Are You Not Entertained?

BOOKS 

Tom Hanks optioned the rights to Erik Larson’s nonfiction bestseller, In the Garden of Beasts six years ago with intentions of starring in the historical adaptation. Add to that rumors of securing Natalie Portman to the cast with Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) as the director. What’s it all about? Chicago historian William Dodd passes the interview with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and becomes the American ambassador in Berlin in 1932. Dodd thinks it will be a simple job that allows him the time to be with his family and complete his historical research regarding the Old South. Instead, he walks right into the wasp’s nest as Hitler gains momentum and the insipid Nazi agenda poisons Berlin. It’s his beautiful daughter Martha that makes the story fascinating as her sexual promiscuity with Nazi leaders becomes the source of malcontent and disenchantment. I loved Erik Larson‘s The Devil in the White City. This one is just as good, if not better because it focuses on the American family trapped and pawned by leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. Highly recommend. 4.5/5.

MOVIES

Other than a bunch of Gene Hackman films for which I’ll get to posting about soon, these recent films entertained me:

The Shape of Water (2017) It’s an adult fantasy film. Don’t take your kids. Who doesn’t like a love story? Even if it’s with an amphibian? If you love Pan’s Labyrinth, you will probably enjoy the latest contribution by Mexican director/writer Guillermo del Toro Gómez. Set in 1962, the mute Eliza works as a cleaning lady at a hush-hush government facility ruled over by the sinister Strickland played perfectly by Michael Shannon. Eliza comes in contact with “the asset” and their friendship grows into love. Octavia Spencer played her character Zelda with snappy one-liners we all love, but the best acting performance goes to character actor Richard Jenkins as Eliza’s neighbor and closet homosexual. The ending may be predictable, but there’s abundant charm that outweighs the incredible scenes that ask the audience to play along. Magical Realism is fun. With the right mindset, you will enjoy the fable. Best detail: Eliza trails water on a bus window and the water takes shape. The poem at the close of the story is beautiful. 4/5.

The Last Jedi (2017) I liked it because they smartly melted enough of IV into the VIII to feel the roots of the saga. For example, it was nice to see Yoda again. I remember having a crush on Luke Skywalker in 1977 when he stood on that rock and looked at the sunset and his face turned orange with his name song in the background. John Williams, you are still the supreme manipulator of emotions! To see Luke do it again, different rock, a sunset, and his song, well, the 13-year-old in me shed a tear. It took me half the film to decide if the character wearing the foxy brown suit with the purple hair played by Laura Dern was a good guy or a bad guy (lady). I usually like contrasts, but my biggest flaw with all the Star Wars movies is “they” include all the cool technology and high vernacular that only an engineer would understand and then follow up that dialogue with a corny one-liner. It never felt right to me. That, and the puppets now have turned CGI, but they were never convincing. Frog nuns. Hmmm. 4/5

 The Meyerowitz Stories (2017) American comedy-drama film directed and written by Noah Baumbach (Francis Ha and Wes Anderson collaborations). The film stars Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Marvel and Emma Thompson. It’s popular to hate Adam Sandler, but when the man isn’t doing stupid comedy and sticks to dark, he’s very good at it. There’s a lot to love about this movie from Emma Thompson‘s hippy-drunk wife to the perfectly annoying patriarch, Dustin Hoffman, giving a convincing performance and supported by everyone in the cast. Want smart and realistic dysfunctional? You’d like this dark comedy about siblings learning to overcome and tolerate their overbearing father. 4.5/5.

39 thoughts on “Are You Not Entertained?

Add yours

  1. That looks like a great book, and the film could be good too, as long as Hanks doesn’t star in it. 🙂
    I’m looking forward to seeing Del Toro’s new film at some stage. Sally Hawkins is one of my top British actresses, and I simply ADORE Pan’s Labyrinth.
    As for anything with Adam Sandler in it, dark or light, not in my living room, I’m afraid. Never going to happen.
    I was done with Star Wars a long time ago, after ‘The Empire Strikes Back’.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

  2. Nice post. i appreciate the variety. Have only seen the The Meyerowitz Stories which was ok. i will probably need to see it again to like it more.

    As for the latest Star Wars, am not too keen on seeing it. Maybe because of the mixed reviews between fans and critics. You brought up an interesting point about the corny one liners. Probably true, but that never caught my first attention because of all the entertainment surrounding it. However i do find some of the attempts at humor in episode 4 and 5 funny. For example, C3p0 and his tendency to calculate and report the odds of survival to Han Solo while driving the ship in the middle of a dogfight.

  3. “In the Garden of the Beasts”, When you think you’re better than someone else you rationalize anything you do to them.
    Haven’t seen ‘The Last Jedi’ yet. Waiting for the crowds diminish. Was rewatching “The Force Awakens” last night.

    Have a great New Year Cindy !

  4. All of these have caught my eye, thinking about some of them should be seen on the big screen! Great summaries and The Shape of Water and the one with Tom Hanks purchasing it sounds intriguing. . .
    I like Adam Sandler in “50 first dates,” “reign over me” and “the cobbler.”

  5. I tend to enjoy my fantasies (and other genre fare) to be grounded by reality. In other words, I don’t mind incredible goings on if it SEEMS real even if it is unlikely. However, certain filmmaker’s make fantastic material (no matter how in-grounded it may be) digestible to my rather sensitive palate. Guillermo del Toro is such a filmmaker. When he is working at his best (The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water), his films have a poetry to them. I would even ask similar minded viewers why they would even bother watching a del Toro film if they don’t want pure unadulterated fantasy. The man makes fables. I just have to watch his films in a very different way than I normally would. I’m not sure if any of that makes sense. In any case, I agree with what you have written about it.

    I haven’t seen “The Meyerowitz Stories” but I am intrigued. I’ve always raged against the assertion that “Punch Drunk Love” is Paul Thomas Anderson’s worst film. It isn’t his BEST film, but it isn’t his worst and he hasn’t made a bad film. I always thought Sandler could (and probably should) stop making live-action cartoons and choose to work with filmmakers like Anderson. As you say, he does dark very well (at least when he doesn’t go over the top). The brilliance of “Punch Drunk Love” is that it subverts his usual persona and plays the usual rage inherent in his most popular comedic roles (as in “The Wedding Singer,” “Happy Gilmore,” and “The Waterboy”) an plays it for pathos. It might be amusing, but his character’s issues are tragic. They have been holding him back and arresting his development. Anyway, I am interested in seeing “The Meyerowitz Stories” now.

    I haven’t seen any of the newer “Star Wars” films.

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