9.28.2014

Quick reviews

Here are just a few quick thoughts on things I've seen recently:

Movies
  •  This Is Where I Leave You - After reading the book, I was looking forward to seeing this movie.  I thought it was cast well and I enjoyed it a lot.  I was perplexed when my dad told me that the Washington Post only gave it 1.5 stars out of 4.  The only thing I can think of is that by having read the book first, I knew the back story and knew the motivations of the characters that perhaps someone unfamiliar with the story might not pick up on.  Anyway, I'd give it 3 stars.
  • Skeleton Twins - This was a good one too.  Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader are perfect together.  Bill Hader's performance was particularly good. 
TV
  • Red Band Society - After two episodes, I don't think I'm going to continue with this one.  I think the kids are all great actors, but I just don't "buy" the whole premise and can't get with the boy in the coma narrating the story. It's bad enough that he knows all that's going on inside the hospital, but how does he also know everything happening outside the hospital?  It'd be better without his narration, OR to have voice-overs from multiple characters the same way Glee does.  I'm dropping this one from the lineup.
  • Gotham - in which I was pleasantly surprised.  I wasn't expecting to like this, but I really did.  I'll keep it.
  • Mysteries of Laura - I've seen two episodes of this too.  I like Debra Messing in this, but there's not really anything special about the show.  I've watch another episode or two and then decide whether to keep it.
  • black-ish - It was enjoyable, but not bust your gut funny.  Instead of laughing, I often found myself thinking, "that's a good point", or "that's so true. " I wish everyone of all races would watch it, but fear they'll be put off by that damn title.
  • Madam Secretary - I've only seen the first show and enjoyed it well enough.  Critics kept talking about this being about Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, but this show has the added element of Tea Leoni's character having worked for the CIA in the past.  That's adds a different dimension when she's dealing with foreign relations.  I really like Tea Leoni, as well as Tim Daly who plays her husband, and will keep watching. 
  • How To Get Away with Murder - one word:  Intriguing.  I definitely want to see how this one plays out.
  • The Voice - I've only seen about 30 minutes of the first show, but already love the addition of Gwen Stefani and Pharrell.   
Until next time...

9.20.2014

It's time for Fall TV!

Yep!  It's September, and it's time for the new Fall TV shows.  As usual, I've gone through my Entertainment Weekly to pick out what I'm going to watch, and ta-da!  Below, is my proposed TV watching schedule, subject to change depending how good or bad these shows are (premiere dates are in parentheses):


So, here are a few notes on the 2014 Fall TV Season:

New Show(s) I'm Most Looking Forward To:  Top of the list is Marry Me, followed closely by A to Z.  The same folks involved with Happy Endings are responsible for Marry Me, so I just have a feeling it will be great.  A to Z has two actors that I really like... the Mom from How I Met Your Mother (aka Cristin Milioti) and Fred the Guardian Angel from Drop Dead Diva (aka Ben Feldman).  I also loved him on Mad Men.  

Returning Show I'm Most Looking Forward To:  Parenthood.  So sad this is the final season.

New Shows I'm Skeptical About:  Just about everything else, but especially: 
  • Gotham - not my usual fare, but I told my coworker I'd give it a try
  • Mysteries of Laura - only watching for Debra Messing, but it doesn't look great.  I haven't seen the premiere yet.
  • Red Band Society - I've read mixed reviews on this, from those that name it the best new show of the season to those that pan it as manipulative and treacly.  After watching the season premiere, I'm leaning toward the latter, however, I'll watch another episode or two before I make a final decision.
  • Madame Secretary - eh.  We'll see.
  • State of Affairs - I'll watch for Alfre Woodard.
  • black-ish - I love Anthony Anderson, however, I HATE the title of this show.
Returning Shows I'm Most Skeptical About:
  • American Horror Story: Freak Show - I'm worried this one will freak me out too much this season, but I look forward to great performances from everyone.
  • Major Crimes - I don't know why I still watch this show, but alas, here it is.  Same for Revenge.
  • New Girl - it's just not as funny nor charming as it once was.  Now it often just makes me groan.  I'll give it another episode or two. My sister dropped it last season and hasn't looked back.
  • Amazing Race - I'll watch the first episode and see if there are any teams I'd want to route for.  Lately, the annoying folks outnumber the folks I like. 
Returning Shows That I've Already DroppedPerson of Interest.  This season took a real turn for the worse (worst? This always trips me up.) last season with a plot line I hated.  When I read that this season would continue to follow that plot line in earnest, I decided to drop it.

So, what will you be watching?  If you watch something that's not on my list that you'd recommend, please let me know!

8.24.2014

The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

The Next Best ThingThe Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This book was just "eh" for me. I was a huge fan of Good in Bed and In Her Shoes, but it seems like the magic ended with those two books. I've started and stopped Certain Girls several times but could never get into it, and never finished. And now, I started and wanted to stop The Next Best Thing too, but the behind-the-scenes look at how a TV sitcom is made kept me going. I think it would have been more interesting if Ms. Weiner had written a memoir about her experience in the TV world rather than this dull fictionalized version.

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7.26.2014

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

LandlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars


While I still LOVE Rainbow Rowell's writing, this one, in my opinion, didn't measure up to Eleanor & Park or Fangirl. I liked this book, but I didn't LOOOOVVVVEEEE it like I did the others. Part of the problem could be that I always have trouble with story lines that play around with the space-time continuum. I just feel like there are too many unanswered questions. I wish the story had been told from two points of view, so the reader could understand what was happening on the other end of the phone. Even though I didn't love this one, I still think Rainbow is a fantastic writer and I'll read anything she puts out. I look forward to whatever comes next.


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Update 15 minutes later:   I was reading reviews on Amazon.com and came across someone who hit the nail on the head.

SPOILER ALERT!!      SPOILER ALERT!!     SPOILER ALERT!!     SPOILER ALERT!! 

7.15.2014

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

This is Where I Leave YouThis is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed this story of a dysfunctional family sitting shiva for seven days after the father passes away. I hadn't heard of the book until I saw the preview for the upcoming moving, which looked funny and has a great cast. I decided to read the book first and am glad I did. 'It's quite funny, and I always find it interesting to read stories like this from the male perspective.


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6.29.2014

The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks

The Harlem HellfightersThe Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I saw Max Brooks on The Daily Show and was intrigued to read this book.  I'm torn about giving this only three stars.  This is a fictionalized account of the 369th Infantry Regiment--an African American unit who was set up to fail by the U.S. government, but came back as one of the most decorated units during World War I. For working so hard to get this story out there, I give Max Brooks 5 stars and more. However, I had a difficult time with the graphic novel format, hence the 3 stars.

Max Brooks tried to have a movie made, and was turned down time and again, so he decided to try a graphic novel. Again, kudos for not giving up. But, this particular graphic novel I found difficult to follow. This is the second or third graphic novel I've read, so I'm no expert, but the story is disjointed and jumpy, and because the drawings are in black and white, it's difficult to distinguish the characters. I think it would have helped a lot if the drawings were in color. In black and white, it was even difficult to distinguish the black characters from white characters. The drawings are harsh and it's often tough to discern what is happening from one panel to another because there's just so much black ink.

The author's note, historical note, and bibliography at the end were great and very informative. I hope that with the release of this book that the Powers That Be will reconsider and make a movie. I think there's a lot to the story that would translate well in film, but didn't do so well in this format.

A friend and I decided to read this together and she had an equally difficult time.  She felt proud of herself for taking on a graphic novel, as she should.  I hope this doesn't keep her from trying another one.  I recommended that she read Blankets next, which I really enjoyed.


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6.15.2014

Feeling good

It's been a long time since my last post, and I promised my friend Kerri that I'd get back to blogging eventually.  Well, here I am.

These days, with crappy radio stations, my iPod, and a local sports station that I like, I often don't know what the kids are listening to these days.  My sister always insists that if I watched VH1's Top 20 Countdown on Saturday or Sunday morning, I'd at least be aware of what's going on.

5.04.2014

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Someday, Someday, MaybeSomeday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan of Lauren Graham on Parenthood, and was so surprised when I came across this book at the store and realized, "Yes, it's that Lauren Graham." I was very curious to see what she could do, and she didn't disappoint.

The story is about a struggling actress in NYC and her trials and tribulations in the mid-1990s. It's a fun read...I laughed out loud a few times, and was really pulling for Franny in her endeavors. Toward the end, Franny seemed a little dense and I just wanted to shake her by the shoulders to point out what was right in front of her face. Despite that, I still thought it was a great read. I also loved the interactions between Franny and her dad. And her descriptions of agent Barney Sparks cracked me up too. I agree with the blurbs on the back cover that this book was very charming.

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4.20.2014

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Silver SparrowSilver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This story starts off with, "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist." It's told in two parts, first by Dana, who is the daughter in James' secret/illegal marriage. The second part is told by his other daugheter, Chaurisse, from his first marriage. Dana and her mother know the situation, Chaurisse and her mother do not. James is the only character that I didn't care for. I cared about, and pulled for all the others.

Tayari Jones is a wonderful writer who really draws you in to each character's life. It got to a point where I really didn't want to put the book down. The only reason I didn't give it five stars is because the final chapter felt rushed and the story left a lot of questions unanswered. I would love to know more about what happened to these characters' lives.

I also enjoyed reading the interview with the author at the end of the book.  Knowing why she wrote the book the way she did and how she was influenced, made me appreciate the story all the more.

I do look forward to reading other works by Ms. Jones.


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4.18.2014

Random Idol post


I haven't posted much about American Idol this season, other than to say I was watching it again thanks to Mr. Harry Connick, Jr.  I don't watch the show religiously and tend to let several episodes build up before I watch, so I'm always a bit behind.  After seeing last week's show (the theme was The 80's) and this week's show, I have a few comments and some advice for some of the contestants.

I like Jessica and Jena's voices, but I don't like their personalities.  When you see them in group shots where they're sitting on the couch with other contestants, both of them are always scowling and looking like they hate the world.  I could be competely wrong, but I think they resent it when other contestants get great comments from the judges.  They never seem happy for any other contestant that does well.

My advice is for Jessica and Sam.  LOOSEN UP.  Sam's too young, but maybe Jessica can use this advice that I saw on Facebook recently:


Last week's performance when she did Blondie's "Call Me," just made me uncomfortable.  It was very clear that she was trying desperately to use the advice given by David Cook (it was great to see him back!) to use the cameras, but it was just so awkward and you could tell she was uncomfortable and thinking too hard.  Okay, maybe alcohol isn't the answer, but she needs something to loosen up. Oh wait, as I'm watching this week's show, Harry just told her to put on some funk or hip-hop music and just dance and watch herself in the mirror.  He's getting at the same point I'm making.  She needs to find the groove and find the beat.

Same goes for Sam.  During Caleb's performance this week, they showed a shot of the other contestants on the couch and most were clapping and dancing.  But poor Sam had his hands shoved in his pockets and he looked extremely awkward.  He reminded me of myself when we first used to go to clubs to go dancing.  I was awkward and uncomfortable for sure, but hey, after a drink or two, I did loosen up and went for it.  Vodka told me I could do it.

And speaking of Caleb.  WOW.  He hasn't had a bad performance yet, and I LOVED last week's performance of Journey's "Faithfully."  He's not the type of performer I'd typically be interested in with the whole ROCK thing, but he just knocks it out every week.  I think he's got the best voice on the show. 

Just a few more weeks to go...it'll be interesting to see how the voting goes.