I was all set to write my last catch-up review for 2012 (finally!) when I realized I actually had FOUR still pending. Dude! I want to tell you about The Hobbit and this great book I just read instead! So, here’s a quick end to 2012 for you!
BOOK: The Twelve by Justin Cronin.
This book is the sequel to Cronin’s vamp apocalypse novel The Passage, and it’s part two of a planned trilogy. That I think I’ve officially given up on. I enjoyed The Passage, but for a few minor complaints, and I reread it right before I read this one last December and enjoyed it the second time too. But The Twelve is, put simply, a bloated disaster of epic proportions. Not only does it flip around in time way too much (pick a timeline, already!), but it has waaaay too many wholly unnecessary subplots and characters. It’s easily 200 pages too long — something a good editor should’ve done something about — and while I liked certain elements of it (like the whole Red Eye population of semi-civilized half-vamps), and I read the whole damn thing, I spent most of it frustrated and and increasingly short on patience. When I was done, despite the exciting ramp-up there at the end, I felt pretty done. No interest in part three whatsoever, unless Cronin hires a new editor and the reviews are spectacular. I’m still glad I read it — there were things I wanted to know and now I know them. But another gazillion messy pages just won’t be worth the time for the resolution. I feel resolved enough as it is. Genre: Horror. [Buy it]
MOVIE: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)
I watched this movie with my mother, who had never seen Dev Patel in anything and is now a believer! That boy is so damn adorable! (I made her watch Slumdog Millionaire as soon as we were done, naturally.) The cast of this film is astounding — not just good ol’ Dev, but also Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, and Tom Wilkinson, and though it’s weighted down in parts with a touch too much cheese, the joy of getting to see all these people in the same movie more than makes up for the tummy ache. Each character has a unique, authentic personality (with the exception, possibly, of Maggie Smith, who is always the same character in everything these days and who goes from astounding racist to lover of all things Indian awfully abruptly), and each takes a journey into their “outsourced retirement” that comes to a satisfying conclusion. Wilkinson’s subplot was particularly touching, and I really, really want to be Judi Dench’s character when I grow up. This is a delightful film, and a great one to watch with your Mom! Cast: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Tom Wilkinson, Celia Imrie, Dev Patel. [Netflix it | Buy it]
MOVIE: War Horse (2012)
I haven’t seen the play this film was based on, so it’s possible it wasn’t really Spielberg’s fault, but dudes, horses, as wonderful and intelligent as they are, are not, in fact, people in animal suits. The anthropomorphizing in this movie really got in the way of my ability to enjoy it, and Spielberg’s penchant for overwhelmingly artificial sweetness just left both me and my Mom feeling kind of beyuck in general when we were done. Gorgeous visuals, and both Mom and I are suckers for movies about horses — one of the passions we both shared as little girls. But this one’s a dud, start to finish. Cast: Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irvine, Benedict Cumberbatch. [Netflix it | Buy it]
MOVIE: Chimpanzee (2012)
This Disney documentary follows the life of an adorable li’l baby chimp named Oscar. As most animal documentaries do, it begins with the death of the protagonist’s mother, and has kind of a predictable arc that follows. But the way in which Oscar overcomes his challenge — is truly fascinating and unexpected (in short, he’s taken in not by the other female chimps, who universally reject him despite his near-unbearable cuteness, but instead by the male leader of the group — an incredibly rare thing in the world of chimps and a totally unplanable stroke of luck for the filmmakers). The scenery can’t be beat, and though I suppose you can accuse this movie of anthropomorphization as well, it feels different when its our closest animal relations, you know what I mean? Go ahead and call that cute baby boy Oscar. I’m game. This would be a great film for kids — though since it involves the death of a mom, you might not want to go too young on this one. Chimpanzees are so damn cool. For reals. Recommended! [Netflix it | Buy it]
Up next, we enter the present at long last, and there is a return of the Boyfriends! BELIEVE IT!
Cast: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Tom Wilkinson, Celia Imrie, Dev Patel