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Mini Movie Reviews: Biopic Edition

November 23, 2015 – 12:27 am | 4 Comments

Like last year, many of this year’s batch of award-baiting movies are based on real people or stories. I’m not a big fan of this genre because unless you know very little about the subjects, …

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Mini Movie Reviews: SPECTRE and BROOKLYN

November 9, 2015 – 1:44 am | 4 Comments

Movie awards season is in full swing, so I’ve been attending multiple screenings a week. Last week I saw four movies, and this week will try to screen three. As much as I’d like to write detailed reviews, I can’t keep up due to work and sleep. Plus, laziness. So I’ll be posting shorter reviews of the movies I see in the next couple months, starting with these two.


SPECTREDirector Sam Mendes’s second James Bond outing and star Daniel Craig’s fourth improved upon the last two films in the franchise to become my favorite with Craig after Casino Royale. I chose to know nothing about the plot before viewing, just plunked myself into a theater seat, and said, “All right, entertain me.” And it did.

The opening sequence is usually among the most thrilling, and this one, set in Mexico City during Día de los Muertos, had me on the edge of my seat. The movie contains several other memorable set pieces involving helos, trains, boats, and fancy sports cars. The action isn’t Michael Bay-ish, meaning it’s not mindless destruction. There’s often an emotional undercurrent to the most explosive scenes, because Bond is trying to save someone’s life or exact revenge.

Craig is ultra cool, tearing across the screen with confidence. His leonine grace makes him equally suave in a tux and dangerous in a fight. This time out, he gets to play some of Bond’s personal backstory, making 007 more accessible than usual.

Despite much press calling her a Bond woman, Monica Bellucci isn’t the female lead. It’s good to see her on screen, alluring as ever, but she has only one scene. Léa Seydoux is the true Bond girl, one who’s believable as a doctor and doesn’t turn into a screaming mess when things get rough. The actress’s most effective features are her expressive eyes, which can go from steely to vulnerable and back again in .02 seconds.

Christoph Waltz is creepy as the villain, but we’ve witnessed this performance before. (See: Inglourious Basterds or any of his 93 other movies in which he plays a baddie.) Andrew Scott is also very good as a jerk; fans of BBC’s Sherlock might recognize him as Moriarty.

Even as Mendes continues to move the franchise forward, he pays homage to past Bond films by including fun references to iconic elements such as a certain white kitty, the classic Aston Martin, and a hulking, hard-to-kill thug who calls to mind Richard Kiel’s Jaws. As for Sam Smith’s rendition of the title song, the only thing I can remember about it is thinking, “Wow, dude can sing high.”

Nerd verdict: Satisfying Spectre



brooklynSaoirse Ronan stars as Eilis, an Irish lass in the 1950s who’s sent to Brooklyn, NY, by her older sister due to a lack of career opportunities for young women in their hometown. With the help of a Catholic priest, Eilis gets a job in a high-end department store while going to school to study bookkeeping.

She also starts seeing an Italian boy named Tony and life looks good—until a sudden death calls her back to Ireland. While there, she meets another young man who makes her wonder whether her life belongs in her home country or across the ocean in America.

The story, from Colm Toibin’s novel of the same name, sounds simple, but the movie is highly affecting (while containing more than a few laughs). Sobs were heard throughout in the audience, and some of them might’ve come from me.

During the post-movie Q&A, director John Crowley said he wanted the adaptation, penned by Nick Hornby, to be emotional but not sentimental, and he accomplished his goal. He had able help from Ronan, showing a much softer side than she had with past characters, and Emory Cohen as Tony, whose chemistry with Ronan is palpable and sweet.

The supporting cast, including Domhnall Gleeson as Jim, the third point in the love triangle; Julie Walters as a boardinghouse’s den mother; and Jim Broadbent as the priest who watches over Eilis; is rock solid. The lush cinematography and period costumes made me nostalgic for a time when the world seemed more beautiful and less complicated.

Nerd verdict: Moving Brooklyn

Guest Post & Giveaway from Author Laura Benedict

October 13, 2015 – 10:28 pm | 5 Comments

I’m thrilled to have Laura Benedict here today because she’s one of my favorite people in the crime-fiction community. She’s as nice as can be, entices you with cookies and tea, but when you read her suspense thrillers, …

Nerdy Special List October 2015

October 6, 2015 – 9:30 pm | 5 Comments

Happy October! Have you eaten all the pumpkin spice-flavored things yet? I have some pumpkin-flavored mochi balls calling my name from the refrigerator, so I’d better hurry up with this post.


September 21, 2015 – 1:10 am | 2 Comments
Photo: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

I’m not sure why I get excited every fall about new TV shows, especially since many turn out to be mediocre or unwatchable. But maybe because I’ve been so beaten down by the last TV …

Book Review: FURIOUSLY HAPPY by Jenny Lawson

September 16, 2015 – 8:17 pm | No Comment

Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, follows up her popular memoir, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, with Furiously Happy, another book of essays about incidents that sound too wacky to be true, but which longtime fans …

Book Review: HOSTAGE TAKER by Stefanie Pintoff

September 9, 2015 – 8:05 pm | 2 Comments
hostage taker

Days before Christmas, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City is seized by a hostage taker who threatens to kill the captives and blow up the landmark if certain demands aren’t met. The first demand: …

Nerdy Special List September 2015

September 2, 2015 – 10:14 pm | 26 Comments
make me

Happy September! Even though fall in L.A. looks the same as summer, I always welcome it because it’s a good season for books and marks the start of TV and movie awards season. From now until …

Book Review: MOVIE STAR BY LIZZIE PEPPER by Hilary Liftin

August 31, 2015 – 8:11 pm | 6 Comments
movie star lizzie pepper

Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper is not actually by Lizzie Pepper, who’s a fictional celebrity, but by Hilary Liftin, a ghostwriter who has collaborated on bestselling celebrity memoirs. But Movie Star is a novel. Confused …

Shock vs. Sensitivity

August 26, 2015 – 9:30 pm | 7 Comments

Like most people, I was shocked by the on-air shooting of WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward. As I tried to learn more about what happened after first seeing only a tweet about the …

Book Review: RUBBERNECKER by Belinda Bauer

August 25, 2015 – 6:03 pm | 2 Comments

Due to a traumatic childhood incident, 18-year-old Patrick Fort is obsessed with death. He wants to analyze what happens when people die, which makes him a great candidate for the anatomy course at Cardiff University, …

Sailboats and Seattle and STAR WARS

August 19, 2015 – 8:26 pm | 15 Comments
Sunset sail in Marina del Rey.

My posts were scarce these past two weeks because I was traveling with family up and down the West Coast, attempting to be all rugged with boating and mountain hiking and stuff. I’m amazed my legs didn’t fall …

Book Review: WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER by Carla Norton

August 16, 2015 – 9:43 pm | One Comment
what doesnt kill her

It’s been seven years since Reeve LeClaire, the heroine in Carla Norton’s What Doesn’t Kill Her, was rescued after being held prisoner as a teen by Daryl Wayne Flint, who’s serving time at a psychiatric …

Nerdy Special List August 2015

August 7, 2015 – 1:52 am | 7 Comments
gratitude diaries

I’m traveling right now but the Nerdy Special List must go on. I’m excited every month when the recommendations start coming in from my illustrious contributors, but I think this month the list is especially spectacular. Hope you’ll …