what i’ve been reading and watching – July through December

Books for December
43. Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins – Great conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy. Good thoughts on government and what it really means to be good/bad.  8/10
42. The Good Doctor, by Damon Galgut – Two doctors, one idealistic, one cynical, clash in rural South Africa in the modern day.  Very good.  Insightful interview with the author is available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00c50nk .
41. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins – weakest of the three hunger games books, but I really liked the second half. 6/10

Movies for December
91. Scott Pilgrim vs the World (DVD) – Very creative, mash-up of video games and film.  Some dull moments but points for creativity. 8/10
90. Megamind (theater) – Will Ferrell is a super villain who learns to love.  I laughed a lot. 7/10
89. True Grit (theater) – Girl seeks justice for her father’s murder in the Old West.  Three leads all shine (Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Hailee Steinfeld).  Very exciting.  7/10
88. Going the Distance (airplane version) – Romantic comedy with Drew Barrymore and Justin Long.  Fine.  6/10

Subject: Books and Movies for November

Books

40. Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (read by Carolyn McCormick) – Great dystopian, survival turned into reality TV story.  8/10
* Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen (read by …) – I made it about halfway through this and really liked it in a lot of ways, but it was a little too adult for my tastes, especially as an audiobook.  All that talk of mortgages, wearing suits, driving cars: just too grown-up.  So I haven’t finished it.
39. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett (narrated by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, Cassandra Campbell) – Here’s a book that I think the audiobook actually helped.  The narrators really filled in voices that I never would have conjured myself.  It’s the story of African-American maids in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s.  8/10
38. BEST OF THE MONTH Burnt Shadows, by Kamila Shamsie – I read this for the BBC World Book Club, and really enjoyed it.  Takes place between 1945 and 2001, in Nagasaki (at the bomb), Delhi (at Partition), Karachi, and New York City, it follows a family of characters through the long-range effects of war.  Compelling.  8/10
37. The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan (unabridged audiobook) – Kids find out they are hosting Egyptian gods.  Mayhem ensues.  Light fun. 6/10

Movies

87. Outsourced – American moves to India to train his replacement manager.  Amusing. 6/10
86. Despicable Me – Sweet children’s movie, but no Toy Story 3 6/10
85. Spring Breakdown – Drew recommended this fun comedy.  In the course of the film, Parker Posey, Amy Poehler, and Rachel Dratch (“Debbie Downer”) sing BOTH “True Colors” and “Hold On” (by Wilson Phillips).  Enough for me!  7/10

84. Batman: Caballero de la Noche (The Dark Knight, dubbed into Spanish) – Enjoyed it as much as the first time around 8/10
83. Lost – Season 1, Disc 1 – People stranded on an island.  Mayhem ensues.  8/10
82. Damages – Season 1, Disc 3 – I finally found out what happened to evil CEO Ted Danson!  7/10
81. La Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon) – Nice immigration story.  PG-13 for themes, no more.  7/10
80. The Express: The Ernie Davis Story (dubbed into Spanish) – Biopic about first African-American to win the Heisman trophy.  Enjoyed it despite me having no appreciation for football 🙂  7/10

79. The Lovely Bones (dubbed into Spanish) – Awesomest conception of the afterlife that I’ve seen yet!  7/10
78. Gentlemen Broncos – Terrible, terribly comedy. Completely unfunny despite Jennifer Coolidge and Jerome Clement.  3/10
77. La mujer sin cabeza – Argentine woman hits something with her car.  What really happened?  Okay: 6/10

Subject: Books and Movies for October

Books

36. Enduring Love, by Ian McEwan  (narrated by Steven Crossley) – Ballooning accident followed by obsession followed by mayhem.  Really, really liked it.  Very clever form of resolution.  Great prose.  8/10

35.  After All We Can Do… Grace Works, by Robert Millett (narrated by the author) [ABRIDGED] – I ordered the audiobook through inter-library loan and when what came was abridged (from the Logan Library), I opted to hear it out.  A nice meditation on the grace of Jesus Christ.  7/10.

34. Cat O’ Nine Tails, by Jeffrey Archer – Short stories inspired by true crime stories that Archer heard while in prison (mostly).  Really enjoyed it, especially one called Wisdom of Solomon.  Lots of fun.  8/10.

33. El Libro de Mormón (audio) – First time ever listening to the Book of Mormon in Spanish.  10/10.

32. Best of the month! My Ántonia, by Willa Cather (narrated by David Colacci) – Fabulous story about life in Nebraska around the turn of the century (1900).  If you haven’t read this, go out and read it; it’s compelling and moving and thought-provoking and wonderful.  9/10

Movies

76.  Os vestigios do dia (The Remains of the Day, dubbed into Portuguese) – A butler (Anthony Hopkins), trapped in tradition and unable to express his true love for Emma Thompson.  Agonizing and impressively compelling.  8/10

75.  Best of the month! Toy Story 3 (theater) – What do toys do when their owner grows up?  I took the boys to see this and cried.  9/10

74. Family Man (DVD) – Successful businessman (Nicholas Cage) experiences alternate reality in which he’s a family man.  Entertaining, fine.  6/10

* School of Rock (DVD) – Slept thru some so won’t count it, but Jack Black and Joan Cusack still deliver the goods.  Best music teacher EVER.  8/10

73. Contact (DVD) – Aliens make contact with Jodie Foster while Tom Skerritt schemes.  Still a great movie.  9/10

72.  Moon (DVD) – A man working for a mining company on the moon discovered disturbing secrets.  Very good science fiction.  8/10

71.  My Fair Lady (DVD) – Classic, lovely but very long.  7/10.

70.  Freaky Friday (the newer version, with Jamie Lee Curtis and the Lohan) – Watched it in the hospital with Diana.  Fun and silly family fare.  7/10

69. A Garota do Blog (Gossip Girl, dubbed into Portuguese) – Season 1 Disc 5 – My guilty pleasure. 6/10

68. El soloista (The Soloist, dubbed into Spanish)
– Nice story about a relationship between a homeless musician and an LA Times report.  Catherine Keener does a nice job.  5/10

67. The Lightning Thief (DVD) – DUMB! Any subtlety, ambiguity, or uncertainty that might have existed in the book was stripped into dumb exposition. Only Grover the satyr was an improvement. 5/10

66. Date Night (DVD) – Some very funny parts, and some crude (less funny) parts.  (Kind of like The Other Guys that way, but not as funny.)  6/10

Subject: Books and Movies for September

Books
31. Best of the month! Atonement, by Ian McEwan (narrated by Carole Boyd) – Wonderful prose, gripping plot, awesome ending.  Judgment, love, war, and the nature of fiction.  A really excellent novel. 9/10

30. Inspiring Experiences that Build Faith, by Thomas S. Monson – A collection of experiences culled from talks. No narrative; basically a quote book for stories, but the sheer volume of spiritual experiences wows me.  At the end there are a few funny stories; I’m attaching two of my favorites (very short).  8/10

29. How to live safely in a science fiction universe, by Charles Yu – Experimental (sometimes), introspective, funny novel.  It had me laughing out loud (when the main character, a time machine technician, finds Linus Skywalker trying to go back in time to kill his father – Luke Skywalker – so he can stop being the son of the savior of the universe) as well as thinking about loss.  Excellent.  9/10 [link to full review]

* A Complaint-Free World, by Will Bowen (read by the author) – I listened to the first CD but got bored.  (Now I’m complaining about the self-help book that tells me to stop complaining!)

28. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (BBC Dramatizations, Volume 1) – Awesome.  I finally learned the origin of the phrase “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time”, which both appears as the title of Mark Haddon’s great book and in an Agatha Christie Poirot novel.  8/10 [This might have been August but I forgot to report.]

Movies
65. Groundhog Day – Still AWESOME. 9/10

* Paper Heart – Started this movie about love and Michael Cera, but we couldn’t get into it.

64. A Garota do Blog [Gossip Girl, dubbed into Portuguese], Season 1, Discs 1-4 – Good, fast-talking Portuguese comprehension practice. An addictive soap.

Subject: Books and Movies for August

Books

28.  El Palacio de la Medianoche, por Carlos Ruiz Zafón.  One of his young adult novels.  Okay, but just like super hero movie sequels suffer from too many villains, this one has too many abandoned houses.  A little too much of more of the same as his other stuff.  Got a little tired.  I’ll probably take a little break from Carlos.

Movies
63.  Best of the month Einstein & Eddington (plane) – Great story about Albert Einstein and the British astronomer who first proved Einstein’s ideas, all against the backdrop of World War I and deteriorating relations not just between Germany and England but between their respective scientific communities.  8/10

62.  Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (DVD) – Classic.
61.  Extraordinary Measures (airplane) – Motivated parent and cantankerous scientist develop a drug to save children from Pompe, a genetic disorder.  Based on a true story.  Basically a remake of Lorenzo’s Oil (with Susan Sarandon), just a different disease.  Objectivity versus emotion!  Not great, but I’m a sucker for this kind of thing (and many other kinds of things).  5/10

60.  Arthur (DVD) – Alcoholism and drunk driving just aren’t funny like they were in the 1970s, I guess.  A few fine moments.  Arthur: “I’m going to take a bath.” Butler: “I’ll alert the media.”  4/10

59.  Just Wright (airplane) – Sweet little movie.  Queen Latifah is a physical therapist and basketball fan, and she ends up treating her favorite player; but beware the money-grubbing, hot friend.  6/10

58.  Glee – Season 1 – Disc 2 (DVD) – I really like this show!  Teenage drama, fine, but a glee club singing the greatest hits of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and today, with great choreography and back-up?  I cannot resist!  7/10

57.  The Joneses (airplane) – Beautiful family (Demi Moore, David Duchovny, other people) moves into rich neighborhood and starts influencing the purchases of their neighbors.  More to these Joneses than meets the eye!  Pleasurable condemnation of material excess.  7/10  (Even through the airplane blurring and beeping, I could see that this is an R; not for all tastes.)

56.  The Other Guys (theater) – Will Ferrell and Mark Walhburg bring the silly.  Michael Keaton (Mr. Mom) plays a fine police chief.  Uneven, but I laughed a LOT.  7/10

55. Aisha (theater) – Modern Hindi adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma.  So modern, in fact, that it more or less looked like Hindi Clueless.  Not a musical.  Decent, but go and rent the fabulous Rab Ne Bana Ni Jhodi instead.
Jornada nas Estrelas
54. 17 Again (DVD) – A complete rip-off of Tom Hanks’s Big (but with Matthew Perry getting younger) with one scene straight from Back to the Future.  (Just like the new Karate Kid had one scene from Back to the Future!)  Yet likeable.  6/10
53. Best of the month! Behind the Sun (DVD) – Two families in rural northern Brazil are locked in a generations old blood feud, until a glimpse of the outside world upsets the balance.  9/10
Subject: Books and Movies for July

Books
27.  The Fire of Faith, by John Groberg – Groberg’s memoir of his time as a mission president in Tonga and than as a Regional Representative for the Church in the islands.  Lots of wonderful, faith-inspiring experiences that made me aspire to greater goodness. 9/10
26.  How to talk about books you haven’t read, by Pierre Bayard – Really enjoyed this exploration of all the ways we experience books (besides just reading them). 8/10 [more of my thoughts on this book]

Movies
52. Knight and Day (theater) – Exceeded my very low expectations (especially after the New Yorker review).  Fun romp, with Tom Cruise parodying his own Mission Impossible self and Cameron Diaz doing her smile.  6/10
51. Duplicity (DVD) – Interesting and diverting but not fun enough.  I love that guy, that character actor who plays one of the CEOs (not Paul Giamatti) – he was in Michael Clayton and Ghost Writer.  6/10
50. Inkheart (DVD) – Way worse the second time.  Full of holes and uncompellingness.  5/10
49. Inception (theater) – Another men’s night (with different men) while Diana was away.  Well acted, intriguing, complicated.  I’ll watch it again.  NPR’s Culturetopia podcast had a nice discussion of it on their recent Happy Hour episode.  9/10
48. The A Team (theater) – Diana was away so we did men’s night.  This exceeded my very low expectations.  I had a fabulous time and particularly enjoyed Bradley Cooper as Face.  7/10
47. And then there were none (DVD) – This 1945 of one of Agatha Christie’s coolest stories ruins the ending – in my opinion.  Bit of a relic. 4/10
46. From here to eternity (DVD – dubbed into Portuguese) – Powerful story about the juxtaposition of dysfunctionality and fellowship in the military. 7/10
45. Fantastic Mr Fox (DVD) – Dozed a bit.  Enjoyed it but not all that.  6/10
44. How to train your dragon (theater) – Sweet, exciting. 9/10

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