Showing posts from March, 2013

Snapshots - #42: Thor: Ragnarok, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, LBJ

Thor: Ragnarok (2017), (♦♦♦♦½): Thor has saved earth twice by now and has, for the last two years, wandered the universe searching for infinity stones. He hasn't found any. He has, however, become prisoner of an enemy of Asgard, Surtur, who tells Thor that his visions of Asgard engulfed in flames is a premonition of Ragnarok—the destruction of Asgard, which is already in motion. Thor frees himself and arrives at home to find Loki sitting on the throne, passing as Odin, and neglecting his duties to protect the Nine Realms. With Odin's exile, Asgard's enemies have been reassembling, but Odin's death may just free Hela, a goddess against whom neither Thor nor Loki are enough.
It was in Thor: The Dark World where Loki, an antagonist, first threatened to steal the show. He became the villain that Marvel fandom loves to hate. While Loki is at his most charming in this film, the director, with the help of a sparkling screenplay, has very much exploited the great chemistry of t…

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (♦♦♦♦)

Young bond salesman Nick Carraway tells the story of his millionaire neighbor and friend Jay Gatsby-- in West Egg, New York-- who had a poor upbringing in Mid-West America and used his charisma and business acumen to amass a fortune after he fought in WWI. Jay Gatsby had two powerful dreams propelling him forward: his desire to become a rich man, and recapture the love of the beautiful and vain Daisy Fay, who in the five years since has been married to Tom Buchanan—a man who comes from old money and has a Yale education.
With the purpose of rekindling his love with Daisy, Gatsby throws lavish parties every weekend to see if she may someday attend one, but she never does. It is when he meets famous golfer Jordan Baker at one of his parties—Jordan is Daisy’s best friend-- that he finally catches a break, for Jordan arranges a meeting between Daisy and Jay at Nick’s home next door to his mansion. After five years, Jay Gatsby is still in love with Daisy, but does she feel the same towards …

Sacré Bleu: A Comedy D’Art by Christopher Moore (♦♦♦♦)

Vincent van Gogh supposedly shot himself in the middle of a wheat field and later walked a mile to his house to lie down. Leave it to his friends baker-turned-painter Lucien Lessard and happy-go-lucky Count Henri Toulouse-Lautrec to suspect Vincent’s suicide. Vincent’s mention of a mysterious Colorman he was afraid of triggers his friends’ investigation. In their quest they meet the suspected man and a goddess determined to elicit passion and inspiration from her subjects but at a steep price.
Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore is an absorbing, fascinating account of the use of the color blue in paintings up to the height of the Impressionism. The story begins with the apparent suicide of Vincent van Gogh and evolves into the quest of two of his closest friends— painters Lucien Lessard and Count Henri Toulouse-Lautrec— to find the connection between Vincent’s madness and his use of the color blue.
A wild ride is in order through the brothels, bars and cafés of late nineteenth century Paris…

Down the Darkest Road by Tami Hoag (♦♦♦)

Sixteen-year-old Leslie Lawton disappeared on her way home from a sport event in Santa Barbara, California, never to be seen again. Four years later Leslie’s mother, Lauren, is still reeling from two tragedies since her husband took his own life not long after his daughter vanished.
Lauren has moved to Oak Knoll, California to try to save what’s left of her life with her daughter Leah, but the man suspected in Leslie’s disappearance appears to be living in the same town and for Lauren the nightmare never ends.
Enter Tony Mendez, detective with Oak Knoll Sheriff Office, who believes Lauren’s side of the story almost from the beginning and decides to investigate further. Partnered with Danni Tanner--police detective with Santa Barbara PD-- and Hicks, his investigative partner, Tony Mendez assembles a timeline of unsolved disappearances of young women in California and cases of breaking and entering where odd occurrences have taken place but nothing has been taken.
Everything points to the…

Oz the Great and Powerful (♦♦♦♦)

Oscar, Oz for short, is a magician--with a traveling circus-- who in the midst of a quarrel jumps onto a hot air balloon and gets sucked into the funnel of a tornado. He lands in a place so full of color and marvel that he believes himself to be in heaven. There he meets a beautiful, naïve witch named Theodora.
Theodora introduces Oz to the prophecy of Oz, a mighty wizard who is destined to become king of Oz after defeating the wicked witch who has Oz’ inhabitants terrorized. Theodora brings Oz to Emerald City to meet her sister Evanora who is the guardian of the throne. As it turns out, Evanora is the bad witch, who gives Theodora—ailing from a broken heart—a bite of a green, magical apple. Upon biting the apple Theodora becomes the green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West, who fights along Evanora and her creatures against Glinda, the Witch of the South, and the good people of Oz aided by the wizard.
Oz the Great and Powerful is a splendid family movie with plenty of lush, dazzling spec…

Quartet (♦♦♦♦)

In a house for retired musicians, egos collide and sometimes talents join forces for a worthy cause. Divas of both sexes in the house share a common goal: keeping Giuseppe Verdi’s music alive.
I really liked this movie. It is produced and wonderfully directed by Dustin Hoffman. It is also masterfully acted by Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins and Michael Gambon.
It seems to me that the most audacious and clever movies lately are being directed by actors; that’s certainly the case with George Clooney, Denzel Washington, Ben Affleck and finally Dustin Hoffman has joined the list.
Quartet is a movie full of great classical music and not so classical but equally beautiful as well. The humor is adult and naughty but in no way crude or over the top. It is a movie to enjoy as a celebration of life, good music and growing old, because only those who die young or before their time don’t get to do the latter. Also, Quartet is about second chances after mistakes that may …

Amour (♦♦♦½)

Georges and Anne are married and growing old in their apartment in Paris. Anne has the carotid blocked and must undergo surgery but after an unsuccessful procedure she returns home and suffers a stroke that paralyzes the entire right side of her body. Georges promises to avoid going to the hospital in the future and starts taking care of her but the growing demands of his wife’s sickness take a toll on both of them.
Amour is a very intimate film that occurs entirely in the confines of an apartment. Contributing to the intimate atmosphere of the film is the scarcity of actors, very few in the whole film, the same ones coming and going to and from the apartment of Anne and George.
The acting is superb, particularly Emmanuelle Riva as Anne and Jean-Louis Trintignant as Georges.
Amour is an unflinching portrayal of what is like to get sick in old age. It is a sad film with plenty of awkward conversations between the young and the old, because let’s face it, it’s not pretty to grow old. Amour

Into the Dark by Alison Gaylin (♦♦♦½)

As we came to know in And She Was, Brenna Spector suffers from a rare disorder called hyperthymestic syndrome. This disorder prompts Brenna to remember events of her life to the slightest details. A blast from Brenna’s past comes in the form of a case involving a missing web-performing artist named Lula Belle who seems to have surprising knowledge of Brenna and Clea’s childhoods. One must remember that the previous novel, as well as this one, delves into the aftermath of Clea’s disappearance—Brenna’s teenage sister-- when Brenna was eleven years-old.
Performing artist Lula Belle has been missing for two months leaving behind obsessed admirers; one of those is Gary Freeman, a child star agent and the man behind Lula Belle’s internet success. When Freeman uses Brenna’s former employer Errol Ludlow to lure Brenna to the case, a Pandora box is opened for secrets will be exposed and in the process blackmailers will pay the ultimate price. At the end two questions will still remain, who is L…