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review 2015-01-12 02:00
Sunday Night Playlist - Movie Review: Gone Girl

 

So, I'm trying this out as a bit of an experiment.  I usually have a Sunday Night Playlist feature on my mainstay blog dedicated to music reviews, but I decided that since I'm dedicating the time and energy to doing media reviews of all walks, might as well add movie reviews to the playlist feature as well.

 

So, "Gone Girl" starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike will be released this week on DVD, and I had a chance to see it because I bought the film off Google Play using a gift card.  The film also stars Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry, and was directed by David Fincher.

 

I was very surprised by how well the film version of this novel turned out to be.  I knew what I was in for since reading the book, but for the direction and how the actors brought the script to life, I was impressed.  The mood set by the tone of the film, the lighting, and the film's score was very well done.  I kinda had a good laugh at seeing Ben Affleck because I couldn't think of another actor who could get into Nick Dunne's character as well as he did.  Rosamund Pike played Amy to a tee, and beautifully translated the role from diary entries to the subsequent "twists" (though upon seeing the film, I couldn't help but think that Emily Van Camp probably could've also played Amy in the film as well, just for how my mind kept thinking of "Revenge" in some modes while watching the movie.)

 

I think Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry captured their respective roles as well too - Harris playing Amy's former, obsessive lover and Perry capturing the role of the lawyer that defends Nick when he's accused of Amy's murder.  For the overarching sequencing of the movie - it did well with the play by play - switching between the present and past in a way that was easy to see how the tension built up over time, to the point of the "WTF?" ending.    I think this was a book that was indeed one that could translate well to film just from reading Flynn's original narrative, but for the sum of its parts - I'd definitely rewatch this adaptation, and would recommend it.

 

Overall score: 4.5/5 stars

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review 2013-12-06 10:00
Argo: How the Hollywood did something right and then ruined it
Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History - 'Antonio Mendez', 'Matt Baglio'

I decided to write a comparative review right after I had finished reading the book, but then I saw the film and promptly lost the will to live. Hollywood did something right thirty years ago and then it ruined it. The book, however, kept me up reading late into the night.

 

Apart from the feel and look of the seventies—aided heavily by the contemporary news photography—and a handful of throwaway lines, the film had nothing of the story I loved in the book. And that’s a feat when Mendez has been telling this true story since 1997.

 

The Iranian hostage crisis started in 1979 and lasted the memorable 444 days. Dozens were held captive and tortured, but six escaped. Bringing those six house guests home was a hoax on several levels.

 

The book is written from Mendez’s point of view and it details the numbing steps of actual intelligence work as well as interpersonal histories of the people involved. There’s something far more touching in the matter-of-factness the house guests’, diplomats’, and others’ simple observations than there ever could be in the forced plot twists of a Hollywood action flick.

 

I understand that the agonising wait at the airport doesn’t translate well from a book onto the silver screen, but there had to be better options. They cut away more than enough meat from the story to make room for it.

 

The question remains, what the hell did Ben Affleck and George Clooney do right six or eight years ago to win an Oscar now?

 

The film: Skip it. The celebrations might be fun to watch but the Academy knows nothing.

 

The book: Read it. Read it now.

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review 2012-11-25 00:00
The Jungle - Upton Sinclair, Casey Affle... The Jungle - Upton Sinclair, Casey Affleck With a hundred years of hindsight, we've learned so little.

Chicken processing plant

Waste lagoon

The 1%

Upton Sinclair's The Jungle is famous for disgusting America with its tales of meat packing workers falling into vats and rendered into lard, and all the things that went into sausages and tinned beef. (Cigar butts and poisoned rats not even being the most disgusting ingredients...) But as Sinclair said about his most famous book, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach." The Jungle is not primarily about the problems of an unregulated meat industry. It's about the crushing brutality of capitalism, and the problems of unregulated accumulation of wealth. No wonder that Americans prefer the less political vegetarian version.

Although Sinclair was a muckraking socialist with an obvious agenda, The Jungle is still a compelling novel in its own right. Jurgis Rudkus is a Lithuanian immigrant who comes to America with his young wife Ona and his extended family of in-laws. Initially believing they have found the promised land of opportunity and plenty, they are quickly taken in by various schemes meant to impoverish, indebt, and enslave immigrants like them. At first only Jurgis has to work in Chicago's meatpacking district. He is young and strong and believes hard work will be rewarded, and those who warn him of how the meatpackers will use him up and dispose of him are lazy whiners. Of course, he soon discovers otherwise. The family undergoes one mishap after another, until within a year, even the children are reduced to selling newspapers on the street and still they are all barely staying alive.

Then things get worse, and worse, and worse. Jurgis is a modern-day Job, with no God to blame his troubles on, only capitalism. He has several ups and downs, but every time he catches a break, it's quickly followed by yet another brutal smackdown. Sinclair was trying to make the reader feel sorry for Jurgis and his poor family (all of whom end up dead, prostituted, or beggars by the end of the book), and you will. The poor man just cannot win, and if he makes mistakes and chooses the less noble path when given a choice, it's pretty hard to judge him if you've never been homeless on the streets of Chicago in the wintertime.

The Jungle is a grimly detailed look at early 20th century America. Sinclair was muckraking, so obviously he's showing the ugliest bits of America he can, but history proved that most of what he was alleging was true, even if his conclusions were questionable. Even if you are strongly anti-socialist, The Jungle is an eye-opening story, and still relevant after all these years. If you think that the horrors depicted in this book are relics of a previous era, just remember that to the extent that the very worst of these abuses are now curbed (somewhat) by government regulations, those government regulations are exactly what "free market" advocates hate and want to abolish.

4 stars. Knocking one star off because while Sinclair mostly kept his didacticism in check throughout the book, using gripping drama and only a little bit of exposition to arouse the horror he intended, the last chapter was nothing but socialist sermonizing, making it less a climax than the author climbing onto a soapbox to deliver his moral.
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review 2010-08-31 00:00
Ostrobogulous Pigs
Ostrobogulous Pigs - Affleck Graves Ostrobogulous Pigs - Affleck Graves The stars are entirely for the fabulous word, ostrobogulous.

Since more than one person has said to me 'but it must be a made up word' go here for the full rundown:

http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-ost1.htm

It means risque or indecent or in the case of our heroes in this book, plain old dirty.

It was derived thus:

Neuburg said that the word was formed, highly irregularly as you might expect, from Greek ostro, rich, plus English bog, dirt, from the schoolboy slang sense of the toilet, and ending in Latin ulus, full of. So “full of rich dirt”. The Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t agree, arguing that the first part is from the adjective oestrous. But we ought to let Victor Neuburg have the last word, as it was his creation, even though he was a bit shaky on his etymology — the Greek word was ostreon, a type of mollusc (it’s the source, via Latin, of English oyster) that was harvested to obtain a rare and expensive purple dye, hence figuratively something rich.


I really can't say that the book does justice to the word. Still, maybe it just couldn't live up to the wonderful promise of the title.
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