Friday, August 14, 2009

Dark Days of Summer

When all three members of a household are involved with a school in one form or another, summer comes to an end once a new school year gets started. That's where the Steiner household is at, as we all start back next week. I'm actually ready to get back to it and not just for the fact I won't have to be in the pool 4 to 5 hours a day, although a full week of nothing to do would be nice.

I've been squeezing in as much pop culture consumption as I can before life gets super busy and thought I would share some quick thoughts about some of it...

(500) Days of Summer - This movie finally made it to my neck of the woods (about 20 minutes away) last weekend and I jumped at the chance to go see it. I was not disappointed. The movie tells you up front (via narration) that it is not a love story...well, it is and it isn't. Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) meets Summer (Zooey Deschanel) and work and falls hard. She, on the other hand, doesn't, though she does like him a lot. What follows in an out-of-order look at their relationship, shifting from the good times to the bad. This allows scenes to be cast in a new light, bits of conversation, and so forth. Director Marc Webb gives us a dance number, split screens, and great visuals to match the mix of humor and pain and understanding. Good stuff.

The Magicians - This is Lev Grossman's new novel and the first one of his that I've read, though I loved his brother Austin's Soon I Will Be Invincible. As the title of this one would indicate, it's a fantasy novel set in a world of magic. Specifically, it's set in a world where people have read Harry Potter and a series of Narnia-like books about a world called Fillory. Quentin Coldwater is a huge fan of that series and one day discovers he is able to perform magic and is admitted to Brakebills, a school for magic. So yes, there are some similarities with the world of Harry Potter but this book deals with sex and drugs and depression and there is no big evil out there in the world. It's a story of love and loss and selfishness and yes, magic. Some reviews have taken it to task for trying to be a commentary on this type of novel as well as an example of the species but I didn't think it was more metafictional commentary than just a well-written story that I liked.

District 9 - I went and saw this movie at the first showing this morning and was a bit distracted by the kids who were in the audience. The movie is bloody and the f-word is used an awful lot. An awful lot. Now I don't have a problem with that type of thing but it did bother me at times. As for the movie itself, it is a very grim story of aliens forced to live in slums, corporations that want profit, gangs that want power. Events are set in motion by Wickus, who is in charge of informing the "prawns" that they are being moved to a new residence far from Johannesburg. He becomes exposed to something that starts changing him, both physically and also in another one. Except it's not a saccharine and clean-cut as it seems. The effects are seamlessly woven into the story and it is mostly told in doucmentary form. It is a dark story that echoes problems in our world without it being bludgeoningly so. A thoughtful, gruesome SF movie that looks cool? Interesting summer fare.

Fables: The Dark Ages - Wednesday saw the release of the 12th volume collecting the ongoing series, which also happens to be one of my favorite comics. It's a rather grim volume featuring that aftermath of the big victory over Gepetto. One would think times would be good but they aren't. There's the rise of a powerful new entity, the death of a beloved character, and the destruction of Fabletown. Naturally, I read it as quickly as I could and I can't wait until the next collection in early 2010. In the meantime, I need to catch up on Jack of Fables in trade form - I've only read 2 of 5 volumes!

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