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Holiday Binge-Watching

November 30, 2015 – 1:32 am | No Comment

I hope you all enjoyed your holiday weekend (if you celebrated Thanksgiving). It was a much needed break for me. Every day when I woke, Mr. PCN would ask, “What would you like to do today?” and my …

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Mini Movie Reviews: Biopic Edition

November 23, 2015 – 12:27 am | 5 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, it’s hard to be surprised by what’s on screen. Plus, many biopics come across like a checklist: in this year, this event occurred, and then in another year, this other thing happened, etc.

That’s not to say the results are always boring, hence my varying thoughts on the biopics I saw recently.


Samuel Goldwyn Films

Samuel Goldwyn Films


Bryan Cranston stars as Dalton Trumbo, the novelist and screenwriter who was blacklisted and imprisoned for refusing to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, but nevertheless managed to win two Oscars—for Roman Holiday and The Brave One—under an assumed name.

This is standard biopic fare, with nothing to qualify it as exceptional. Cranston is solid, Helen Mirren doesn’t do anything as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper we haven’t seen from her, and the ever luminous Diane Lane is wasted as Trumbo’s patient wife, Cleo.

Memorable performances come from Michael Stuhlbarg as Edward G. Robinson, torn by loyalty to his friend Trumbo and his need to preserve his career, and Dean O’Gorman, whose resemblance to the young Kirk Douglas is so startling, I thought Mr. Douglas had Benjamin Buttoned to be in this movie.

Reasons for seeing it: To be reminded of how mass hysteria and government-dictated imprisonment of US citizens for their political views is a very bad idea.


Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Steve Jobs

Based on Walter Isaacson’s bestselling biography of the Apple cofounder, boosted by Aaron Sorkin’s script and Michael Fassbender’s mesmerizing performance in the title role, Steve Jobs is a surprisingly riveting portrait of the complicated man behind the popular computers and mobile devices.

As with all Sorkin-written movies, this is very talky, but the dialogue is sharp, often cutting straight to blunt truths, and nimbly delivered by the cast. When Jobs is asked why he never approached his biological father despite knowing the man’s identity, he replies, “Because he’d probably find some reason to sue me.”

Fassbender is a sure best-actor contender for simultaneously displaying the brilliance and vulnerability, arrogance and fear, triumphs and frustrations, confidence and regret that shaped the mercurial Jobs. Even when Jobs is being a jerk, I oddly found myself rooting for him because he’s simply more dynamic than anyone else on screen.

Kate Winslet supports Fassbender well as Apple’s marketing executive Joanna Hoffman, the only person who seemingly had the balls to stand up to Jobs. Michael Stuhlbarg shows up here, too, once again doing subtly effective work as another real-life person—original Apple team member Andy Herztfeld—struggling with conflicting loyalties.

Reasons for seeing it: Fassbender’s commanding performance, strong writing from Sorkin, learning about the development of iconic Apple products.


Focus Features

Focus Features

The Danish Girl

Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander can count on Oscar nominations for their work as married artists Einar and Gerda Wegener. With Gerda’s support, Eina became the first person to undergo gender-reassignment operations, transitioning into Lili Elbe.

I don’t think Redmayne will win again this year, though. Like he did as Stephen Hawking in last year’s The Theory of Everything, the actor fully immerses himself in the dual role of Einar/Lili, but he’s less effective here. Whereas with Hawking, the actor manages to show the man’s internal life while remaining mostly immobile, Redmayne’s Lili employs a lot of feminine mannerisms and hand gestures that make his performance seem more about the external than internal. Vikander, on the other hand, is raw and hearttbreaking as a woman who can’t stop loving her husband, even after Einar kills him off so Lili can live.

Reasons for seeing it: Vikander’s star-making performance, to better understand the internal and external struggles of a transgendered person.

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 | 7 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 …