Monday, December 28, 2009

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

I liked this book written by Arthur Doyle. Sherlock Holmes is a famous detective who runs a business helping people with his friend, Dr. Watson. He is able to solve difficult cases by making deductions with only a few clues. The book contains many short stories.

Bang the Drum Slowly

This is an okay book written by Mark Harris. Fictional baseball pitcher Henry Wiggen hasn't played in a professional game for a while. When he is given an offer to play for the New York Mammoths, he only agrees to sign on if his best friend is allowed on the team as well. He has a very successful season while trying to earn a performance bonus. The book is a sequel to The Southpaw. A 1973 film adaptation was made starring Paul Newman.

Quills (2000)

This is a solid movie based on a true story. During the early 1800s, the Marquis de Sade (Geoffrey Rush) is confined to Charenton, an asylum for the insane, because of his erratic behavior and sexual fetishes. His wife comes to visit occasionally, but he is rude and dismissive towards her. Abbe Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix) monitors his behavior and allows him several luxuries. The writer befriends a maid (Kate Winslet) and convinces her to sneak his writings outside so they can be published. When his erotic novels start to gain notoriety, doctor Royer-Collard (Michael Caine) is brought in to punish him.

The film was shot in England, rather than France. Phoenix was allowed to wear artificial leather for his costume because of his strict vegan diet. Marquis de Sade was born in 1740 and died in 1814. He spent almost half of his life confined to a few prisons and an asylum. Most of his works were done while he was incarcerated. The term 'sadism' refers to his name. In the film, Madeleine remains a virgin, but in reality she was only 13-years-old when the Sade started having a sexual affair with her.

Spitting Image

This is an okay book written by Shutta Crum. Jessie Bovey is a 12-year-old girl living in a small town in Kentucky. She is constantly getting into fights with other kids who tease her. She lives with her single mother who refuses to tell her anything about her real father. When a government volunteer comes to town to spread President Johnson's War on Poverty, Jessie befriends the reporters and shows them around. The ending has a serious tone about an adult subject.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

I did not like this book written by Jules Verne in 1870. Three men set out in 1866 to discover if a legend about a giant sea creature is true. When they fall out of their boat they are rescued by the Nautilus submarine. Once inside they meet Captain Nemo and his crew. The visitors are told that they can’t leave, but will be able to explore the ocean life.

The title does not refer to the depth of the ocean, but rather the total length of the journey. The measurement of a league varied, but generally referred to a distance of between 2 to 3 miles. I think it would be fun to either walk or ride underneath the surface of the ocean in order to see the plant and animal life. Captain Maury is based on a real oceanographer. Disney made a film in 1954 starring Kirk Douglas that was based on the novel.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

My book

I wrote a bookthat includes commentary and trivia on 444 movies .

The back cover says: "I love watching movies in a variety of genres, including new, old, popular, independent, and foreign. The diverse genres allow you to enjoy a film during any mood and about any subject. Compared to other books that review movies, my approach is more casual and my rating based on the overall feel of the video. The trivia touches on several topics such as film production, revenue records, locations, and historical background. Sometimes movies portray a message about politics or our culture. I comment on the approach and share my views on the matter."

I reviewed four of the Star Wars movies (but left out A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back). I enjoyed Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, but did not like The Phanton Menace or Return of the Jedi. I only included 12 movies released before 1980. I enjoyed Gone With the Wind and It's a Wonderful Life. I thought Apocalypse Now, Bambi, Citizen Kane, The Exorcist, The Sound of Music, and Young Frankenstein were just all right. I didn't like: Casablanca, Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke, Dr. Strangelove, or Monthy Python and the Holy Grail.

The book includes 68 movies that were never posted to my blog. I deleted 411 of my posts. In the book I used a rating system that included nine adjectives, but I decided I am now only going to use seven, because two of them weren’t used very often. The new rating system now includes: impressive, noteworthy, solid, okay, imperfect-but-creditable, moderate, and pitiable.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Planet 51 (2009)

This is an okay movie. Astronaut Chuck Baker (Dwayne Johnson) expects to be the first human to land on a distant planet, but is startled to realize that an alien civilization already resides there. The planet seems to come right out of the 1950s and Chuck is instantly declared an invader. Previously, a robot named "Rover" had been sent to explore the land, but with its myopic mission of only seeking out rocks, failed to report the life. The local military wants to take the spaceman into custody, but a teenage alien named Lem (Justin Long) tries to protect him.

I liked the animation and especially the rover, but the story and dialogue weren’t very good. One of the characters working in a planetarium claims the universe is only 500 miles across. The diameter of our moon is over 2,000 miles. This is the most expensive film ever produced in Spain. The name Lem refers to the Lunar Excursion Module. Chuck mentions that he needs to be back to attend the Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards, and this year Dwayne Johnson was the host of the show.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Treasure Island

I liked this book written by Robert Louis Stevenson. Jim Hawkins is a young boy whose parents are innkeepers. He meets Billy Bones who lodges at the inn. After Billy drops dead, some pirates come in search of his sea chest. Jim and his mother flee and take an oilskin packet that belonged to Billy with them. While visiting his mother's friend, Dr. Livesey, they discover that Bones had a map showing the treasure stash collected by Captain Flint and they decide to get a crew together to go in search of the loot.

It was published in 1883. There have been over 50 movie and TV versions made. One version was released in 1990 and starred Charlton Heston and Christian Bale. The 2002 film Treasure Planet was also based on this story. Stevenson popularized the ideas that associate pirates with treasure maps, black sail boats, tropical islands, and one-legged seamen.

Harriet the Spy

This is an okay book written by Louise Fitzhugh. Eleven-year-old Harriet M. Welsch hopes to become an author someday, and she feels that the best way to prepare for her occupation is write down all of her thoughts in a secret notebook. She also likes being a spy and keeps track of what the people in her neighborhood are doing. One day at school, she is playing with her classmates and accidentally drops the notebook. Another student confiscates the book and starts revealing all of Harriet’s secrets. Now she must figure out to resolve this problem, so she can be accepted by her peers again.

A film version was released by Nickelodeon in 1996.