Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Passage to India

This is about the book by EM Forster. I listened to the audio book. WOW!! What a tremendous read. I don't think I've been this excited about a book in quite a long time. The book was published in 1924.

I don't know where to begin in explaining why this novel is so magnificent. Let me begin by saying that the audio book version I listed to was read by Sam Dastor. Amazing voice performance. I couldn't find too much about him on a quick google, but I did gather that he was born in India, but is either British or moved to England. At any rate, he masterfully invoked over a dozen different distinct voice personas, with consistent delivery throughout the narration. His Indian sounded true, as did his British.

The novel is set in the 20's, in India, during British rule. The novel's protagonist is Dr. Aziz, a young Indian, who, while attempting to befriend and honor some British folk, is mistakenly accused of 'almost' assaulting a British lady. If you really want to know the details of the plot, look at the wikipedia entry. However, with this novel, the plot seems to be incidental. The real driving force of the story is the magnificent representation of the social climate, the characters, and the Indian landscape. And the effect is perfect. While Heart of Darkness is flat and ineffective in looking at British Imperialism, A Passage to India is full, rich, expressive, and convincing in its portrayal of the British Raj. It highlights the appalling racial inequity and racism in the Raj with superior prose and devoid of any propaganda. It creates sympathy for most all the characters, despite their sometimes serious flaws. Truly moving.

The novel is rife with wisdom, some conventional, some profound. Because of this, I will be buying this book, to keep on my shelf at arm's reach. Yeah, it's that good. I put the 1984 movie version, directed by David Lean, in the netflix queue. The reviews seem to be really good, but as is often the case, I fear the movie will either not live up to the book, or will twist it into something entirely different. We shall see... but not anytime soon, it's #200 or something on the queue!


To begin with, I think Mark Wahlberg is a fantastic actor. Although I do have Marky Mark and Funky Bunch from back in the day in my music collection, I'm glad Wahlberg made the transition to film.

Shooter was directed by Antoine Fuqua and stars Wahlberg, Danny Glover, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, and Ned Beatty. Everyone delivered in this movie. My only issue was with Elias Koteas' character, Jack Payne. Either bad character writing, or bad interpretation.

Michael Pena looked a little familiar, but I couldn't quite place him. I'll remember him now, though, great performance. He was a bit goofy in the "making of" special feature, but that's not what counts, I suppose. I was not familiar with Kate Mara, but like Pena, a great performance, and what a cutie she is.
Rhona Mitra played a minor role, and again, I wasn't familiar with her, but a great performance.
Shooter is about a Marine Scout Sniper (which I suppose there is such a thing as, since the author of the book on which the movie is based spoke in the 'making of' featurette and mentioned he had based his book on the life of a real Marine Scout Sniper) played by Wahlberg. He gets screwed by the government while on an assignment and retreats to the mountains of Montana. He is summoned back to duty by what he thinks is a legitimate government operation, but gets mired in an evil conspiracy imbedded in the government. Again he is betrayed, but with the help of an rookie FBI agent (Pena) and his deceased partner's widow (Mara), he gets his revenge and rights the wrong.

The storyline is smooth. The plot twists are a little predictable, but fun. The action is top-notch. The technical details seem on. A must see.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Relative Strangers

This movie can't be good, I thought, looking at the DVD case. Then I saw who the actors were and I was more optimistic. I shouldn't have been.

It had Ron Livingston, who I've been a fan of since Office Space. It also had Neve Campbell, Danny DeVito, and Edward Herrmann. They tried, they really did here. I really wanted to like this movie, I really did.

It was about an up&coming psychologist with a liberal bent, Livingston, who's about to get married (to Campbell) and finds out he was adopted. He finds his birth parents (DeVito and Kathy Bates), but is quite distraught they are so... well... not in his class. They ruin his life and he treats them terribly, which sends his fiance (Campbell) packing because he's not practicing his 'love everyone' philosophy.

It all works out in the end, but it just didn't work for me. Good actors, trying hard, but I think the victim of bad writing.

Pass on this one.

Night at the Museum

Night a the Museum was a mildly entertaining movie starring Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Carla Gugino, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs, Owen Wilson, and Steve Coogan.

In typical fashion, Ben Stiller plays a seriously goofy guy, who can't get life quite right. For fear of losing joint custody of his son, he takes the only job available to him -- security guard at the local Museum of Natural History.

But this museum comes alive at night. You are immediately thrown into the action which includes Teddy Roosevelt riding a horse, a puppy-like T-Rex skeleton, a group of Neanderthals, a group of Huns, Lewis & Clark guide Sacajewea, a mini-sized Roman army battling a a mini-sized railroad interest, and many other exhibits-come-to-life.

The rest of the plot is silly and not worth getting into, but it was entertaining, especially with the kids. They had to watch it multiple times, of course.

I did find a couple deep thoughts in the story, however. See, Stiller's character is constantly pursuing new schemes in hopes of finally finding his groove, so-to-speak. But he always seems to fail. He tells his son that he can feel his 'moment' coming real soon. His son responds something like, to paraphrase, "What if you're wrong, dad? What if you're just an ordinary guy who should get a job?" How shocking! What is that is me?!!?!?!? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

Stiller is redeemed in the end, still a museum nightwatchman, but extraordinary in his ordinary role.

Yeah, I'd recommend this movie, I suppose, for pizza night.