Saturday, January 12, 2019

Because I Can Never Resist New J.K. Rowling...

Fantastic Beasts the Crimes of Grindelwald: The Original ScreenplayFantastic Beasts the Crimes of Grindelwald: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn't like this screenplay/movie as much as the first one, because a) Queenie is acting out-of-character stupid in service of the plot :( and b) no real!Percival Graves, who had such great chemistry with Credence in the first one. (This is no knock against Claudia Kim, whom I think did a nice job in the Nagini role she was given. I actually liked her relationship with Credence and I hope she gets a bigger role in the next one.)

The first movie shouldn't have had more homoerotic subtext than the second one given that this screenplay includes scenes with young Dumbledore and young Grindelwald together. I know same-gender romances are frowned upon in some non-U.S., non-U.K. film markets, but if J.K. Rowling let that economic consideration stop her from exploring the Dumbledore-Grindelwald relationship, she shouldn't really have told us that Dumbledore is a gay character. Commit to your characters' background stories or leave them out.

Also, there are continuity issues with what we already know from the Harry Potter books and Pottermore addenda. Minerva McGonagall shouldn't be at Hogwarts yet in 1927, should she? I read somewhere that she shouldn't even have been born yet according to a previously plotted timeline. So I don't love that.

But it does have some nice touches nonetheless, such as the blood troth and the baby Nifflers. Jacob is still his wonderful Jacob self even if Queenie is sacrificed to bad writing, and Newt & Tina still have their adorably awkward spark. "Salamander eyes" is my new favorite compliment.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman #Nonfiction

Christian Bale: The Inside Story of the Darkest BatmanChristian Bale: The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman by Harrison Cheung

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Harrison Cheung, a Canadian who loves movies, was Christian Bale's unpaid personal assistant for many years. He does not have a very high opinion of Mr. Bale, whom he characterizes as incredibly self-centered. Disdainful of publicity to an extreme, Bale didn't even attend Heath Ledger's funeral because he didn't want to face the public, even though Bale and Ledger had become friends. (Some people get along with Christian Bale. Heath Ledger was one, and Russell Crowe is another.)

This book is full of short, interesting tidbits, but it also contains some strange errors and omissions. When mentioning Christian's interest in playing Mercutio in the Baz Luhrmann 'Romeo + Juliet' film of the '90s, Cheung and co-author Nicola Pittam mention that Bale lost the role to "an African-American." What an odd, vague way to describe Harold Perrineau, the actor who not only steals the movie with his impassioned portrayal of Romeo's volatile friend but is also well-known to American audiences through the TV shows 'Lost' and, now, 'Claws.' Do the authors really not know who Harold Perrineau is?

Another section refers to Colin Farrell as a British actor. Colin. Farrell. Is. Irish. Irish people are NOT British, and since Cheung lived with a British family (Christian, Louise, and David Bale - brother, sister, and father) for years, shouldn't he know this?

Cheung also has a low opinion of Winona Ryder, a former friend of Bale, his co-star in 'Little Women,' and the one who introduced Bale to his wife, Sandra (Sibi) Blazic. He describes the petite star as foul-mouthed and rude.

The whole narration has to be taken with a small grain of salt because Cheung obviously has a bone to pick with the Bale clan. They owe him thousands of dollars, if he genuinely never received a paycheck for working as Bale's personal and social media assistant from the earliest days of the Internet. Maybe he's exaggerating, or maybe he has cherry-picked the incidents that paint Christian Bale and his semi-con-artist father in the worst possible light. I don't know. It was still an interesting, relatively quick read.

I purchased this book at Barnes and Noble with my own funds as was not obligated in any way to review it.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

'Shakespeare Saved My Life' by Laura Bates

Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the BardShakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard by Laura Bates

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dr. Laura Bates writes about her work with the prisoners of Central Indiana, close to where I currently call home. In particular, she recounts her teacher-pupil relationship with inmate Larry Newton. With little formal education, convicted murderer Newton had a keen, insightful mind and a particular gift for relating Shakespeare to the circumstances of his fellow inmates. He might have become the first inmate to earn his Ph.D. in prison -- if the state of Indiana hadn't ended all funding for education in prison.

It's really stupid to end prison education and Shakespeare programs, by the way. They've been shown time and time again to reduce the amount of violence between inmates. America is horrible to its incarcerated persons anyway, but it's especially boneheaded to make the workplace more dangerous for prison employees as well as more dangerous for inmates themselves.

Bates writes that she is not a prison reformer, but maybe she should be. American prisons are a human rights nightmare, as Orange Is the New Black has recently shown many of us. And we should all care, because not every prisoner is incarcerated for the rest of his or her life. They'll become our neighbors, and it's always better to have an educated neighbor with insight into his or her own character and actions.

I checked this audiobook out of my local library using the Libby app. I was not obligated in any way to review it.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

'Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right' by Jane Mayer

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical RightDark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Is this a well-researched, thoughtful work of journalistic nonfiction? Yes. Is it infuriating? Also yes.

The Supreme Court made a huge mistake when it ruled in the Citizens United decision that money counts as free speech, and now the Republican Party has run with that decision to a disastrous degree. The loser is democracy itself. I wish every American voter would listen to/read this book.

These out-of-touch-to-the-point-of-delusion billionaires push their loony brand of libertarianism out through the "conservative" media and Americans without two nickels to rub together start spouting the wishes of billionaires to their own detriment. Wake up and smell the manipulation, America.

I checked this audiobook out of the library using the Libby app. I was not obligated in any way to review it.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

'Children of Blood and Bone' Is a True Must-Read

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of OrĂ¯sha, #1)Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that's so good, I have a hard time articulating why I loved it as much as I loved it. The story is compelling, the relationships between the siblings and the various other characters are compelling, the world-building is incredibly detailed, and the writing is full-grown. The ending blew my mind. I doubt I've read anything better in the last 12 months (and keep in mind I really, REALLY liked Philip Pullman's latest.)

"Must-read" is bandied about so much in book marketing that it loses all meaning, but in the truest sense, readers who appreciate good YA fiction must read this book. Tomi Adeyemi has the gift.

I borrowed this e-book from my library using the Libby app. I had to keep returning it and checking it out again because it's really popular and I kept stretching it out because I literally did not want this story to end.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year HistoryFantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year Historby Kurt Andersen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Andersen, one of the two co-founders of Spy magazine, spent several years researching this meandering but compelling history. The 500 years in question begin with Martin Luther and the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation, leading to the Puritans, leading eventually to the "alternate facts" that America runs on today. This isn't an indictment of only the contemporary Republican party - we're all guilty of some of these strange, irrational beliefs - but it pulls no punches in calling BS on climate change deniers, flat earthers, and anyone who thinks the Earth is 5,779 years old and/or takes the Bible literally. I'm not sure if I enjoyed this book or if it just made me want to smack all my fellow Americans on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper like naughty puppies.

I borrowed this e-book from my local library using the Libby app and was not obligated in any way to review it.

Friday, October 5, 2018

For your October enjoyment, a little Edgar Allan Poe

The Essential Edgar Allan Poe: Stories, Poems, BiographyThe Essential Edgar Allan Poe: Stories, Poems, Biography by Edgar Allan Poe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Happy October! I'm sorry I haven't been blogging much lately. I've just started a new Corporate Day Job. I'll try to least post about some interesting audio books I listen to in my car on the way to and from work, like this one.

My brother loaned me this audio book. I'd read most of these stories and poems before, but they were still enjoyable. "Tamerlane" is really not a great poem, but it's always fun to hear a dramatic reading of "The Raven."

(A few more of my favorite poems are HERE.)

My favorite of the material that was new to me was the sketch about the man who was hypnotized at the point of death, "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar."

The biography was interesting, too. Here's a fun Poe tidbit: Although he was often a harsh, cruel critic of work he disliked, he genuinely liked the work of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. He wrote positive reviews of her work in his newspapers and was influenced by her when he wrote "The Raven."

This book makes the case that the probably cause - or at least one cause - of Poe's final delirious illness and death may have been the 19th-century practice of cooping, a kind of voter fraud. It explains why he was found wearing someone else's clothes. Unscrupulous electioneers would dress the same intoxicated man up in different outfits so he could vote multiple times.

I believe the rabies theory of E.A. Poe's death came up in that book about rabies. I don't think anyone seriously thinks that Poe died of rabies anymore.

Overall, this audio book is a solid listen if you're a fan of classic American literature.