The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

My reviews of a few books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched lately. * = stars

The Good:
Movie: Ice Station Zebra. *****

Very good movie made in 1968 starring Rock Hudson. This movie has been on my list since someone recommended it to me back in high school. Thanks to NetFlix for helping me to locate it. Think Cold War, nuclear submarines and a race to the north pole.

Movie: A Fish Called Wanda *****

Just a really good British comedy. There is one scene that really just cracked my up, and I still smile when thinking about it a week later. A good, relaxing movie to watch on a Friday night

Movie: In the Valley of Elah *****

Well acted, kind of sad, moving story of a man trying to find out why his son was murdered after return back to the US from of tour of duty in Iraq. Not too much gore or trying to make you squirm. The characters and the story drive this one. I was pleasantly surprised.

Movie: Michael Clayton ***
Pretty good flick. Definitely not your typical movie. About what I’d expect from George Clooney. You don’t like anyone in this movie at the end, but the story is good and the writing is great.

Movie: Keeping Mum ****
Dark British Comedy with a lot of twists and some funny running gags.

Movie: Gone Baby Gone ****
This one is dark and brutal, and hard to watch at points. Its hard to call movies like this entertainment, because I don’t want to be entertained by stories of violence and evil. But if you judge a movie by the acting, the dialogue, the camera work, the plot, then this is a very good movie. Just don’t watch it if you want to feel good at the end of it. You won’t.

Movie: Blood Diamond *****
Amazing good, but very harsh. Just a horrible story, but one that needed to be told. This is where Hollywood does a service to the world. Tell the stories the news won’t tell. Bring in the big names so that people go and watch, and come out looking at the diamonds on their fingers, and wonder how many people died to get them that little rock. Movies like this should make you mad at the end. Mad enough to change the world. This one does, and does it very well.

Book: Lords of the North, Bernard Cornwell *****
I’m a huge fan of Cornwell, and his series about the Danish invasion of England in 800 AD is a real page turner. This is the third book in the series, and the fourth is out in hardcover. I nearly went out and bought it, and I normally only buy paperbacks

The Bad:
Book: The Terror, Dan Simmons. **

I’ve read a lot of Dan Simmon’s stuff. His Hyperion Series is probably my favorite Sci-Fi series of all time. The Terror is a fictionalized recount of the story of the real HMS Terror, ice bound in the Canadian Arctic in the 1840s. The book is vivid in its description, but the rest is just a little off. I didn’t like any of the characters that survived the first half of the book, and the as soon as you did start to like one, poof.

Movie: Blazing Saddles **

This is one of those that I’ve heard a lot about over the years. Some say it is the funniest movie ever made. I can understand that it might be poignant, but it is not the funniest movie ever made. I stopped watching halfway through though, so maybe I missed the funny part.

Movie: The Ultimate Gift **
I would have given it 3 stars, but the beginning of thee movie was pretty corny, and it is quite preachy, but cute. Perfect for my mother, but not my sister.

The Ugly:
Book: Empire by Orson Scott Card. (notice the absence of stars)

This is, without a doubt, the worst book I have ever read to completion. And I only finished it because I’m pretty sure my OCD wouldn’t let me stop. The only book worse than this that I have ever started to read (and stopped, back when I was younger and stronger), was called The Red Defector. That one I put down after 30 or 40 pages. Empire is the story of what might cause the next American Civil war. The plot is idiotic, the characters completely hokey, and relies on coincidence so much that I can’t even believe that a publisher paid money for this. Until you read the Afterword and realize that Card was contracted to write this as a plot for a new VIDEO GAME. Arrrgh.

Movie: Beowulf *
We started to watch this last night and turned it off after 30 minutes. I don’t know what I was expecting, but a computer generated movie of real actors was not it. It took a while to get past the animation, then you realized that the actors and dialog were bad.

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