The Matador

In case you haven't heard of it, The Matador is a comedy about a professional assassin, played by Pierce Brosnan, who gets burned out on his job and befriends a regular guy, played by Greg Kinnear, who he meets in a hotel bar in Mexico City. It's not being marketed very heavily so you may not have heard of it--Juliette and I only heard about it when Pierce Brosnan was nominated for a Golden Globe. It's a rather odd film. These days, comedies tend to beat you over the head with the humor but this one is quite a bit more subtle; the humor mostly springs from the ridiculousness of the situations, but the film never goes over the top. I liked it, and not just because it made me laugh--which it did--or because the actors did a good job--which they did. It was also really nice to see a movie that wasn't just the same old formula all over again. As Juliette pointed out about halfway through the film, it was really difficult to predict where the movie was going and I found that to be a welcome change of pace.

Viewed: 1/27/2006 | Released: 12/29/2005 | Score: A

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Ship of the Line

By C. S. Forester

I'm feeling a little irritated with this book right now because I had intended on reading a biography of George Washington next, but because Ship of the Line ends with a cliffhanger I had to leave my copy of His Excellency on my nightstand and continue on with the next Hornblower novel. This one wasn't as good as the previous book, Beat to Quarters, but it managed to drag me in enough that I just had to know how things turned out after the events in the final scene.

Started: 1/16/2006 | Finished: 1/28/2006

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Memories of My Melancholy Whores

By Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez is a bit of an enigma to me. He's one of my favorite writers, but I end up loving his stories without really knowing why. There's an easy comparison between this book and Nabokov's Lolita: both of them are about an older man who obsesses over and falls in love with an adolescent girl. But, of course, this book's Argentinian setting makes it quite different in important ways; there's an entirely different sensibility to the characters. And while the relationship between the narrator and his Delgadina is certainly central to the plot, I'm not sure the story is really about that. It's much more about love than obsession or perversion, which also separates it from Nabokov's story. And when you get down to it, I think the story is much more about old age and nostalgia than it is about sex. Or maybe I'm just talking out of my ass. Whatever the book is truly commenting on, if anything, the prose is so wonderful that I almost don't care if I don't understand it.

Started: 1/10/2006 | Finished: 1/11/2006

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The Producers

My first experience with The Producers was on Saturday, May 31, 2003, when Juliette and I saw Jason Alexander and Martin Short in the Los Angeles production at the Pantages Theatre. I think I can honestly say I've never laughed harder at any other play. It's too bad that I saw it before I saw the 1968 film; the original suffered in comparison--to me, at least. We were excited to see the new film version of the musical, but I'm not sure why--after loving the stage version so much, how could a movie hope to live up to it? And, really, it didn't. There wasn't the same energy to the movie as on stage and, in fact, a fair amount of the production was too theatrical and didn't come off well on screen. To top it off, Uma Thurman just wasn't right for the part. She looked good enough, sure, but she didn't have the voice or dancing talent to carry the role. I think the film's producers wanted to bring some extra star power to the movie, but they ended up kind of killing some of my favorite scenes from the stage musical. Still, the rest of the cast was pretty good. I think I preferred Martin Short to Matthew Broderick, but Nathan Lane was excellent. And I particularly liked Roger Bart as Carmen Ghia. Surprisingly, I even liked Will Ferrell--for once, his overwrought screeching was right for the part. If you have the chance to see The Producers on stage you should definitely take it. If not, I'd say that, even though this version had its faults, the source material is good enough to make the movie worthwhile.

Viewed: 1/6/2006 | Released: 12/15/2005 | Score: B

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Fun with Dick and Jane

I wasn't really all that interested in seeing this one, but Juliette and I felt like seeing a movie with her sibs and this was the least uninteresting of the lot. It did get a few laughs out of me, but mostly it was pretty dumb. On the positive side, the acting talent that Jim Carrey discovered during The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind still seems to be present--he hammed it up in his usual style for most of the movie, but during the climactic scene he pulled out a pretty decent monologue.

Viewed: 1/3/2006 | Released: 12/20/2005 | Score: D

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Beat to Quarters

By C. S. Forester

Beat to Quarters is the sixth Hornblower book according to the chronology of the series, but it was the first one written. Surprisingly, I think it may be my favorite one so far. You'd expect that in a first book there'd be a lot of exposition, but Forester handles it very well, and by the end of this book I felt that I knew Horatio Hornblower much better than I had before. It was also interesting to see how Forester's style changed over time. For example, Beat to Quarters made a lot of references to the fact that certain actual historical events hadn't taken place yet--a device that I think was included to give a better sense of the period. Of course, by the later books, less time was spent on that sort of contextual help because people already knew what to expect. I think the action in this one was also more intense and interesting than in the previous books. By the end of the novel, I found myself really looking forward to the next one.

Started: 12/27/2005 | Finished: 12/27/2005

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If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor

By Bruce Campbell

I first saw Army of Darkness in the 11th grade and I've been a fan of Bruce Campbell ever since. There's just something about his cocky, campy sense of humor that I really enjoy watching. And, as it turns out, I enjoy reading it, too. His writing style has this unusual combination of swagger and self-deprecation that made for a really fun read. I will say, though, that if you're not a fan, I don't think this book has much to offer you.

Started: 12/1/2005 | Finished: 12/25/2005

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