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Round Up

07/06/2011

I’ve been deeply immersed in audio books lately, having just finished up A Game of Thrones and now moving on with its sequel, A Clash of Kings. I tried to listen to The Hunger Games, but something about the reader wasn’t appealing to me. That may be one I’ll have to try in print.
A Clash of KingsMeanwhile, George R.R. Martin’s opus is completely addictive, so I suspect that the minute I finish book two, I’ll be downloading book three, A Storm of Swords.

I also recently completed Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. I could go on, and on, and on about what I didn’t like in this series, but I’ll try to keep it short. In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I did enjoy the two main characters and the actual mystery driving the story. But two things really bothered me.

First, so much of what the reader learns is discovered through one character’s telling information to another. So, rather than seeing any action, we’re just told a series of events. This passes in the first book because Blomkvist, a reporter, is investigating a disappearance that occured many years in the past. It makes sense that as an outsider he has to question a lot of people. But the second book continues this structure less successfuly. I got tired of the endless exposition.

The second thing that irked me was that although the books are filled with horrific crimes and nasty violence, I didn’t feel a thing. The abuses are told so clinically that I just processed them abstractly, much like watching an autopsy on CSI. There’s a lot of muck but no emotion involved. It seems to me that if you’re going to put a character through that kind of graphic torture, the reader should care, and I didn’t. There’s probably a thesis here about whether this coldness encourages a voyeuristic enjoyment of some kind, but I don’t care to spend time on dissecting that issue. Suffice it to say that both of my objections only worsened in the second book (plus, the Salander character does something that made me want to stop reading altogether).

I went on to the third book simply to wrap up plot details and found it less objectionable than the second book, primarily because it takes place mainly in the present. I think the only reason I got as far as I did was that I was listening to the series as audio books. If I had been reading on paper, which wouldn’t allow for multitasking, I don’t think I would have finished book one.

I don’t understand why The Millennium Trilogy is so popular. It’s fine for what it is, but it seems to have achieved a level of notoriety that I find baffling. I can see how the underbelly-of-Sweden aspect would have drawn some attention, but I don’t really understand why so many people loved it enough to perpetuate its worldwide rise to the top. Maybe someone else can explain this? Please do.

As for movies … A lot of what I’ve watched lately hasn’t been very good. Hence the lack of updates to my “Recently Enjoyed” list. Here’s a rundown of recent flicks, most to be avoided.

Johnny Mnemonic: I know, I know. I’ve seen it before, and yet I watched it again. I can’t tell you why. The cast (Keanu Reeves, Ice-T, Henry Rollins, Dolph Lundgren) is both peculiar and uniformly wooden. It does have one of the best movie weapons ever, though. A laser whip. There’s one great scene in which a man is sliced in half (diagonally!) with the slithery thread. Awesome.

Raintree County: I saw this Gone with the Wind wannabee many years ago and remembered that it wasn’t good, but I thought I should give it another shot as I slowly revisit the Elizabeth Taylor B-list. There’s an interesting subplot about abolitionism that kept me mildly engaged, but the overall problem with Raintree County is that it’s boring. It takes far too long to tell very little. There are a few overly melodramatic moments that provide mild Tayloresque amusement, but for the most part, it’s just not worth suffering through. And the end is simply bizarre.
Secret Ceremony
And speaking of strange Elizabeth Taylor flicks, I recently caught both Secret Ceremony and X, Y and Zee at the Castro. Neither one reaches the so-bad-it’s-good pinnacle of Boom!, but both were entertaining, although for different reasons. Secret Ceremony is a hoot because it takes itself seriously, pairing Taylor with an over-the-top Mia Farrow as a disturbed teenager looking to replace her dead mother in a supremely dysfunctional relationship. X, Y and Zee, on the other hand, is often very funny on purpose. At least it seemed intentional to me. It’s also filled with unintentional laughs and an array of amazing outfits. Taylor is both fierce and vulnerable in this one, a typical combination for the actress. I recommend both movie as curiosities for those already inclined to see them, but only Zee is available on DVD, through Amazon, and hardly worth buying.

X-Men: First Class: It’s better than X-Men 3 and that awful Wolverine movie but still much too long. I enjoyed the dramatic development of Charles and Eric’s relationship, but I found the kid antics annoying and Jennifer Lawrence surprisingly flat. The teen element could have been cut back quite a bit; maybe keep Mystique and Beast (my personal favorite) but downplay the other students and focus on the origin story of Magneto and Professor X. It’s not bad, but it’s just OK. I liked Thor a little better, and I can’t bring myself to see Green Lantern.

True Blood: This week’s episode was more successful than the scattershot season opener, which had way to much going on. I was a little skeptical after seeing that, but things may settle out if each episode is more focused and doesn’t try to update us on every single character. Now that we have both fairies and witches, plus new shape-shifters and that devil baby, it seems like there may be too many supernatural angles to juggle. I’m getting tired of the panther people. They get my vote for the dramatic axe.

Next up: BUtterfield 8, featuring Elizabeth Taylor’s first Oscar-winning role. As I recall, it’s not particularly good, but it may be glossy enough for a pass.

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From → Books, Movies

One Comment
  1. I need to get back to my George R R Martin reread one of these days, I’ve read all four books, but it’s time for a reread, since I’ve forgotten everything that happened after book 1, which i did reread last year.

    I really enjoyed XMen first class. I’ll give ya that, the movie was at least 30 minutes too long, but I was in it for the eye candy, and that did not disappoint! ;)

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