into movies (you know, where most of the tension comes from the fact that none of the astronauts has taken a shower in 5 days).  She walks us through some of the experiments being done today to plan the big trip to Mars.  She takes us to the testing centers, watches as the Japanese astronauts are picked from a test group and even takes part in the parabolic flights that grant her a few seconds of zero-gravity while still within Earth’s atmosphere.  She also touches upon some interesting issues of sex and ethnicity when it comes to space stations.  It’s the kind of book you want to read before you go to a cocktail party because you will have so many random tidbits floating around your brain that you’ll want to share the knowledge!  

I’m a big fan of Mary Roach’s writing style – a great mix of science and snark.  If this was how science was presented to students, I think we’d have a lot more people interested in learning more about the world and universe around them. 

book thoughts: Star Island by Carl Hiaasen (2010)

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  Imagine your job is to be the hottest pop star on the planet…but only when she’s too stoned to stand.  This is the life of Ann DeLusia, an actress who signed on to “play” Cherry Pie, the biggest and skankiest celebrity to come by in awhlie.  Only she’s not playing Cherry Pie in a movie or made-for-tv miniseries – she is playing her in real life.  Cherry Pie lives life to the extreme, popping everything from vicodin to birdseed in and effort to reach no highs…and lows.  And when she’s passed out on the floor in need of a stomach pump, Ann steps in – well, actually steps out so that the paparazzi think that Cherry is doing fine! 

This is the very basic plot that starts off Carl Hiaasen’s latest book “Star Island”.  The story of this pop star, her entourage, and some other wild characters is not for the easily offended.  In the crazy world of celebrity, nothing is off limits, especially with Cherry Pie.  Cherry Pie (or “Cherish”, as she tries to convince people to start calling her) is every negative thing you can think of about a celebrity, all mixed together into one horrible person.  She grew up in the spotlight, she’s a spoiled brat, she can’t actually sing, and she is barely legal but dresses (and behaves) like a total slut.  She’s everything you love to hate.  Stalking her is a papparazzi known as “Bang” Abbott, who is convinced that she wll OD very soon and wants to get the shot of her dead on the floor because he knows it will bring in the big bucks.  The list of characters goes on and on, each more ridiculous than the next, but sadly it’s not that hard to believe (well…maybe the guy with the very unique prosthesis…).

This was the first Hiaasen experience I’ve ever had and I have to say I enjoyed it.  I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Stephen Hoye, who does a fantastic job of creating voices for all of these over-the-top people.  I felt that Hiaasen repeated himself a lot, but I couldn’t figure out if this was only apparent to me because I was listening to the book so I was hearing it faster than I would read it.  Perhaps if I was reading it over a 3 week period, a reminder about something mentioned in the first 10 chapters would be warranted when I neared the end of the book, but since I was listening, it seemed unecessary.  But Hiaasen’s humor made it worth sitting through.  I guffawed and snickered several times while listening to this book.  And you know it’s a good story when you kind of miss some of the characters when it’s over. 

If you’ve ever stood in line at the grocery store and glanced at the National Enquirer and felt the need to roll your eyes as far back as they could go, than you’ll enjoy this book.  It’s lewd, crude, and downright disgusting – which is why it’s so much fun!

3.5 stars

book quote: Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

You know, you spend your childhood watching TV, assuming that at some point in the future everything you see there will one day happen to you: that you too will win a Formual One race, hop a train, foil a group of terrorist, tell someone ‘Give me the gun’, etc.  Then you start secondary school, and suddenly everyone’s asking you about your career plans and your long-term goals, and by goals they don’t mean the kind you are planning to score in the FA Cup.  Gradually the awful truth dawns on you: that Santa Claus was just the tip of the iceberg – that your future will not be the rollercoaster ride you’d imagined, that the world occupied by your parents, the world of washing and dishes, going to the dentist, weekend trips to the DIY superstore to buy floor-tiles, is actually largely what people mean when they speak of ‘life’.  Now, with every day that passes, another door seems to close, the one marked PROFESSIONAL STUNTMAN, or FLIGHT EVIL ROBOT, until as the weeks go by and the doors – GET BITTEN BY SNAKE, SAVE WORLD FROM ASTEROID, DISMANTLE BOMB WITH SECONDS TO SPARE – keep closing, you begin to hear the sound as a good thing, and start closing some yourself, even ones that didn’t necessarily need to be closed…

— p25. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

book thoughts: Ex Machina Vol. 8 Dirty Tricks & Vol. 9 Ring Out the Old

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   Ex Machina by Brian K Vaughan is another comic book series that sounds ridiclous when you spell it out on paper.  Mitch Hundred is an ex-superhero.  On 9/11, when he was flying around as “The Great Machine”, he managed to stop the second plane from crashing into the tower with his power to talk to machines.  A few years later, he ran for mayor of New York City and won.  The comic book series flashes back and forth between his political and superhero career. 

In ‘Dirty Tricks’, the 8th trade paperback collection in the series, contains 2 one-shot stories and a 4 issue arc.  In the first story, ‘The Race’, Hundred attempt to convince Wylie to run for office.  There is a somewhat cheesy poltergeist story mixed in but it’s designed to make the reader think about race and politics more than function as a story.  ‘Dirty Tricks’ is a 4 issue arc that focused on a crazed Great Machine fan who threatens the 2004 GOP visit to NYC.  ‘Masquerade’ is a Halloween issue, flashing back to before Hundred was the Great Machine, and just the days when he was recovering from his injury that created his powers. 

‘Ring Out the Old’ is the 9th volume of the series.  It opens with a stand alone issue with a guest appearance by Brian K Vaughan and artist Tony Harris.  Instead of just being a silly interlude, the issue felt like a personal statement from BKV about 9/11 and what inspired him to write the story.  As ‘Ex Machina’ draws to a close (The series ended earlier in 2010 and the final collected issue will be out in November), Vaughan begins to wrap up the story of Hundred.  In the next issue, Hundred pushes for windpower, but also brings up some interesting points about how green our society can ever be.  And the final collection is the begining of the end.  Hundred announces that he does not plan on running for re-election and he begins to suspect that his powers were not just the result of an accident.

I will be so very sad to see this series go, but one of the reasons that BKV manages to have such a solid catalog is because he knows when to wrap it up.  Y The Last Man and Ex Machina have always had end dates that were not so far off and I think that helped keep the story focused.  I’m sure however the story of Mitch Hundred ends, it will be just as satisfying as the final installment of Y.