Movies: True Story

So this one didn't do well at the box office, and has 45% from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes, 42% from viewers. But I didn't think it was all that bad. It wasn't great, but it wasn't awful.

True Story IS a true story, though whenever something gets filtered through Hollywood . . . Well, but anyway, it's about ex-New York Times writer Mike Finkel and how he got entangled with murderer Christian Longo. Longo killed his entire family then went on the run using Finkel's identity. As a [recently disgraced] journalist, Finkel smelled a story and dove in.

My guess is most people didn't like that this is a talky movie. It's a lot of close-up shots, a lot of back and forth. There's no real action, though director Goold does at least try to alleviate things with flashbacks to the crime. It's a dark film—Longo killed his wife and three children—and heavy, and there's no real redemption in the end of the kind we've been trained to expect in movies.

Jonah Hill as Finkel and James Franco as Longo do a nice job, though Franco sometimes appears semi-catatonic, as if the movie is putting him to sleep even as he films it. He does play "psychopath" nicely, though. Felicity Jones plays Finkel's wife or girlfriend (not clear which) Jill, who later confronts Longo, but the scene is not quite earned. Though we see Jill get increasingly put off by Finkel's interest in Longo, and then Longo calls and weirds her out . . . It wasn't quite all there to make the scene of her lecturing Longo pay off.

In the end, True Story is an interesting character study. I'd like to maybe read the book now. But I can see how difficult it is to film something like this and make it compelling, which is why I think it tanked a bit with audiences.


Freebie: "Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of Ichabod Reed"

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Movies: Jodorowsky's Dune

Back at the height of his career, Alejandro Jodorowsky had big plans to adapt Frank Herbert's Dune to film. He went through a very long and involved process of collecting amazing talent to realize this dream, only to have it fall apart when the studios refused to take on the project. This documentary, then, is the story of what would have and could have been.

Now, I love Dune. Both the book and, yes, the Lynch movie. I realize it isn't, objectively, a very good film. And it certainly doesn't stand the test of time what with the dated FX. But I read the book when I was nine or ten, and I fell in love with it, so I guess I was predisposed to love the movie, too, when I finally caught the 4-hour version on cable. (Yes, I'm a firm member of the camp that declares the longer version is better. Makes more sense at least, though really, Dune is a film for the lovers of the book. I don't think it's meant to make sense to people who haven't read it, which is probably one of its chief flaws.)

Also, I love Toto.

BUT. This documentary opened doors to new ideas. Music in Dune by Pink Floyd? That would have been worth seeing! Or . . . hearing, I guess. David Carradine? Mick Jagger (in the role Sting eventually played)? Yeah, it's tantalizing to consider.

And the stories of how Jodorowsky went about reaching out to people and assembling this cast and crew is quite interesting as well.

Jodorowsky, too, is a lively storyteller as he recounts his efforts in interviews for the camera. He's refreshingly straightforward for an industry that likes to hedge and tiptoe. His disappointment, even after all these years, is palpable. The system let him down. Hollywood failed to see what he could see, no matter how he tried to show them. This is, unfortunately, so often the way it goes for visionaries.

As for Jodorowsky's ideas for Dune itself, well . . . As a fan of the book, I had difficulty buying in. While I could certainly see how different and innovative and ambitious the plans were, and I could also understand the message Jodorwsky was trying to get across by telling the story this way . . . I can't say I 100% loved it. It was just so over the top, even for epic sci-fi/fantasy. But then again, look at 70's sci-fi movies, or 70's anything, really. Over the top was the preferred method for pretty much everything. Lots of colors, lots of overacting, lots of beating people over their heads with "messages" and "meanings."

One of the most interesting features of the documentary comes at the end, though, when they juxtapose much of Jodorowsky's storyboards and conceptual art over films that seem to have lifted these things right from the massive book Jodorowsky sent to every major studio. Some of the similarities are uncanny.

Jodorowsky is 86 now and spry for his age. This documentary prompted him to direct his first movie in over a decade; The Dance of Reality showed at Cannes, and now Jodorowsky is filming Endless Poetry. He may have struggled to put the disappointment of a lost Dune behind him, but it's nice to see him coming back to his work.


Music: The Great Unknown by Rob Thomas

We all know I love Rob. So, you know, keep in mind I'm probably biased here.

Aquarians are weird. They're fiercely loyal and committed, but also fluid. They need things to move. Their also very caught up in connections, wether it those ties be between people or society at large. For an Aquarian it's more or less the same thing, actually, because they see that it's the minute bonds between people that hold us together as a world population. That's why so many Aquarians end up being activists of one kind or another. They see and feel all this so clearly it's sometimes painful. And like their Tarot significator the Star card, they must channel all that (pour the water) into their art or work or hobbies.

I don't mean to get woo-woo on you. It's just that these themes are recurring for Rob in his music. And yet one can't say "more of the same," really, because as an Aquarian he is fluid and does change things up a bit. There's something very definitely him at the core—echoes, say, of "Lonely No More" and the like—and yet no one of his solo albums, or of Matchbox Twenty's albums for that matter, sounds really alike.

Now, I originally said of "Trust You" that it didn't sound like Rob at all. And it still doesn't to me, not really. That song has Ryan Tedder/OneRepublic written all over it. That said, it has grown on me a bit. Other songs on The Great Unknown called to mind American Authors and Jason Mraz. This isn't a judgement, and not necessarily a bad thing, just very noticeable to me.

That said, I really did enjoy my first couple listens to the album. Most of it is upbeat, even danceable. The title song is slower and, intentionally or not, evokes the 23rd Psalm with its talk of valleys and, well, The Great Unknown.

I think so far I most like "Nlytm" and "Lie To Me," though there's no one song I don't like, which is pretty impressive. Yes, even "Trust You" will stay on my iPod. For now.

The whole thing hangs together quite well if you listen to it straight through. The next test will be to see if, when my iPod is on shuffle, I feel the need to skip through any of these songs when they surface. It does make a difference, believe it or not. Something that's fine in a bloc may not stand alone very well.

But thus far, it's all good.



I don't know what's going on in France, but they've been slamming this site hard the past few days. Hello, over there!

I wish I had interesting things to say, but I'm deep in the throes of a current project, and another in the wings, and I haven't been watching much television or reading a whole lot. Well, I'm trying to catch up with Proof. I do like that show. It's not powerful or anything, but it's entertaining enough that I keep watching. Whereas, brilliant as Mr. Robot is, somehow I'm less compelled. What makes the difference, I wonder? It might have to do with effort. Proof doesn't really require any, and right now I don't have the time to put a lot of effort into my TV viewing. And the Mr. Robot schtick is starting to wear a bit thin for me. ::shrug::

As for books, well, I wrote about those not too long ago. Reading Chrestomanci to my son each evening, and I've started Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog, which I'm enjoying, though I only get to read it in the bath.

Meanwhile, I'm slamming away at my WIP and have already lined up another project with an indie director, so . . . Busy, busy! But I'm a much better, nicer person when I'm writing, so it's best for everyone that I keep going.


Books: My Current Stack

I've slowly been digging my way through Ready Player One and The House on Durrow Street. Both are good, but for whatever reason I cannot read them in large chunks. It might say more about my current restless state of mind than about the books, though.

I tried to read The Book of Eleanor—I love the story of Eleanor and Henry II—but I only got a few pages in. I didn't care for the writing style. That is, of course, subjective. I'm sure it's a fine book for those who like the way Ms. Kaufman writes. And it could be, too, that I just so love Alison Weir's novel that nothing else looks good to me by comparison.

The book I'm most enjoying at the moment is the one I'm reading aloud to my 9-year-old son: Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones. We're doing all the Chrestomanci books, and I'd forgotten how much I absolutely love them. I look forward to our evening reads as much or more than my son does these days.

In the wings, I have Life after God by Douglas Coupland, Three Maids for a Crown by Ella March Chase, and Broken Harbor by Tana French. Plus we're planning a trip to the library this afternoon, so maybe I'll find something that catches my fancy. Something that keeps me pinned to the page. These days that's been hard to come by.


Television: True Detective, Season 2

Finally caught up, and the finale of True Detective really just left me with the question: "Why is James Frain such an asshole?" (I'm sure he's truly a very nice man. But he does asshole quite well.)

I'll say again that the first season was so amazing one couldn't really have hoped or expected this one to match it. The tone in Season 2 was similar to the first, and . . . the filters? They were going for grit, but it was the story that fell flat for me. A bunch of land or property or whatever? It amounted to a turf war, I think, and that kind of thing doesn't interest me much.

They could have done more with the characters, gone deeper. But with more characters sharing the screen in the same amount of hours, I guess they had to stay in shallower waters. I'm a character person, so when given a wonky, un-engaging plot and not much character development, I'm generally underwhelmed.

The pacing was a bit weird, too. Those first four episodes dragged up to that tipping point at which they finally hit the meat of the story (after leaping ahead in time). By then it was almost too late to salvage the season; most viewers and critics were already annoyed and/or bored. I understand why the season was written and constructed the way it was, but that doesn't make me like it any better.

Still, I'll probably watch whatever they do next. The third season is always the true test, I think, after a stellar first outing. When Season 1 is amazing, Season 2 is necessarily going to be a sophomore slump, and Season 3 will be the point at which one can determine whether Season 1 was a fluke of beginner's luck or if there's any real talent in the work. (No pressure, guys.)


Visit Little London!

By which I mean my home office. You can see the mess magic on my Facebook page. (Okay, yes, also the mess.)


Movies: Ant-Man

I hate to say it . . . But I'm going to say it anyway . . . This movie bored me.

Okay, okay, don't throw anything just yet!

I went in with no foreknowledge of this character except that he's based on yet another comic book and can shrink. Right? And I saw the film (in 3D) on a cruise ship, because Disney can show its own first-run films on its ships. So venue could have played a part, and mood, etc.

But still. I was bored.

There were a few funny moments. A few. But most of the movie was just very plot-plot-plodding. I mean, I love Michael Douglas, so glad to see him back on the screen. And I generally like Paul Rudd, too. And I think they had pretty good screen chemistry. I just wish they'd had more interesting things to do.

It sort of felt like the first Iron Man again in that there were rival inventors with rival suits, etc. And there was that forced Falcon fight thing. Felt like a desperate move to tie this film in with the others. But Ant-Man is only a second-tier hero, so he gets Falcon instead of, say, Captain America or one of those.

At least, it feels like Ant-Man is second tier. While technically there's nothing really wrong with it, the film comes across as rote and colorless. There's no flavor. (Does that mean it's tasteless? Hmm.) It's as if someone followed a recipe but couldn't be bothered to add any spice. Sort of a "get it done and out" thing with no investment in detail.

I realize it was a hit. And that a lot of people liked it. And maybe on another viewing, under different circumstances, I'd find more to like about it, too. But my initial impression? Meh.