Film Review: Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer written by Joon-ho Bong and Kelly Masterson, directed by Joon-ho Bong (SnowPiercer, Moho Film, Opus Pictures, R, 126 min) Starring Chris Evans, Kang-ho Song, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Ewen Bremner, and Ah-sung Ko. Just Justice What is justice? What gives you reason to take up arms in opposition? Is there ever a moral ground for violence? Certainly, anybody can carry a deep burden of justification. Some would say this question is a zero-sum game. How do we, ultimately, whittle justice down to a point where we all can participate in a life well lived? Many of these questions come to the surface in Joon-ho Bong’s futuristic thriller, Snowpiercer. The Death of All Snowpiercer… Read More →

Film Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel written and directed by Wes Anderson (Scott Rudin Productions, Indian Paintbrush, Studio Babelsberg, R, 100 min) Starring Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Léa Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson, and Tony Revolori. The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders Anyone prone to independent film ought to know the Wes Anderson brand well enough. The hyper realism. The cheeky humor. The cinematic jokes. Anderson’s work might be one of the most distinctive in Hollywood. And, Wes Anderson became the source for my favorite SNL short last year, actually. So it’s interesting to see Anderson play with his signature elements… Read More →

Book Review: The Happiest People in the World

The Happiest People in the World

The Happiest People in the World: A Novel by Brock Clarke (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2014. 344 pp) Brock Clarke is the author of three previous novels, including the bestselling An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England, and two story collections. He is currently in the English department at Bowdoin College, and he lives in Portland, Maine. The Hedonist Paradox Have you ever tried to be happy? Not in an ethereal suggestive sort of way. Because we all would rather be happy. But we also don’t usually make our decisions with happiness as the sole portion of a decision matrix. I mean happiness in a decisive, get-up-in-the-morning-and-decide-your-route-throughout-the-day-based-on-the-level-of-happiness-it-might-bring kind of way. There’s an intriguing principle in ethics called the… Read More →

Film Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl

Gone Girl written by Gillian Flynn, directed by David Fincher (20th Century Fox, Regency Enterprises, TSG Entertainment, R, 149 min) Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Carrie Coon, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, and Kim Dickens. Celebrity Murder Perhaps the most famous non-athlete from my alma mater in recent years is Amanda Knox. While studying abroad during her time at the University of Washington, her roommate met a tragic demise. As a prime suspect, the case against Amanda was never a slam dunk. The odd twists and turns and the multiple verdicts pushed the case further and further into the general consciousness of the public. Funny how one case, among the multitudes drifting in anonymity, rises to general discourse. Ask anyone… Read More →

Book Review: Horrorstör

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

Horrorstör: A Novel by Grady Hendrix (Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2014. 240 pp) Grady Hendrix has written for Variety, Slate, the New York Post, Playboy, Village Voice, Strange Horizons, and the anthology The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination. He spent several years answering the phone for a parapsychological research organization. He is currently employed by Orsk, Manhattan. Work as Occupation It’s startling and a bit over the top, but the theory behind work hasn’t changed much. We still live in a Taylorist world where the heart and soul of employee matter little and the efficiency and productivity of the employee matter greatly. The marketing team can dress up the work in all these high-minded ideals but too often this corporate… Read More →

Book Review: The Rise & Fall of Great Powers

The Rise & Fall of Great Powers

The Rise & Fall of Great Powers: A Novel by Tom Rachman (New York: Dial Press, 2014. 400 pp) Tom Rachman was born in London in 1974 and raised in Vancouver. He attended the University of Toronto and Columbia Journalism School, then worked as a journalist for the Associated Press in New York and Rome for the International Herald Tribune in Paris. His first novel, The Imperfectionists, was an international bestseller, translated into twenty-five languages. He lives in London. Onions Have Layers Life is like layers of sediment in a canyon. Each layer is completely different. Its materials are unique to the era, weathering storms and earning a history. Stacked together, these layers make the geological formation we call a… Read More →

Book Review: Raising Boys By Design

Raising Boys By Design

Raising Boys by Design: What the Bible and Brain Science Reveal About What Your Son Needs to Thrive by Gregory L. Jantz and Michael Gurian with Ann McMurray (Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 2013. 228 pp) Gregory Jantz is a nationally certified psychologist with a doctorate in counseling psychology. The author of more than twenty books, he regularly counsels parents and children of all ages to develop communication strategies, strengthen family bonds, and raise healthy kids. Michael Gurian is a marriage and family counselor noted for his secular expertise in brain science and his bridge-building in faith communities. He is a New York Times best-selling author of more than two dozen books, including The Wonder of Boys. Gave It a Shot… Read More →

Book Review: What We See When We Read

What We See When We Read

What We See When We Read: A Phenomenology with Illustrations by Peter Mendelsund (New York: Vintage Books, 2014. 448 pp) Peter Mendelsund is the associate art director of Alfred A. Knopf, the art director of Pantheon Books, and a recovering classical pianist. His designs have been described by The Wall Street Journal as being “the most instantly recognizable and iconic book covers in contemporary fiction.” He lives in New York. Why Read? Why read? In an age of mass media, doesn’t it seem a touch quaint? Our iPhones can keep us entertained indefinitely with the amount of apps available, not mention the Internet sitting in your pocket. We live in the Golden Age of television; high quality shows illuminate the… Read More →

Television Show Review: Boardwalk Empire: Season 5

Boardwalk Empire Season 5

Boardwalk Empire: Season 5 created by Terence Winter (Home Box Office, Leverage Management, Closest to the Hole Productions) Starring Steve Buscemi, Michael Kenneth Williams, Shea Whigham, Stephen Graham, Michael Shannon, Jeffrey Wright, Gretchen Mol, Vincent Piazza, Anatol Yusef, and Kelly Macdonald. *Spoiler Alert for Previous Seasons* Nuclear Daydream What would it take to desensitize your soul? How many times must the dice roll the wrong way before you feel somnambulant, checked out, indifferent to anything? I’ve always felt like there’s a precipitous cliff involved with sporting interests. When your favorite team is really good, you care extensively. As the team gets worse, you care even more, as if your rooting energy and support can somehow will the team into a… Read More →

Book Review: The Secret Place

The Secret Place by Tana French

The Secret Place: A Novel by Tana French (New York: Viking, 2014. 529 pp) Tana French grew up in Ireland, Italy, the U.S. and Malawi, and has lived in Dublin since 1990. She trained as a professional actress at Trinity College, Dublin, and has worked in theatre, film, and voicover. The Need to Rise above the Noise Sometimes it’s just nice to kick back and read something uncritically. While a book has the power to transform a mindset, or present a compelling argument artistically, depth isn’t necessary. It can be refreshing to sit back and read. Although Tana French’s The Secret Place offers this kind of experience, I would not suggest it rises above the noise. A Murder Mystery The… Read More →