Are You Not Entertained?

How many times a day do you seek to be entertained? It is elusive. It is dangerous. The rush of stimulus bombards us. The mob mentality of pop culture is easily distracting. Yet, I love music and books and movies and have no intention of stopping my search for fine entertainment. Here continues a monthly series of the entertainment that has occupied my time, for better or worse.

MUSIC

Tedeschi Trucks Band is a modern Blues band featuring the husband-wife duo Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks. She sounds like Bonnie Raitt and he plays like Gregg Allman. When I’m shooting free pool on Thursday nights, I play their songs in the satellite jukebox and relax. They have released a new album this year, Let Me Get By. Want to hear more? Check out their music videos on the Tedeschi Trucks Band  website. Try listening to this fine example of their talents in “Midnight in Harlem”.

BOOKS 

The Joy Luck Club was published by Amy Tan in 1989 followed by her adapted screenplay in 1993. I’ve seen this classic lying on desks and stuffed in lockers for years. I never got around to reading it. So I borrowed a copy from our school bookstore this summer and fell in love with Tan’s imagery and her parables and stories of four Chinese immigrant mothers and their daughters. It is an elegant book about the universal worry of the older generation who wonders if the younger one will forget the history of their people, the traditions of their ethnicity, and the fear they will be forgotten. 4.5/5.

I haven’t seen the film version. Have you?

The Road by Cormac McCarthy 

For the Lucky 13 Film Club, I chose Cormac McCarthy as an author whose novels become films. I heard how depressing this post-apocalyptic book and the film was, and perhaps that’s why I put off reading it. Actually, I wasn’t depressed at all with either. In gray surroundings, love shines brightly. Even with the horrific elements thrown in to spike your heartbeat, I thought it was a beautiful tribute of the love between a father and son. Viggo Mortensen carries the weight of the world convincingly. McCarthy typically stages the good vs. the bad in his stories and the good son (Kodi Smit-McPhee )is a beacon and reminder to us all for which side to strive. When the world has come to the end, will you run or embrace your fellow-man? I highly recommend both versions. 4.5/5.

Blancanieves 2012

Now here is a clever retell of the classic story, Snow White. It’s a Spanish silent film and beautifully executed by Pablo Berger. Rescued from her evil stepmother (Maribel Verdú) by dwarves, a young woman (Macarena García) becomes a bullfighter like her late father. You might think a silent film would be difficult to stay with today, but not so. It’s engaging to the last frame. 5/5

The-Way-Back-Poster

I enjoyed the background article on this human endurance story found here Is it a true story?Director Peter Weir has half the world at his disposal for great cinematography and Mother Nature doesn’t disappoint. From a Russian Gulag in 1939, a group of escapees journey 4,000 miles from Stalingrad to India. What could go wrong?

The natural settings are jaw-dropping, but if the elements cause the characters to become invisible behind scarves, masks, facial hair or sunburns, it becomes a challenge to remain vested in the characters. That is, the personalities need to come forth to compensate falling into the obscurity of a group. How about a little scene chewing? The only two characters who show a personality are a knife-swinging thief Valka (Colin Farrell) and lying, charming Irena (Saoirse Ronan). All the other characters could have been interchanged with any actor out there. This is too bad for Jim Sturgess who is the central protagonist and gives a lackluster performance. Ed Harris as the cynical, iron-faced wise one softens and mixes well with Irena as the daughter-figure. It’s too bad Irena didn’t have more screen time to coax out the rest of the group more. Their personalities finally rose to the surface like mud in the Gobi desert. I like a good endurance story, and this one covered the extremes nature can offer, so it was good entertainment. 3.5/5.

Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014)I love Simon Pegg. He plays the Everyman with perfect comedic timing and can turn ridiculous plots into fun adventures. While this story is lame, the lessons are always worth reviewing, for I forget where I put the keys to happiness. I preferred The Life of Walter Mitty (4/5) much more.  HSH:  2.5/5.

Being Jane (2007) I watched this one because I chose Jane Austen as a writer whose stories become films. Pride and Prejudice is a gem and this film suggests how the spinster had it in her to portray the complexities of love. It’s a nice twist on an idea. Being Jane was loyal to the period costumes and settings and the overall feel of the 18th century, but the principal members were miscast and disappointing except for Julie Walters who captured Mrs. Austen perfectly. What’s the moral of the story? Jane Austen learned that love has a happy ending if it’s fictionalized. For everyone who has lost love or realized an affair of the heart in another time or place would have worked, well, that’s Jane Austen’s specialty. In her novels, at least, the lady gets her man. 2.5/5. 

Agora-Poster (1)

Agora (2009) Roman Egypt. The Library of Alexandria. Rachel Weisz and Oscar Isaac. I’m interested! What a great opportunity for director/writer Alejandro Amenábar to highlight the female mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher, Hypatia. Science and religion are at war. Fanatical Christians are the aggressors against the pagan elites. Ptolemaic vs. Heliocentric explanations are debated. In this film, Hypatia suggests in the 4th century what will be advanced a thousand years later. Meanwhile, two men adore her, but she is an independent woman and not about to succumb to a man’s authority. Guess what happens? 3/5.

26 thoughts on “Are You Not Entertained?

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  1. You watched better films than I did!
    I like the guitar work from the band, very good, and a nice professional sound too.
    I haven’t seen (or read) ‘The Joy Luck Club’, so cannot comment.
    I have seen ‘The Road’, which I found powerful, true to life, and disturbing too. I didn’t read the book though.
    I turned off ‘The Way Back’ after about 40 minutes. Despite the presence of the scenery, and Ed Harris, one of my favourites, I just didn’t enjoy it. (I believe that it is based on a real event.)
    I also like Simon Pegg, at least his early TV work here. I didn’t bother with that film. One trailer was enough to put me off.
    As for ‘Becoming Jane’, I thought it was lame. We usually do this stuff so much better, and the cast let themselves down. That, or the script.
    Rachel Wiesz is great to look at, but I can’t see myself bothering with ‘Agora.’
    A good roundup, Cindy. I am entertained!
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Thanks Pete for the review and sharing your thoughts. I am about to watch Mansfield Park (Lucky 13 pick of mine was Jane Austen) and pray it is better. I wish I had seen Love & Friendship. I hear it’s well done. What’s the best movie you’ve seen lately? Why don’t you do movie reviews?

      1. Mansfield Park is better, I believe. i have seen it some time ago, and thought it was reasonably good but it didn’t last in my memory. I haven’t been watching many films lately, except re-runs on TV , and the occasional DVD. I only review films now and again, when they really get to me, in good or bad way! This month, I watched ‘Bad Country’ (Willem Dafoe) and ‘A Most Wanted Man’ (Philip Seymour Hoffman) both on DVD. They were OK, but not special enough to bother to write a review about them. The best film I watched in 2016 (so far) was definitely ‘Blue Ruin.’

  2. I didn’t know but when he was alive, Mr.Rawicz lived within a couple of miles of us in Nottingham. Over the years, there was very little belief here in England that he was telling the truth, I’m afraid. I read his book because he related how he had seen three yetis as he crossed the Himalayas. Still, that shouldn’t detract from the value of the film.

    1. Hi John. Wow! What a neighbor you had. If you click the link regarding the newspaper article, it says the same thing–he was probably lying, but Peter Weir investigated and it seems that there’s proof someone did it!

  3. I read The Road a few years after seeing the film and was still glued to each page. It’s a tragic, wonderful, harrowing tale on both fronts. Unsure if there’s any connection, but I always thought the makers of The Walking Dead must’ve taken inspiration from the decaying, grey palette of the movie.

    1. Hi Adam, Yes, I agree with your association. The gray palette and the presence of the bad guys which preyed on the living, the mutilation of body parts, the end of the world. The movie happened in 2009 and the Walking Dead began in 2010. There has to be a link. Nice insight.

  4. I’ve only seen the film version of Joy Luck Club and it moved me to tears. It’s rare to see Asian families being portrayed in Hollywood so it certainly felt special to me. The Way Back is a good survival film too, excellent performances all around.

    1. Social history, immigrant history, is my favorite kind. If you liked the film adaptation she wrote, I bet you would love the book. It’s gracefully written. The Way Back I thought Ronan and Farrell stood out best. It was pretty clever to make bark masks to block their faces from the blizzard.

      1. Yeah I suppose I should pick up Amy Tan’s book at some point. Yeah Ronan and Farrell were good, but I also like Ed Harris in it.

        Hey if you have a moment, check out my music break post, I reckon you’d enjoy the songs & the actors’ lovely voices 🙂

  5. Lovely reviews, Cindy! I have only seen Being Jane and Agora, and agree with your ratings. Am very curious about Blancanieves… Thanks!

    1. Thanks! Hmm. Have you seen The Road? I liked the questions McCarthy posed. Charlize Theron is cast as the mother who can’t stand the thought of the end of the world and what the survivors (they remind me of zombies) will do to them if caught. It made me think about what I’d do if I knew it were the end of the world.

      1. I haven’t but it’s something I’ve been meaning to watch for ages, and the more I read about it, the higher up the list it climbs!

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