Let’s all play Battleship

I finished The Twelve by Justin Cronin this weekend and posted my review. It’s a decent book, but it has some problems, some of them attributable to “middle-of-the-trilogy”-itis and some by questionable story structure. My review is posted here. I also reviewed Revenge of the Vinyl Cafe by Stuart McLean, another collection of nostalgic and humorous anecdotes. My wife and I listened to a couple of his radio shows this weekend. That’s how I discovered him in the first place—I stumbled upon one of his Christmas-themed broadcasts when I was visiting northern New Brunswick a number of years ago. The story was so funny, I almost drove the car off the road.

I’m now reading Return of the Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, which contains two never-before-published novellas featuring Nick & Nora Charles. These aren’t written strictly as prose but as a cross between a screenplay treatment and a story. The dialog and action is fully there, but there are, at times, asides and references that direct the scene.

We watched an interesting film called Ruby Sparks this weekend. It was written and produced by Zoe Kazan, granddaughter of famous director Elia Kazan, and stars her and her boyfriend Paul Dano. Dano plays a writer who had a hugely popular and critically acclaimed first novel when he was young, but has been blocked ever since. He sees a therapist (Elliot Gould) who gives him a one-page writing assignment. This assignment, which describes a dream girl, sets him on fire. He knows a lot about this girl, and he pours it all onto the page. This is all well and good until he wakes up one morning and finds her in the kitchen making him breakfast. He worries about his sanity until he realizes other people can see her, too. His brother thinks she might be some sort of con artist until they prove that, by adding sentences to his manuscript, Dano can make her do things. Speak in French, for example. The possibilities are endless. However, instead of going the Weird Science route, after the film plays around with this trope, it turns it on its head. Sure, we all know what he wants, but what does she want? She is, after all, a real person now. Left to her own devices (i.e. without the writer’s interference), she has goals and needs and desires. When these come into conflict with what he wants, the film takes a dark turn that the first half does not foreshadow. Then the question becomes: how do they get out of this downward spiral? It’s a clever film, and more serious than it might seem from the trailer.

So, Jeff Strand, does last week’s Survivor go down in history with Dawson’s full body kiss after Probst snuffed her torch? It’s amazing how quickly things can change. Three tribes become two—and I was happy that they didn’t juggle them, just doled out the two remaining blues—with equal numbers and, by the end of the episode, one tribe is suddenly down by two. With three immunity idols in play, things could get very interesting. Probst teases that there will be two things in this week’s episode that are Survivor firsts.

I watched the first season of Homeland this weekend. I knew very little about the show going into it, and I’m glad that’s the case. I was able to go back and forth with the shifting suspicions. “He’s a spy. No, we were wrong, he isn’t. Yes, he is. We don’t believe you because you’re crazy.” Making Danes’ character bi-polar was a clever touch. Even though her suspicions are almost always right, there comes a point when even the people who normally trust her think her obsessions have gotten the best of her. Damien Lewis is terrific, especially in the final episode of the season.  Morena (Firefly) Baccarin is impressive, too, for a variety of reasons! I know S2 is playing now, but I’m going to wait until it’s over to see it.

So, The Mentalist is going to do the “origin story” thing, leaping back in time to Jane’s first case with the CBI. Hmmm. Desperate for storylines? This week’s, about Rigsby’s father, was okay, but just.

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