Review Roundup

May 5, 2013

oblivionI’ve been to the movies recently to see two very different films…

Oblivion is a sci-fi film that, like many recent films in the genre (In Time, The Hunger Games, ) lets an interesting premise down with some plot holes and an ending that is a bit silly. Tom Cruise stars as one of the few people still on Earth. He works to maintain defense droids that protect giant water sucking machines (to be sent to Titan, where humans have been relocated after a war with aliens). His memory has been wiped out for security reasons but he dreams of his past and of his love, which leads him to some interesting discoveries. Worth seeing if you like sci-fi and/or Morgan Freeman. ★★½ out of 4.

The Place Beyond the Pines is a gritty film starring Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, though the two only appear in one scene together. The first part of the film is about Gosling’s character, a carnival performer who decided to try to take care of a child he just discovered he had. The second act follows Cooper’s rookie cop character as he struggles with corruption within the force. Finally, a 15-year jump in time brings the next generation together. It’s the kind of movie that makes you uncomfortable at times. It’s well made but not terribly enjoyable to watch.  ★★★ out of 4.

To prepare for a couple of upcoming releases, I’ve also read a couple of books in the last few weeks. Continuing the string of classics I’ve tackled the last couple of years was The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’ve been drawn to this book recently by a recent podcast about the author and his wife Zelda as well as their appearance in my current favorite “background” movie (something I put on if I’m working on something or having trouble sleeping), Midnight in Paris.

I’d never read the book before (an indictment of the Plainfield Public School System) and thought it was good, though I had to kind of make myself pick it up each night. I found Fitzgerald’s use of language to be interesting and will probably read it again after I see the film (starring Leonardo DiCaprio).

Literary purists will think me crazy, but World War Z by Max Brooks engrossed me in a  way that Gatsby didn’t. I just couldn’t put it down and read the whole thing in just a few days. It’s a big-picture Zombie story told as a collection of stories spanning the entire war told by survivors from around the world. The film, starring Brad Pitt, is surely not going to be faithful to the book since it will focus on Pitt’s character who presumably will be everywhere the action is, which is implausible even for a zombie movie.