Sunday, January 22, 2012

Movie Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (1/17/2012)

I didn't really know what to expect with this one - obviously a Big Important Film about 9/11, pretty good cast, based on a popular and acclaimed book, but middling reviews - so when I got a free ticket, I knew I would at least get my money's worth.  I really liked it - it's difficult watching the grief ripple through everyone's lives, but the actors do a great job of expressing the pain.  Parts of the story are a little too neat, and others have holes, but I can overlook the minor flaws with so much else keeping my attention.  It took me back to the Houston hotel room where I watched that morning unfold, and I can't tell if I like it more or less because of that.  Thomas Horn was excellent as the young boy, and Tom Hanks makes an idealized father come across as real, but the entire cast delivers strong performances.  It's worth seeing even though (perhaps because?) it takes you so strongly back to 9/11.


Wizard of Walking

I watched the movie The Way last fall, about a pilgrimage route through Spain that is at least 200km.  All of the walking pilgrims had pairs of hiking sticks (I've also seen them called trekking poles), and I was interested in how they might be helpful.  Looking online, they seem to redistribute some of the weight/effort from the legs to the arms and shoulders, which can help alleviate knee and ankle problems.  I don't have any leg problems (except blisters on my heels at the moment), but I plan to walk a lot this year in preparation for going up a mountain in the fall, and the sticks also help a lot with going up/downhill.  Does anyone have any experience or advice on this?

An alternative is also a single staff instead of a pair of poles.  It's not as even but can be easier to carry, and let's just face it: I want to use a staff.  I actually have 3 at home that I might try to use on hikes, but I'm pretty sure that would end anyone's being willing to hike with me.  Can't help it though - it's the only accessory I've ever wanted.  Any advice on staff vs. poles?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Movie Review: Carnage (1/16/2012)

I once saw the traveling company put on the play Art featuring Judd Hirsch, and then saw a local company's version.  The local company was fine, but the national cast amazed me by how much they added to the words. Similarly Carnage is just a filmed play, but with actors you could watch all day.  Each actor grips the audience in turn as the two couples dig ever deeper into their assumptions, their fears, and their 18-year-old scotch.  Christoph Waltz impressed me most, but I couldn't tell if that was his acting, or just that I'd never seen him on screen.  The ending felt gimmicky, but while I enjoyed the dialogue, it's just about the actors, and that's why it was great.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Movie Review: Contraband (1/14/2012)

Mark Wahlberg in a heist story?  You don't say!  As with all of his other movies, Wahlberg plays the guy you'd want in charge of your criminal activity - would love to see one of his crews up against Ocean's Umpteen.  Giovanni Ribisi is striving for Heath Ledger's Creepy Villains legacy - does anyone else remember him as the kid next door from My Two Dads?  It tends to make me laugh when he's being violent and unstable.  Kate Beckinsale, as always, fades into the background, and the less you notice her, the better the movie is.  The story had a couple of twists, but nothing outstandingly memorable.  Contraband is an enjoyable movie, one of the better January offerings.


P.S. When I see the trailer for Man On a Ledge, I hear Reese Witherspoon saying the title like her line "...a baby.  In a bar."  Am I the only one?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Movie Review: Young Adult (1/2/2012)

Finally - I'd been waiting to see this for a few weeks!  And it didn't disappoint- Diablo Cody's screenplay is as clever as Juno, but without the whiplash pace.  The movie is funny, but starts off with the main character's dark oddities, and just descends ever deeper into her psychoses as well as the darkness she exposes/reveals in those around her.  It refuses to wrap up any of the characters or their problems at the end - it's more a slice-of-life anecdote than a Story.  For non-Charlize fans, she does an excellent job in this one.  For non-Patton-Oswalt fans, do you exist?  Really?  I don't believe it.  I really liked Young Adult - it's still haunting me a couple of weeks later.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Movie Review: We Bought a Zoo (1/1/2012)

I did not expect this to be my first movie of 2012, but I got bailed on for Young Adult and ended up going to see Matt Damon mail one in.  His role had a little more oomph to it than I expected it, and I really enjoyed the movie.  I wouldn't call it great, but animals are always fun, and the young daughter lights up scenes without smothering them.  Especially if you need to occupy kids and don't want to sit through boring Tintin or whatever else kids will watch, this is a good option.


I Found a Park!

I was heading to the gym for another 32-64 laps when I noticed a County Park sign.  I turned in and found a little piece of awesome.  Northeast Metropolitan Park is mostly sports fields (although they seem to be developing more of the land into parkness), but also has a lot of walking trails.  Most interesting to me is a lot of unmaintained land, including a 50-60 foot hill, which feels more like exploratory hiking than laps.  Also, the hill is the only slope I've found in the area to include up/downhill in my walking.  The park also had great benches and various features/touches I look forward to exploring.  I bet it's insanely crowded once sports leagues get going (at least 18 soccer/football fields and 8 baseball fields), but until then it will be a nice outdoors changeup to the gym's walking track.

In addition to helping my walking efforts, this is also going to count as my New Thing goal for January - this is what I want from that effort, to see more of what my community offers.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Stone of Farewell (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #2)Stone of Farewell by Tad Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Still engaging if not completely original.  The butterfly meeting hall particularly stands out as a memorable scene.  It's interesting how focused Williams is on the novelty of a wolf as a mount/partner for one of his characters, while Eddings and Jordan had already taken this concept much further by the time these books were written - must've been a late 80s thang.  Given that the last book is 50% longer than the first two, I wish he had put more of the action and maybe a few more answers into this book, but fortunately I start the next one tomorrow!

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Book Review: The Dragonbone Chair

The Dragonbone Chair (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #1)The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this trilogy back in high school, and I'd remembered it started slowly, but had forgotten how slowly.  It feels like Martin's Game of Thrones in that it creeps towards even acknowledging magic, keeping the facade of medieval dreariness for at least two-thirds of the book.  In general it's a typical kitchen-boy-finds-adventure story, but the world and cultures are rich enough to keep it fresh.  Looking forward to finishing the trilogy again.

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