Grifter’s Game – Lawrence Block ♦♦♦♦ [four out of five]

When I first read Lawrence Block’s ‘Grifter’s Game,’ I had no idea what I was in for.  The setup plays straight enough, but the ending – still, reading it through a second time – is one of the darkest things I’ve read, and that initial time through the book it was quite a leap from where it started.  I loved it, but it was bleak stuff.  On my second trip through, some years later, the themes are a lot clearer in the story, and the plummet not so steep, but it’s still a devastating read…

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The Portable Frank – Jim Woodring ♦♦♦♦♦ [five out of five]

To call Jim Woodring a genius is too limited.  To call him a ‘visionary’ implies that he’s seeing something beyond, or is somehow fanciful in his work.  No.  You can only call Jim Woodring ‘Jim Woodring.’  I have never encountered an artist / writer so uniquely himself as Woodring, and the ‘Frank’ strips – many of which are lovingly collected in ‘The Portable Frank,’ bring that quality out front and center.

YOU CAN ALSO CALL ME JIM WOODRING, THOUGH

Trust ••• [three out of five]

“Trust” isn’t all that dated.  It does a good job of playing the cyber-crime story for a mainstream audience without resorting to too much faux-computer jibber-jabber.  … Which director David Schwimmer (yes, that David Schwimmer) does by integrating the texts right atop the screen, almost like subtitles, with the color of the text letting us know who’s doing the “talking”.  It’s a simple trick that shows that this topic is grown up, and doesn’t require a lead-in explaining what texting is or showing a closeup of someone typing on  a phone so we get the point.  Trust excels when it skips over the whole “cyber” aspect of it and just shows how this happens and how it ends up affecting us…

SPOILER ALERT: YOU ARE USING TECHNOLOGY RIGHT NOW

The Brood ••• [three out of five]

I watched ‘The Brood’ once and was bored out of my kit.  Scanners, Videodrome – all of these are slow movies, with almost silly dialogue exchanges … that are played dead straight and are, I assume, intended to be straight.  But a lot of these films at least carry that creepy feeling that moves you from one slightly surreal  scene to the next, to the inevitable mutating conclusion.  ‘The Brood’ stays pretty mundane for a while, on all accounts.  Even when we start to get pieces about what’s going on, it’s almost presented in-between the scenes, giving the feeling that we’re witnessing things after they’re occurring, which is a tension killer…

PEOPLE CALL ME AN ‘INTEREST KILLER’

Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie •• [two out of five]

What did I expect from a Tim & Eric movie?  Good question.  Not a plot.  That’s what.   I expected a gross-out poop joke: met and exceeded.  I expected bizarre editing choices: sure.  I expected some recurring characters: not really.  But a plot?  That seemed out of the question.  I assumed this was going to be a Brain Candy type movie, a very loose structure woven together by mini-sketches.  Instead, we get an awesomely pitch-perfect more-than-I-could’ve-hoped-for hilarious opening scene that sets the stage for a plausible setup… and then we get all stalled up with that dang plot…

YOU’VE ALREADY SEEN THIS IF YOU WERE PLANNING TO ANYWAY

Tale of Sand – Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl ♦♦♦♦♦ [five out of five]

I’m not a Henson-ite.  I love the Muppets when they’re on, and I did my Sesame Street bid, but I don’t get all teary whenever I read a bio, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to seeing Labyrinth.  But I acknowledge Henson’s genius and his still unique vision… The earnestness and honesty that were found in Henson’s later creations are also present here, meaning that, although the story wanders it doesn’t come across as pointless or haughty.  It’s interesting.  Exciting.  Funny.  And rich, and rewards rereads…

NOW WE PRETEND WE ARE FRIENDS

Veil – George Chesbro ♦♦ [two out of five]

I read a review for a Chesbro’s “Mongo” books a million years ago in a short-lived comic book magazine called “Combo.”  I scoured used book shops to find these little gems, assured that the series – about a dwarf detective – would fulfill the weirdo niche I was hoping to dedicate myself to.  I found one at put it proudly on my shelf.  I still haven’t read it.  But I picked up some more Chesbro books along the way at used stores here and there.  And so… Veil is my first.  I’m choosing not to judge his other works by it…

AND OTHER REASONS YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO ME

Somewhere ••• [three out of five]

‘Somewhere’ is about the inbetween moments of being a celebrity.  Not the ‘tender’ moments, more like the downtime, falling asleep watching strippers in your room (which is the second scene).  It’s interesting from afar, but I can’t say that it’s a compelling view, as told by the opening shot: Perhaps 2 minutes of a car speeding around a test track.  No music, no other sound effects.  Then, a tired Stephen Dorff gets out and looks around, his expression one of – “Well, we’ve done that.  What’s next?”  This is the entire film.  Kudos to Coppola for not making this off-putting or lesson-laden – it’s neither rubbing our face in the coolness of movie life or telling us “woe is me for being bored with money,” it’s just sort of showing it for what it is.

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