Monday, May 19, 2008

Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story

Christopher Moore is one of my favorite comedic authors. Wikipedia calls his style "absurdist fiction" - that fits quite well, in fact. I have read several of his novels, but there are still a few I've not gotten around to. Bloodsucking Fiends was in my closet, and while looking for anything light after Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I found it and immediately knew it would be perfect. It's about vampires: a beautiful girl gets attacked and wakes up to discover she's now a vampire. She finds a random guy to live with, who happens to be a young aspiring author. Craziness ensues, and well, you just need to read it. It's about an unconventional way of finding love. I can't wait to get my hands on the sequel, You Suck: A Love Story.

Grade: A+

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

It took me nearly a year to get around to reading this book - in fact, I started it sometime during my freshman year at college, and just could not continue. I finally picked it up about a week ago and dove in again. It struck me immediately that the style was akin to that of House of Leaves, and so I kept with it even though it wasn't the easiest read. This is not because it's not well-written, or insightful, but because the subject matter is tough. It follows a 9-year-old boy, Oskar Schell, who has lost his dad during 9/11. In addition to his search for meaning in all that death and his search for a lock which he found a key for in his dad's closet, the book follows his grandfather's struggle with his decision to leave before his son was born. His grandparents were in Dresden when it was bombed in World War II, and in this way Jonathan Safran Foer parallels the two events, effectively equating them to any act of war in which innocent lives are lost. This is not funny like Everything Is Illuminated, but Oskar Schell is a fascinating character to know the mind of. It's sad, poignant, and moving, and ultimately worth reading.

Grade: B+

The World's Fastest Indian

This is not by any means the world's fastest movie. Nor, however, is it the slowest. I got it in on Netflix for two reasons: one, it deals with New Zealand, and I am feeding my obsession with a place I'm going to be living for 4 and a half months. Two, it's about motorcycles, and my parents are into motorcycles. This is a moving and heartwarming movie based on the true story of Burt Munro, a man from Invercargill whose dream is to break a speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. He's not by any means wealthy, and the movie details his struggle to get to the US, and how nearly no one believed this old man would come back alive, let alone break the record. He catches a lot of lucky breaks once he gets to the States, even though his Kiwi friendliness is met with alarm by many. I was quite nervous while watching it that he was going to be nice to the wrong person, and something bad would happen, but it never did. He made it, he set the record, and he even got back home. At the end some on-screen text tells you he went back 9 times - this is amazing, since he's portrayed as nearly on his death bed in the movie. It's pretty inspiring, and nice to watch, and I enjoyed hearing the Kiwi accents.

Grade: B

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Over the Hedge

This is quite an entertaining little family film. The animation is lovely to look at, the characters are lovable and easy to identify with, and it's full of adult humor and social commentary. Of course, it's the usual stuff that goes over kids' heads but their parents can enjoy. I was pleasantly surprised at just how enjoyable this was to watch. I definitely recommend it.

Grade: A

A Salty Piece of Land

Surprisingly (at least to me), Jimmy Buffett is quite the storyteller. I didn't expect a celebrity novelist to be quite so entertaining, or so good at crafting a genuinely interesting tale. Granted, Buffett's songs are stories in themselves and he has written quite a few novels in his day, but still I didn't expect much from this book; I picked it up because my dad said it was alright and I wanted something to read that wasn't academic. So I was quite pleased to find that I really enjoyed it. It wasn't fine literature, of course, but it was similar to - and as good as - any Carl Hiaasen novel. So if you like Hiaasen, or Tim Dorsey, you'll like Buffett. This was a quirky and downright lovable story.

Grade: A


Michael Crichton's Next is a tense thriller that makes the reader quite nervous. The fact that Crichton is well known for his well-researched books, and a glance at the bibliography, makes me feel a bit uncomfortable about genetic engineering in science today. There are several good characters, but it's mostly about introducing as much shocking reality as possible. You begin to think, what if this is really happening? The characters pull you in and make you wonder if this is the fate that you will undergo due to genetic testing. The book has some clear messages, made even clearer by the author's notes at the end. He is opposed to gene patenting and laws that make universities able to make a profit off of science. But, interestingly, in his notes he says he's against limiting research. Some of the storylines make it seem as though he's actually against genetic testing/engineering altogether, but apparently that's not the case. It's an interesting and quick read, and I would suggest it for anyone who's curious about where science is and where it's going: this may be fiction, but a lot of it is the truth.

Grade: B

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Jesus Camp

This movie was just as scary as I was expecting it to be. Not only that, it reminded me a bit of people I've known, and the youth group I used to attend. It is somewhat scary to realize that I could have become as fanatical as the people in this movie. The radio show host, clips of whom are interspersed throughout the footage of the camp and the personal interviews of those involved, is the voice of reason in this. He is shockingly rational about his faith and about Christianity in general. It is terrifying to see the process of brainwashing the kids in this movie endure. They are basically being made into political tools by the evangelical adults portrayed here. What is really unsettling is that there are a lot of people whose beliefs are very similar to what's shown in the film. It is a must-see, people need to be aware of this huge influence on politics - after all, evangelical Christians have a huge amount of voting power.

Grade: A

The Mist

This is an adaptation of a Stephen King novella. My mom says it's pretty true to the source material. Ted assured me it was good. Unfortunately, I already knew the ending going in. I won't reveal it, but it's quite shocking. This was quite entertaining. For some reason, it felt a little B-movie-esque. It was a high quality B movie, mind you, if it was one. The camerawork, the dialogue, and the music were a bit cheesy to me. Anyway, it has a nice amount of suspense, blood and guts, and religious fanaticism. Worth watching.

Grade: B-