Arcadia Review



Buy at Amazon

Review:

I had a terrible time finding a copy of this play at the library and finally gave in and bought it, a decision I have never regretted. It is one of the funniest and most intelligent plays I have ever read and has now been one of my favorites for many years.

As a non-math person (not completely hopeless, but definitely not gifted either), Arcadia can be a fairly challenging read. Once, I understood it all once, in a flash of blinding light of the sort that probably accompanies religious conversion, but alas, the revelation didn’t choose to stick around. The rest of the time I have to be satisfied with sorta understanding the fractal stuff and being happy that I do get the literary bits.

Along with being intellectually invigorating, the play is also full of wit and heartbreak: it is the play, as one critic wrote, that definitively proved that Stoppard “knows enough about hearts to break them.” My own heart broke several times, especially over Thomasina and Septimus. It’s funny, because their relationship ought to be about as squicky as they come. Not only is she 13 (later almost 17) to his 22 years, he is her tutor, and student/teacher relationships are something I’ve always looked askance at. But somehow in Arcadia, it works, perhaps because of the fundamental innocence and playfulness of their relationship, and it does break your heart to know that it’s ultimately doomed.

I’ve never seen the play on stage (though I’d have given a great deal to see the original London production, with Rufus Sewell in the role of Septimus Hodge) but I hope to some day.

Buy at Amazon

My rating: (5 / 5)

[Read more…]

Phantom, by Susan Kay Book Review



Buy at Amazon

Review:

Don’t be mislead by the terrible cover!

Gaston Leroux’s classic horror novel The Phantom of the Opera has received many adaptations in many different forms, the most famous of which include the 1925 silent film starring Lon Chaney and the Broadway musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. There have also been many literary adaptations, including retellings, “sequels,” and more. Phantom, by Susan Kay, is by far the best of these.

Leroux gave his readers some tantalizing hints of Erik’s life before he took up residence in the basement of the Paris opera house and became the dreaded “Opera Ghost,” but his novel covered only the last few months leading up to Erik’s death. Kay’s novel takes those scant hints and spins them into a rich backstory full of adventure and tragedy alike. She makes good use of several different narrators, including Erik’s mother, the Persian, Raoul, Christine, and Erik himself, to flesh out his story and bring it to life from birth til death, and beyond. Though I’m a diehard Erik/Christine shipper, my favorite aspect of the book may have been the relationship between Erik and the Persian (here named Nadir). It was wonderful to see it fleshed out and their interactions produced some of the book’s best moments and lines of dialogue.

Phantom is beautifully written and intensely emotional. I’m admittedly soft-hearted, but I cried multiple times reading this novel and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. Most phans will adore Phantom, and it’s also an excellent introduction to the story for non-fans and casual fans, as it’s written in a more modern style than the original novel.

Buy at Amazon

My rating: (5 / 5)

Maverick Movie Review



Buy at Amazon

Review:

Based on the popular TV show starring James Garner, the film Maverick stars Mel Gibson as fast-talking gambler Bret Maverick, who’s trying to get together $25,000 to enter a big poker competition, Garner as lawman Zane Cooper (Bret’s dad), and Jodi Foster as fellow gambler and con artist Mrs. Annabelle Bransford. Wacky hijinks and hilarious misadventures ensue.

I don’t think of myself as being a big fan of Westerns in general, but Maverick is one of my all-time favorite films. Funnily enough, another of my all-time favorite films, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, happens to be a Western penned by the same screenwriter, William Goldman. Goldman brings his signature style of witty and memorable dialogue (also on full display in the classic fantasy The Princess Bride) to the Wild West, and the combination is magic.

[Read more…]

Bring It On Movie Review



Buy at Amazon

Review:

This movie belongs to the same class of high school tongue-in-cheek comic masterpieces as Mean Girls and Easy A. Though it doesn’t quite reach those heights of brilliance in dialogue and plot, it does come with the bonus of some truly fantastic cheerleading routines, and will give you new respect for cheerleading as a sport.

My rating: (4 / 5)

[Read more…]

Mrs. Doubtfire Movie Review



Buy at Amazon

Review:

I recently watched this movie for the first time in years after picking it up from the $5 movie bin at Walmart. I have to say it’s not as good a family film as I remembered. There’s quite a bit of (mild) bad language and sexual references.

On the other hand, it is still as funny as I remembered. Robin Williams is absolutely outstanding in the type of role he was born to play. Sally Field, like her much put upon character, has the somewhat more thankless task of playing the straight woman to his madcap hilarity, but she pulls it off well, and the child actors are also great, especially the adorable Mara Wilson.

Bonus: none of the characters seem to bat an eye about the fact that the Robin Williams character has a gay brother in a long-term relationship with his boyfriend.

My rating: (3.5 / 5)

[Read more…]

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Movie Review

Review:

A tremendous amount of fun, thanks mainly to the iconic performance of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow and the twisty, turny plot, which manages to keep you guessing until the end exactly how it will play out.

My rating: (4.5 / 5)

[Read more…]

Gosford Park Movie Review



Buy at Amazon

Review:

Written by Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, this movie has the same attention to detail in depicting the everyday life of the family upstairs and the staff downstairs and is brought to life by an outstanding cast, including Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Jeremy Northam, Kristen Scott Thomas, and more. The plot (a murder, with almost everyone having a motive) is of somewhat secondary interest to the personal dramas surrounding it.

My rating: (5 / 5)

[Read more…]

Friends With Benefits Movie Review



Buy at Amazon

Review:

Saw this with my husband on “date night” without especially high expectations, but ended up really enjoying it. Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis had great chemistry and the script was crackling with energy and banter. Even the raunchy parts were kind of cute, thanks to some realistic awkwardness.

My rating: (4 / 5)

[Read more…]

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Movie Review



Buy at Amazon

Review:

My dad isn’t a Trekkie, but he is a Star Trek fan, and he tried to introduce my siblings and me to the series with slightly mixed success when we were kids. For example, we got sort of traumatized by the Ceti eel things in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (I didn’t attempt to watch that film again until I was an adult), but we absolutely loved Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. In fact, it became one of our favorite movies and we watched it many, many times as kids. It remains one of my favorite films to this day, and is definitely my favorite Star Trek movie. The Voyage Home is hilarious, highly quotable, and ultimately touching, as the crew of the Enterprise travels back in time to 1980’s San Francisco to bring back a pair of humpback whales in an attempt to repopulate the species (which has become extinct in the 23rd century). Also, I still kind of want to be Gillian Taylor.

My rating: (4 / 5)

[Read more…]

Easy A Movie Review



Buy at Amazon

Review:

Another smart, witty teen movie in the tradition of Mean Girls, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Clueless, this one inspired by Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. It’s one of our favorites, probably second only to Mean Girls in its genre.

My rating: (4.5 / 5)

[Read more…]