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Movie Review: WILD

Movie Review: WILD

November 26, 2014 – 12:17 am | 5 Comments

Cheryl Strayed’s blockbuster memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail comes to the screen December 3 (in limited release), with Reese Witherspoon playing Strayed as she hikes over a thousand miles of …

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Movie Review: AMERICAN SNIPER

November 24, 2014 – 11:29 pm | 6 Comments

american_sniper

In one scene in American Sniper (out Christmas day), Navy SEAL Chris Kyle comes home from his first tour in Iraq. Though he’s sitting still and claims he’s fine, a doctor slaps a blood-pressure cuff on him and reads his blood pressure as 170/110.

If that doctor had put that cuff on me as I sat in the theater watching this movie, my blood-pressure reading probably would’ve been 500 over 499.

This movie is INTENSE.

Based on Kyle’s autobiography of the same title (cowritten with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice), Sniper details Kyle’s four tours in Iraq, where he earned the nickname Legend for racking up the most confirmed kills in U.S. military history. Between his SEAL training and deployments, he gets married and fathers two children. I won’t reveal any more if you don’t already know the rest of his story.

I expected some cockiness and showboating from Bradley Cooper as Kyle—how else to portray a man called Legend, right? Instead, a beefed-up Cooper gives a subtle but incredibly effective performance as a man haunted by his war experiences, though he might deny it to everyone including himself. The actor plays Kyle with the quiet confidence of a man who knew his own talent and didn’t have to brag or lord it over anyone.

The most gripping moments included nothing but a closeup on Cooper’s eye, as Kyle contemplates—sometimes agonizes over—whether or not a target is friend or foe, and should live or die. His breathing would be the only sound we hear (I stopped breathing altogether in those scenes) as he makes these impossible decisions, sometimes within seconds. We see what it costs him. And when he sights down his rifle at a child? Forget it. I could not watch.

As his wife, Taya, Sienna Miller has chemistry with Cooper but not every emotional note she played felt true to me. I didn’t quite believe her when she expressed her frustration and fear every time Kyle went back to Iraq. It’s not clear if this is because of the way the role was written (Jason Hall adapted the book) or directed.

Otherwise, Eastwood’s lean direction is on target. He tells the story in a straightforward way; when you have facts like this there’s no need for embellishment. The soundtrack is also sparse because war doesn’t require a fancy score.

At times, Sniper reminded me of The Hurt Locker, which is also about a soldier in the Iraq War who’s very good at his job but maybe not so much at just living a civilian life. But Chris Kyle’s story is real, and like the bullets that flew from his rifle, its impact is devastating.

Nerd verdict: Heart-stopping Sniper

Photo: Warner Bros.

Book Review: DEADLINE by John Sandford

October 23, 2014 – 4:36 pm | 5 Comments
Book Review: DEADLINE by John Sandford

This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers and is reprinted here with permission.
As a favor for a friend, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Virgil Flowers looks into multiple dognappings that have occurred …

Book Review: THE DISTANCE by Helen Giltrow

September 16, 2014 – 10:39 pm | One Comment
Book Review: THE DISTANCE by Helen Giltrow

This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers and is reprinted here with permission.
Charlotte Alton may seem like a well-bred London socialite, but her alter ego, Karla, operates in the shadows, gathering information that …

Book Giveaway: WE ARE NOT OURSELVES by Matthew Thomas

September 8, 2014 – 8:43 pm | 7 Comments
Book Giveaway: WE ARE NOT OURSELVES by Matthew Thomas

If you’re a big reader and frequent a lot of bookish sites, you may not have been able to avoid hearing about one of the buzziest books this year—Matthew Thomas’s debut novel, We Are Not …

Book Review: THE FURIES by Natalie Haynes

September 3, 2014 – 10:08 pm | One Comment
Book Review: THE FURIES by Natalie Haynes

This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers and is reprinted here with permission.

Grieving after the violent death of her fiancé, theater director Alex Morris leaves London for Edinburgh to take a job …

Movie Review: THE GIVER

August 14, 2014 – 8:38 pm |
Movie Review: THE GIVER

The Giver, adapted from Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal-winning novel, opens in black and white, with best friends Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), Fiona (Odeya Rush), and Asher (Cameron Monaghan) living in a dystopian community free of strife. Every …

Movie Review: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

July 31, 2014 – 10:42 pm | 2 Comments
Movie Review: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Disclosure one: I went into the Guardians of the Galaxy screening a few weeks ago knowing nothing about it, other than that it has a weird group of characters at its center and a bunch …

Book Review & Giveaway: ONE PLUS ONE by Jojo Moyes

July 16, 2014 – 7:55 pm | 4 Comments
Book Review & Giveaway: ONE PLUS ONE by Jojo Moyes

This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers and is reprinted here with permission.
British novelist Jojo Moyes (Me Before You) examines the different shapes of families and the widening gap between rich people and those who …

Book Review: LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell

July 13, 2014 – 8:31 pm |
Book Review: LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell

TV writer Georgie McCool finally gets a shot at writing her dream show. The problem: She needs to stay in L.A. and work on it over Christmas. Georgie’s husband Neal decides to take their young …

Giveaway: THE BOOK OF LIFE by Deborah Harkness

July 7, 2014 – 9:57 pm | 11 Comments
Giveaway: THE BOOK OF LIFE by Deborah Harkness

On the July Nerdy Special List posted last week, one of the recommendations was Deborah Harkness’s The Book of Life, the finale to her Book of Souls trilogy. I now have a giveaway of that book (out July 15), …

Nerdy Special List July 2014

July 2, 2014 – 10:42 pm | 4 Comments
Nerdy Special List July 2014

Happy short week! Since you have an extra day off from work, you’ll need to load up on reading materials, right?
For the first time in almost two years since I’ve been running these lists, I …

Giveaway: WAYFARING STRANGER by James Lee Burke

June 30, 2014 – 6:00 pm | 9 Comments
Giveaway: WAYFARING STRANGER by James Lee Burke

The good people at Simon & Schuster are letting me give away two copies of James Lee Burke’s new novel, Wayfaring Stranger, which comes out July 15. Here’s the book description from the author’s website:
From …

Best 2014 Books I’ve Read So Far

June 24, 2014 – 9:53 pm | 14 Comments
Best 2014 Books I’ve Read So Far

The year is more than half over, so I thought I’d do a best-of list at the halfway mark. February was the best month for me so far, when I read three books in a …

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