So Pretty in Pink

Hoppity  Ty®  Beanie Baby®

 

hoppity bunny

See it at Amazon 

[Rating: 5/5]

Pros: Ty product,  collectible,  cute as can be

Cons: none noted

Ty® Beanie Babies®’ Hoppity Bunny measures 8 x 3.7 x 0,8 inches of plushy polyester fabric. Hoppity is a honey of a sugar pink rabbit having bright black eyes, triangle pink nose and pink whiskers. Around her throat is a small pink ribbon tied in a bow.

Hoppity is especially appealing in pink. Only her tail is presented in white. Her large flappy ears indicate she is a lop type rabbit with ears drooping on either side of her head rather than standing erect.

Hoppity a popular Beanie for collectors and her companion Beanie Babies Floppity and Hippity make up the Bunny Trio. Surface wash only.

Born 3 April 1996, Hoppity’s poem reads:

Hopscotch is what she likes to play

If you don’t join in, she’ll hop away

So play a game if you have the time,

She likes to play, rain or shine!

All in all she is a perfect addition to my growing collection of Beanies.

For several years I used Beanies in my First Grade Classroom, as theme setters for holidays and the like. And, Beanies were used as sentence and story starters for Little Folks who might be stumped for what to write about.

As with other Ty Beanies I find the plush used to be soft, eyes are bright shiny, seams are well sewn, arms, legs, ears are secure and well attached. Pliable, poseable toy is filled with small pellets, and can be set on desk where Hoppity will sit, gazing, and will not tumble or sag.

Ever since 1993 Ty Inc., has fashioned 400+ different Beanie Babies in a diversity of sizes from wee softies appearing as a McDonald’s happy meal toys, to large Beanies measuring about 8 inches.

Hoppity holds appeal for boys and girls, and adults alike. Hoppity is intended particularly for those like and perhaps collect bunnies as do children and many adults.

Hoppity with the wee plastic eyes and nose is not recommended as a pet toy or for small children.

Ty Inc., established in 1993 when Ty Warner of Illinois produced his initial small critter shape, cloth bag, packed with small white, pellets sent to the market place has become a key contender in the toy race.

Beanies are available on Amazon, and I find them often at thrift and jumble shops as well as garage sales. If buying at jumble shop, yard sales and the like be careful to always check to be sure the Trademark Ty Beanie, heart shaped tag is in place to guarantee purchase is a genuine Ty product.

Recognized the world over; Beanie Babies, some might say they are filled with joy as well as pellets, are an over-the-top iconic, well-loved character in the toy market. Well made, sturdy seams to assure no bits on the floor, and for most of the softies having sewn nose and eyes, no pieces to swallow or otherwise cause harm, then again they are not indestructible. Ty Beanie Babies are some of the best loved toys adored by children and collected by adults everywhere.

Happy to recommend Ty Beanie Babies’ Pink Plush Hoppity.

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Reviewed by Molly’s Reviews

molly martin

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NOTE: Ty® Inc. is an American PLUSH ANIMAL Toy Company based in Westmont, Illinois.

The most famous line of products produced by this company are the BEANIE BABIES®, on the other hand, Ty also manufactures other lines of stuffed toys. The Ty logo is a red heart with the lower-case letters “ty.” A tag is found affixed to all Ty stuffed toys, and inside each tag is the name of the toy and a 4 line poem about it.

Since 1993, the year when Ty Inc. was founded; the company has mass-produced nearly 400 assorted Beanie Babies.

My personal introduction to the world of Beanies® was 1996 when long lines of adults could be seen extending across the restaurant and out the door, and at times down the sidewalk of local McDonald’s® eateries. Teenie Beanie Babies® Smaller, fun versions of Beanie Babies were included in McDonald’s Happy Meals®.

Several subsequent promotions took place with various wee Beanies available.

The lesson taught by Ty Warner, sole owner of Ty Inc., the company behind Beanie Babies may be do what you enjoy, do it well, promote and diversify.

My personal favorites continue to be the Teenie Weenies gathered from McDonalds children’s meals.

 

Ty Inc

280 Chestnut Ave

Westmont, IL, 60559 United States

And Mighty Tasty Too

Annie’s™ Organic, Bunny Fruit Snacks  BERRY PATCH flavor 

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See it at Amazon 

(5/5)

Pros: tasty, not sticky in hand or packet, non GMO, gluten free, organic ingredients, no artificial colors or flavors

Cons: none noted

Annie’s™ Organic, Bunny Fruit Snacks BERRY PATCH flavor  generated using real fruit juice and no artificial preservatives, flavors or colors are a mouthwatering, fun to devour, treat that are more nourishing than some of the more sugary nibble treats available for adults and children alike.

Even the package on the shelf is attention-grabbing. Bernie, Annie’s beloved pet bunny, emerging from a lemony yellow circle is found at the top of the front panel. Words Homegrown and Organic appear above and below the name of the product.   Flavor type is found midway on the panel above the signature cutout bunny located at the bottom of the pane.

Researching the Annie’s website I find Organic Berry Patch Bunny Fruit Snacks are a delicious mix of strawberry, cherry and raspberry flavored bunnies.

For those who are vegan; Annie’s Bunnies do not contain gelatin; are certified organic.

While I have no problem with gluten; I like having these snack items available to share with sis who must avoid gluten.

I do prefer food that are non GMO, do not rely on artificial colors, preservatives and flavors; these tasty little morsels made with real fruit juice provide 100% of the Daily Value of Vitamin C

Major Ingredients Organic Tapioca Syrup, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic White Grape Juice Concentrate, Pectin.  Color includes Black Carrot Juice, Flavors are natural.

Note: Ingredients, Nutrition Facts, and Allergen Statements can change. Always refer to the actual package for the most complete and accurate information.

I first was introduced to Annie’s tasty, healthy products while teaching First Grade. Each month the snack calendar was sent home, with each child’s name written in one of the boxes and Mrs. M’s name in the first two.

Parents often sent nice healthy, tasty snack items including Annie’s bunnies both gummies and crackers.

This attention-grabbing, purple card stock paper package filled with assorted peach, rose and magenta toned bunny fruit snacks features the traditional cutaway bunny revealing a ration of the tasty fruit flavored treats to tempt shoppers as they travel the aisles of the local big box stone.

I like the consistency of the gummies, soft; not hard, mushy or sticky in the box or the hand. Flavor is berry not strawberry, blackberry or raspberry; but berry nonetheless. The grape juice adds a little piquant tang that I find tasty and pleasant, rather than too sweet

Happy to recommend Annie’s™ Organic, Bunny Fruit Snacks BERRY PATCH flavor. 

Available on Amazon $12.75  4 cartons 5 pouches each

 

Perusal of the Annie’s website I find :    It all started with Annie

In 1989, Annie Withey co-founded Annie’s Homegrown, Inc. with Andrew Martin with the goal of making a healthy and delicious macaroni and cheese for families.

She wanted to show by example that a successful business could also be socially responsible.

Annie chose Bernie, her pet rabbit, to be the brand’s “Rabbit of Approval,” and she put her own address and phone number on each box to encourage customers to connect with her.

 

Annie’s Homegrown

1610 Fifth St

Berkeley Ca 94710

1968 Oshima Satire

Three Resurrected Drunkards (Kaette kita yopparai)

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[Rating: 2.6/5]

Pros:only 80 minutes long

Cons: rarely funny and not even that frenetic

Ôshima Nagisa (1932-2013) is most notorious for the torrid and graphic “Ai no korîda” (In the Realm of the Senses, 1976). Before that, he was already controversial as “the Japanese Godard” and a leader of “the Japanese New Wave” along with Imamura Shôhei (Pigs and Battleships), Teshigahara Hiroshi (Face of Another), Suzuki Seijun (Fighting Elegy) and Shinoda Masahiro (Samurai Spy). Neither Imamura not Ôshima shied away from depicting earthy sexuality or violence, or from criticizing US imperialism.

Ôshima’s 1968 film “Kaette kita yopparai” (released in English as “Sinner in Paradise,” but now part of the five-disc Critierion Eclipse “Oshima’s Outlaw Sixties” as “Three Resurrected Drunkards”) fiercely satirizes both the prejudices against Koreans in Japan and the American war in South Vietnam.

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It begins with three recent high school graduates from Tokyo on a beach on Kyushu, the southernmost of the major islands in the archipelago of Japan). They are acting out the grimacing Vietnamese man (Nguyen Van Lam) in a plaid shirt about to be executed at point-blank range by a South Vietnamese officer, Lt. Colonel Nguyen Ngoc Loan on 1 Feb. 1968. That iconic photo by Eddie Adams will be recreated at least four more times during the movie, and is multiplied just before the end.

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Ôshima did not directly criticize US actions in Vietnam. The iconic image for it shows only Vietnamese. The movie also satirizes Korean military involvement in concert with the US in trying to maintain the unpopular South Vietnamese regime (against the also frightening North Vietnamese one).

 

Because of a structure that should not be revealed, it is difficult to say much about the plot. The three boys whose Japanese names are never spoken, strip to their red briefs on the deserted beach and go into the water. At an excruciatingly slow pace, an arm reaches up out of the sand, pulls down two sets of clothes, replaces them with Korean army uniforms and two thousand-yen notes.

This leads to various outcomes, including being deported to Korea and shipped off to the Vietnam war, and the middle (in height) of the three falling in love with a young Korean woman (Midori Mako) who provides the movie’s one shot of naked female breasts. (There are also fleeting shots from behind of the boys dressing in a bathhouse locker room.)

The movie is much slower-paced than mid-1960s Richard Lester movies – with or without the Beatles – and differs from Three Stooges movies in largely eschewing bops on the head (and with less bickering). The most outright surrealist (or Cocteauean) touch is the arm reaching out of the sand.

The movie was probably daring and outrageous in Japan in 1968, but is close to being a yawner now. Mercifully, it only runs 80 minutes. I’d say the movie is playful in ways akin to Godard before his Maoist turn, which is still well short of praise. It provoked a few chuckles and attained some ironies, but Criterion would have done better to have included “Death by Hanging,” a more biting and similarly incoherent 1968 Ôshima film.

Christopher Rice’s debut coming-of-age of a bullied youth novel

A Density of Souls by Christopher Rice

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(3.8/5)

Pros: narrative drive

Cons: Bell Tower is literally “over the top”, one-dimensional villains (with guilty secret)

The Bottom Line: Overly melodramatic ending to a chronicle of a queerbaited/-bashed youth in New Orleans of the 1990s

I was absorbed in Christopher Rice’s first novel Density of Souls, which was first published in 2000, when the author was 21 years old. The Gothic romance aspect of the book and the sinister and stifling New Orleans atmosphere (especially that of Lafayette Cemetery with its above-groud burials) bring his mother (that would be Anne Rice) to mind. The queerbaited protagonist, Stephen Conlin, is the son of a poet who committed suicide before Stephen was born (too fine for this world in the view of his touch lowborn Irish wife). I hope that Christopher’s elite high school (Cannon) experiences of ostracism by his former friends (stereotypically nasty homophobic jocks Greg Darby and Brandon Charbonnet) were not similar to Stephen’s during the 1990s. Christopher definitely came from an intact family, but the gay son of a poet who killed himself cannot avoid qualms about oedipal dramas in the Rice family in which mother is the success, father the vastly less-read and less-famous poet (Stan)! (In an interview, Christopher stated “I’ve never gone overboard because I have such a strong family life.”)
rice
In addition to chronicling many sadistic rituals of adolescents and lots of “casual” cruelties, Rice whips up a hyper-melodramatic climax, set against a major hurricane. The pre-Katrina imaginings of evacuation and destruction has additional interest now. Although CR did not foresee the incompetence of government response, he did mention the dissatisfactions of those who took shelter in the Dome.

There are a lot of haunted characters, including the former grade-school friends who diverged radically in high school (the two football players savagely turning on Stephen, the bulimic young alcoholic Meredith also betraying their childhood friendship. She and a hard-to-believe compensatory character come through for him and not one but two star quarterbacks from Cannon fall in love with him.
StLouisCemetary-PinkGrey
Monica, Stephen’s mother, cannot protect him at high school, but seeks to be protective of her hypersensitive son. He does not use her to procure studs for himself, unlike Sebastian’s mother in a more melodramatic Garden District opus, Tennessee Williams’s “Suddenly, Last Summer.” There is less hysteria here, though in addition to the suicide in the background of the sensitive man, there is murder, hate crimes, alcoholism, bulimia, class bitchery, and even a touch of incest (though their shared bloodline is unknown to the pair).

Riace menThough sometimes feeling the prose was overripe (in the Southern Gothc tradition) I was carried along as I was once upon a time by Interview with a Vampire (and by Dreamboy).Though the narrative is very discontinuous in revealing various sins of the past, I did not think that the writing itself was “jerky” as some complained. (There are no vampires or witches, btw, though a questioning/gay teenager has a more difficult time than some of his mother’s aberrant creations have had.)

 

Police terrorism and poets’ narcissism in mid-1950s San Francisco

Robert Duncan in San Francisco by Michael Rumaker

 

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(4/5)

Pros: third chapter to memoir, 2012 interview

Cons: letters (appended to memoir)

Though I have read and somewhere have Michael Rumaker’s overwritten (lyrical) A Day and a Night at the [Everard] Baths (1979) and was aware of My First Satyrnalia (1981), I’ve never considered Rumaker a writer, let alone an important gay prose writer. The copy of his Robert Duncan in San Francisco (written in 1976-77 about an 16-month stint in the City by the Bay two decades earlier) that I bought online has a title page defaced by an attack, headlined by “This book is AWEFUL” followed by changing the title to “Michael Rumaker in San Francisco, continuing “for only 16 months used Robert Duncan [1919-88] as an excuse tow rite about himself andhis not interesting life. As a writer he is marginally acceptable. City Lights Books [publisher of an edition supplements by a 2012 interview and some correspondence almost all of it from Rumaker to Duncan] is really groveling for material. It is BAD, BAD, BAD Duncan was also a dull, bore I’ve met him several times hard to look at — one eye off center” (punctuation and its lack from the original).

Surprisingly, this buyer went on to underline many sentences and to include a number of stars in the margin for points without challenging any of them.

rumakerThe 22-year-old Rumaker (born in 1932) blocked the 34-year-old Duncan’s sexual advances not from loyalty to Jess (né Burgess Collins, 1923-2004) the painter who was Duncan’s life partner, but because Rumaker was not attracted to Duncan. (He found the pictures of a younger Duncan attractive and felt sorry for the loss of youth/beauty Duncan had had). Rumaker admired Duncan’s poetry and his courage in coming out in print in 1944 in Politics (“The Homosexual in Society”). From Rumaker’s memories, Duncan seems to have like Rumaker’s writings, at least before the memoir, after which Duncan never again communicated with him.

Robert-Duncan-and-Jess-1959 Duncan and Jess in 1959 (in backyward of 1137 De Haro?)

Jack Spicer was nasty to Rumaker. Rumaker believes that part of this was Spicer’s alcoholism, but also fury that Rumaker was fucking (obscure poet) Ebbe Borregaard, who Spicer wanted and couldn’t get.

Robert duncan by Jess, 19591959 Jess portrait of Duncan

Rumaker celebrates Duncan as a role model of self-acceptance and of making a home with a lover (a mere two blocks above where I live, at 1137 De Haro), albeit not monogamous. Rumaker himself was petrified by fear of the San Francisco Police. Rumaker makes a point of Duncan’s slight frustration that Charles Olson (Rumaker’s Black Mountain mentor, 1910-70) seemed more interested in men who had, like himself, been raised Catholic, including Rumaker than in non-Catholics however ex-. I find it a bit odd that Rumaker does not mention how Irish (Catholic) the San Francisco police force of the 1950s (and later) was.

SM@1137 De Haro(1137 De Haro is the middle units of  a vertical triplex, built in 1900, on Potrero Hill; that’s me in front of it)

The most vivid and, I think, valuable part of the memoir of San Francisco of the mid-1950s is Rumaker’s account of being picked up along with two dozen other men while he was walking home from hearing Miles Davis, going up Polk Street. He was charged with “vagrancy” in a doorway with another man. Alone of the 24 or 25 guilt-ridden and frightened arrestees, Rumaker pled “not guilty” and the case was dismissed by Clayton W. Horn, the same judge who presided over the 1956 obscenity trial of City Lights Books for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s HOWL (which Rumaker criticized in the Black Mountain Review, after R’s alma mater, Black Mountain College had folded). Rumaker was able to go back to work and his name was not published in the daily papers, as was the norm for those pleading no contest or guilty of vagrancy (which could be applied to anyone not carrying a thousand dollars—a thousand 1956 dollars!), loitering, public indecency (a legal category with elastic boundaries).

The documentation of what was too well-founded to count as “paranoia,” and of the mindset of “being not quite permissible affected our own feelings for each other,” with no feelings of solidarity or any positive identity, is more important than any insights into Robert Duncan’s character or persona or importance on the San Francisco poetry scene. “The Morals Squad was everywhere and the entrapment of gay males in the streets, the parks and inn numerous public places was a constant fear and a common occurrence.” The police abuse of surveillance and harassment of suspected homosexuals was only curtailed after various clergymen got a taste of the police modus operandi around Calfornia Hall (also on Polk Street) at a 1964 New Year’s Eve Ball. As Deborah Wolf wrote, “The police pursued a policy of deliberate harassment by taking photographs of each person entering California Hall, by parking a paddy wagon and several police cars outside the entrance to the building, and by entering the hall themselves. During the evening three attorneys and a [straight] woman council-member were arrested for ‘obstructing an officer in the course of his duties’ as they argued with the police at the entry to the hall…. The outrage felt by heterosexuals who had attended the ball, including clergymen and their wives, at this show of harassment led to a politicalization and a strengthening of their commitment to fight for the rights of the homophile community, once they themselves had experienced similar repressive actions at first hand.” (Lesbian Community, 1979:55).

 

©2016, Stephen O. Murray

 

Festive In Death – J.D. Robb – holiday cheer, but lame investigation

Festive In Death – J.D. Robb

 

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See it at Amazon 

(2/5)

Pros: some fun holiday-themed stuff

Cons: lame investigation

Festive In Death is the 39th book in J.D. Robb’s In Death series. Like the rest of the series, it takes place in the year 2060, and features New York Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas as she solves homicides.

In this case, it’s a few days before Christmas and much of the world is already in its festive, holiday mindset. But not Eve. Because a man has been killed and it’s her job to figure out who did it. Even though the man was a very bad man. Even though there are many who are pretty happy that he’s dead. Eve still has a job to do. This means pounding the pavement with some good old fashioned detective work, despite the calendar creeping ever closer to the holidays.

This series is endearing. Not always because of the investigations. Some of them are good, some are dull. But we always have fun with Eve and her crew of friends and co-workers. In this case, the upcoming holidays have everyone in a tizzy. Well, everyone except Eve, of course. If you’re at all familiar with the series, you know that Eve doesn’t do “tizzy”. She’s above the frenetic holiday traditions. As far as she’s concerned, the entire month of December could be wiped out and she’d be just fine. Shopping for presents? Dressing up for holiday parties? Worse, agreeing to actually host the party at her house? All of these things fall under the category of “silly nonsense” as far as Eve is concerned. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t eventually do them. With her usual grumpy attitude. And, in this case, with a lot of humor and charm for the readers who revel in her discomfort.

So, when it comes to all the “other stuff” that this series is known for, Festive has it, in spades.

But when it comes to the actual homicide investigation, this one was as lame as they come. A zillion suspects and yet I could barely dredge up an ounce of concern. I simply didn’t care. Frankly, I’d like to shake the hand of the person responsible, given the victim’s disgusting behavior.

Worse, there wasn’t anything clever about the eventual solve. Mostly a bunch of people sat around saying “maybe it was this person”, “maybe it was that person”. But nobody really devised a way to figure out exactly who did it. Not until someone eventually mentions a detail that wasn’t mentioned before. Then, like magic, it all falls into place. So the case was basically solved by someone outside of law enforcement mentioning an important detail.

Like I said, the investigation was lame. Yes, the Christmas-related stuff was fun, but I hope the next book in the series gives us a better case to solve.

Other books in the In Death series

Betrayal In Death
Born In Death
Born In Death
Ceremony In Death
Concealed In Death
Divided In Death
Glory In Death
Haunted In Death
Indulgence In Death
Innocent In Death
Interlude In Death
Judgment In Death
Midnight In Death
Missing In Death
Naked In Death
Naked In Death
Origin In Death
Rapture In Death
Reunion In Death
Salvation In Death
Strangers In Death
Survivor In Death
Treachery In Death
Vengeance In Death

Die Again Tomorrow – Kira Peikoff missed an opportunity

Die Again Tomorrow by Kira Peikoff

 

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See it at Amazon 

(4/5)

Pros: decent premise and story

Cons: missed an opportunity for some real discussion

Die Again Tomorrow by Kira Peikoff explores a couple different, yet related, death-inspired themes. 

The first revolves around so-called Viatical Settlements – where someone (presumably with a terminal illness) sells their life insurance policy at a discount for upfront cash.  The buyer continues to make the premiums, and collects the full amount of the policy upon the seller’s death.

The seller gets to use his cash right away, and the buyer has a giant payday at some point in the future.  Of course, this system only works out for the buyer if and when the seller dies.  In other words, the death of the seller directly ties into the buyer’s profit margin.  A scary proposition, indeed.

The second theme revolves around a top-secret, experimental drug – one that can greatly slow the brain’s decay, after death.  Coupled with a complex protocol, a secret team of doctors has managed to reverse death. 

Now put those two concepts together and what do you have?  A thriller, of course. 

In this case, Isabel is the policy-holder.  And, after a drowning incident, she becomes the next recipient of this secret experimental drug.  Happily for her, she’s alive and well.  Unhappily, she’s the target of a less-than-honorable assassin – after all, she was supposed to be the conduit to a big payoff.  But only once she’s dead

What follows is a fairly complex story that goes beyond cat-and-mouse-chase.  With crisp writing, covering several view-points, and a twist here and there to keep you guessing, Die Again Tomorrow held my interest throughout.

If I have any criticism at all, it’s that Peikoff did not go into any discussion of the morality and ethics of death-reversal.  She presents this possibility as if it will solve the world’s problems and nothing could be further from truth.  Just imagine what a world would look like, if such a drug existed.  First of all, astronomical mayhem would ensue if it were only available to some and not to all.  Talk about ‘worth killing for’.  But even in a world where the drug is as available as an aspirin, imagine the potential problems.  No one ever dies, the population just continues to grow and get older…

I just think Peikoff could have delved into this issue a little bit.  At least present it as a gray area, one worthy of deeper consideration.  Sure, thrillers are there to thrill, not necessarily to educate or lecture, but I think the readers can handle a bit of intelligent discussion mixed in with the thrills. 

 

Unsettling fiction-making

In the House (2012)

bed (4.5/5)

Pros: strong script, strong performances

Cons: ending is less arresting than buildup to it

Adapted by prolific French auteur François Ozon from a play by Juan Mayorga, “In the House” (Dans la maison, 2012) is a Pirnadellian dark comedy about writing, invasion of privacy, expropriation and manipulation of the lives of others.

A failed writer turned teacher (Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach) Germain Germain (Fabrice Luchini [Bicylcing with Molière]) is surprised and delighted to find a boy with talent in his literature class, Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer). Even what Claude writes for the first assignment in unsettling in subject matter: c

hronicling his success at getting into the house of what seems to Claude (whose mother long ago left his crippled father) a normal family. Claude is helping Rapha Artole (fils—the son) with trigonometry problems, while spying on the mother, Esther Artole (Roman Polanski’s wife and lead in his “Venus in Furs,” Emmanuelle Seigner) and, to a lesser extent the father, hearty Rapha Artole père (Denis Ménochet).

In the House by François Ozon

Claude’s serial stories entrance while troubling both his teacher and the teacher’s wife Jeanne Germain (Kristin Scott Thomas, who not only speaks perfect French but has the look and body language down). The teacher advocates Flaubertian detachment, though the unfolding story is about forming or counterfeiting attachment (from all three Garcias). Jeanne, even more than her husband, assumes that everything Claude writes is reportage of what he does and sees. There are scenes in which Germain scolds Claude within the scenes Claude is writing. Germain presses Claude to find an ending that is unexpected yet after being read feels both satisfying and inevitable.

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This sets a high demand on the screenplay, and for me the ending was inevitable enough but expected (and less than satisfying, anticlimactic). Still, I found the movie more interesting and less repellant than some other Ozon movies (See the Sea, Criminal Lovers, Water Drops on Burning Rocks), though not as good as some others (5×2, 8 Women, Time to Leave), in the league with Ozon’s previous (2010) “Potiche” (in which Luchini played a major part).

In addition to uncertainty about what is fictional in what Claude writes about his embededness (eventually literal) in the Artole house, the viewer cannot be certain what the Germains are reading into the installments they both read and discuss, with Mme. Germain judging the characters while her husband attempts to hold onto judging the writing.

Besides being Rapha’s math tutor, Claude also helps Rapha write an attack on Germain for humiliating Rapha in class (making him read his essay about his best friend, Claude, and then tearing it apart, sentence by sentence). And to ensure Claude’s success in raising Rapha’s math grade, Germain has stolen a math exam and supplied it to Claude.

Yes, Claude has bewitched two households and eventually gets into the apartment of the Germains, where he is not surprised that Jeanne knows the story he has been writing for her husband. Or that she has been disturbed by her husband’s fascination with the sixteen year-old boy, even as she also hangs on the cliff of expectation while waiting for the next installment of his serial (all of which end with “to be continued”).

The other voyeur, the viewer of the movie, does not know if the movie s/he is watching is going to veer into thriller violence or remain a bitter comedy (both Germain Germain and Claude are bitter as well as being aspiring and once-aspiring writers). Teacher tells student he must have more conflict to make an interesting story and then (along with the viewer) wonders how much of the conflict that then occurs in the serial is reportage, how much imagination. That is, how much is writing, how much living the story Claude is telling?

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The Blu-Ray has an hour making-of feature and twelve minutes of deleted scenes, a poster gallery, and a trailer. The trailer may be viewed at

Been there, done that.

Jersey Boys

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$19.54 Blu-Ray at Amazon 

(3/5)

Pros: Superb music performances.

Cons: Overly familiar and emotionally inert

Jersey Boys is a movie one wants to like better than they actually do. The 2014 cinematic adaptation of the long running Broadway play offers up a look at the career of the Four Seasons. The play was a musical complete with singing and dancing numbers. This interpretation is a drama with music. The one traditional musical number is saved until the closing credits.

The music contained in the film is superb. The Four Seasons music, while more dated than that of many of their contemporaries, still sounds good. But it doesn’t have the same cross-generational appeal as that of contemporaries like the Beatles or Stones.

Unfortunately, especially for those who have seen a lot of musical bio-pics, the story has a been there done that feel. Certain elements recall Goodfellas, certain ones bring to mind Dreamgirls and still others evoke The Fighter.

When it was announced that a movie version of Jersey Boys was on the way and that Clint Eastwood would be directing, people wondered whether or not he was the best choice. Eastwood is a great director. But his economical approach to filmmaking would not appear to mesh that well with what a musical calls for. Having seen Jersey Boys twice bears out that suspicion.

Of course that approach explains why this movie version is less a musical than a drama with music. To really get the essence of Jersey Boys on screen, a different director was needed. Bob Fosse would’ve been the best choice. But he’s long gone. So maybe Bill Condon who scripted Chicago and wrote and directed the aforementioned adaptation of Dreamgirls. Or Paul Thomas Anderson whose Boogie Nights crackled and popped with a rhythmic fever. Or the British Alan Parker whose work is often both gritty and lyrical.

The basic story follows the rise and fall of the Four Seasons. Of course, many of the elements are familiar from other musical bio-pics. If you’ve seen Ray or Walk The Line or The Buddy Holly Story or La Bamba or The Doors or Straight Outta Compton, you already have a fairly good idea of what to expect.

What makes Jersey Boys worth watching is the music. A number of Four Seasons songs are performed in their entirety by the cast and those are sunng superbly.

Eastwood for the most part used the same actors who’d appeared in the original Broadway version of Jersey Boys. While that approach backfired in the 2005 film version of Rent (by the time it went into production, those actors were too old to play people in their late teens/early twenties) it works here. You get some decent acting and some very good singing. Plus, the actors are able to slip into the characters more easily than if big name stars had been cast.

So there isn’t really a lot wrong with jersey Boys. It’s main flaw is the aforementioned “been there done that” feeling and the fact that it doesn’t have the musical feel a movie of this type should have. So it’s worth seeing for the good songs. But it isn’t the full-on masterpiece it so desperately wants to be.

The Enemy by Lee Child – Decent story and ending, but dull

The Enemy by Lee Child

 

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See it at Amazon 

(2.5/5)

Pros: Decent story and satisfying ending

Cons: Had to wade through too much to get there

Lee Child’s The Enemy contains some very good stuff.  Too bad you have to wade through so much dull stuff to find the gems.

The Enemy is the eighth book in the Jack Reacher series.  Written in 2004, Child takes us back in time, to the first few weeks of 1990. The Berlin wall has just come down.  The cold war is over, and the US Army sees a drastic reduction of resources up ahead.  After all, the World is at peace, what do we need a giant army for?  (Of course, knowing what we now know, this seems unbelievably naïve, but in the beginning of 1990, the world looked very different than it does today).  In any case, a bunch of people are about to lose their jobs, and this makes some people very unhappy.

Reacher was happily on assignment in Panama when he’s suddenly called back to the States.  Immediately, he’s drawn into the investigation of a two-star general who died in a seedy motel, where he presumably met a prostitute.  Reacher notices that the general’s ever-present briefcase is missing.  Reacher comes to find out that the briefcase contained the agenda for a top-secret meeting.  Worse, the general’s wife is found dead mere hours later. 

What could that meeting’s agenda possibly contain that’s worth killing over?

This is the premise, and I admit I was intrigued. 

But The Enemy is a 500 page book containing a story that really filled 250 pages.  The rest was fluff.  Utter nonsense.  Long passages where absolutely nothing happens.  Descriptions of scenery, ridiculous conversations, and over-long thoughts in our protagonist’s head.  Just a bunch of dull stuff that you have to get through, in order to get through the story.

As for the actual story, that was pretty good.  Child does a good job of slipping us small clues along the way, but saving most of the good stuff for the end.  And the ending was quite satisfying.  At least, having made my way through those 500 pages, I wasn’t disappointed!  There’s also a subplot involving Reacher’s mother, that was very interesting, and some very good insights into Reacher’s personality that set the tone for future books in the series.

Overall, I would give The Enemy high marks for the story, but low marks for the dull writing surrounding that story.  So, we’ll have to settle on 2.5 stars.  Just below average.

 

Also by Lee Child:

Persuader
Tripwire

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