Arts & Culture

Jill McCorkle's Life After Life

Jill McCorkle's Life After Life
I tend to gravitate toward books with PLOT, and although there's nothing wrong with a great narrative - in fact there's a lot RIGHT about it - it's healthy for me to enjoy a character-driven novel. Enter Jill McCorkle's Life After Life. Although I finished it more than a month ago, and I'm just writing about it now, I actually read it very quickly.  Imagine a set of concentric circles, or a web.  Or maybe a whole bunch of Venn diagrams. With six main characters (and a supporting cast of a couple dozen), their lives are very much intertwined, even though they don't realize it.   READ MORE

Movies: "The Fifth Estate"

Movies: "The Fifth Estate"

The trouble with this newfangled computer age is it just doesn’t make for very compelling cinema.  Hey, if you want to see a bunch of people tapping away at their keyboards, just look up from your cubicle or stop by your local library.

To be fair, “The Fifth Estate,” the dramatization of the Wikileaks publication of thousands of secret documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tries to spice up the cyberstuff, starting with a truly clever opening montage following the evolution of media from hieroglyphics through moveable type and the telegraph, all the way to the vanishing world of print and the rise of the worldwide web.  All in a couple of minutes.

 

Movies: "Short Term 12"

Movies: "Short Term 12"

Snuggled into the cineplex opposite such monster hits as “Gravity” and “Captain Phillips” is this small slice of reality, written and directed by 30-year old filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton (“I Am Not a Hipster”).

See it if you can.

Cretton took a job at a center for troubled teenagers while in film school in California, and stayed on for two years.  That experience led to a short film that won big at Sundance in 2009, and is now a feature-length movie starring Brie Larson (Kate in “The United States of Tara”) and featuring a host of young actors from current or former TV series and movies.

 

Movies: "Captain Phillips"

Movies: "Captain Phillips"

 

British filmmaker Paul Greengrass brought a visceral documentary style to such powerhouse movies as “Bloody Sunday” (2002), “United 93” (2006) and the best of the Jason Bourne adventures (“The Bourne Ultimatum” and “The Bourne Supremacy”).  

 

Now he does it again with this exciting depiction of the actual hijack attempt of an American cargo vessel by a handful of young Somali pirates in 2009.  “There’s no Al-Qaeda here,” the pirate leader Muse (Barkhad Abdi) assures the captain of the Maersk Alabama (a grizzled Tom Hanks).  “This is just business.”

Soul Nurturing

Soul Nurturing

Cranky. That's how I've felt this past week. My immune system was working overtime trying to fight off a cold. The deadlines for a couple of freelance writing projects had arrived. I made a commitment to volunteer at a wonderful and worthy weekend event when I really needed to be working at the computer. I had homework.

Fortunately, I love, love, love doing my homework. This week it has been my saving grace. Read more.

Movies: "Enough Said"

Movies: "Enough Said"

 

I love Autumn.  The weather turns crisp, the lawn doesn’t need mowing every week and the movies become so much better.  Case in point: “Enough Said,” a sweet, funny film about adult relationships, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late (and sorely missed) James Gandolfini.  The movie is dedicated to him at the end.

 

Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener (“Please Give,” “Lovely and Amazing”), “Enough Said” is set in the pleasant suburbs of Los Angeles, where Eva (Louis-Dreyfus) plies her trade as a massage therapist, hauling her bulky equipment around in a Prius.  

Movies: "Gravity"

Movies: "Gravity"

Mexican writer/director Alfonso Cuaron blew me away with his dystopian action movie “Children of Men” back in 2006.  Now he’s done it again with the most realistic space adventure since Kubrick’s astonishing “2001: A Space Odyssey.”  “Gravity” works on every level, from the dramatic to the technological, and to see it in Imax 3-D is truly the way to go with this baby.

It’s basically a two-character performance.  George Clooney is the veteran space shuttle skipper Matt Kowalski, who spins shaggy dog tales back to Mission Control (the voice of Ed Harris, in a subtle tribute to “Apollo 13”) and plays country music on his two-way.  Sandra Bullock is science officer Ryan Stone, on her first space mission to do some repair work on the Hubble telescope.