Monday, June 27, 2011

Fair Game

Valerie Plame’s identity was leaked around the time when I started paying attention to politics and the news, and as the trial also coincided with a time I had to bring in current event articles to my government class, I came into the movie version of her life with some background knowledge, but was ready to get a story linking it all together. Fair Game, starring Naomi Watts as Plame and Sean Penn as her husband Joe Wilson, gave me the story I wanted.

Though it begins with a few of Plame’s earlier CIA missions, Fair Game focuses almost entirely on the circumstances leading to her leaked identity and the aftermath of the situation, especially the effects it has on the relationship between Plame and Wilson.

Watts and Penn both did an excellent job portraying their characters—I thought of them as Valerie and Joe rather than Naomi and Sean— motivations were clear, and neither over-acted.

Fair Game kept me interested, but still felt more like a movie designed to educate, something you would see on the History channel or in a school government class, rather than a movie you would watch for entertainment. That being said, it gets a 3/5 (but almost gets a 4).

I’m sorry this review is so short—I watched the movie about 3 weeks ago, and forgot to write the review until now (having a job is a really wonderful thing, but it also limits my free time). I also apologize that there was no new update last week; I was on vacation.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The End of the Free Market

A week ago, I was ready to give up the Daily Shill. I had started to compose a post listing reasons, which basically summed up to "I WANT TO READ WHAT I WANT TO READ!" But I had already watched Nanny McPhee Returns and I sure wasn't going to have watched it for nothing. So I decided I'd write that one more review, and then wait to make a decision about the Shill until this week. After writing the review, I decided to give the Daily Shill another push and keep going. Because I'm not a quitter.

What brought me to the brink of quitting? Well, sure, it's a buildup over time, but the book that pushed me over the edge was Ian Bremmer's The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War between States and Corporations? It was just incredibly boring, especially compared to the many other (non-Shill) books I am now allowing myself to read. But I finally finished it yesterday, and am ready to move onto Christopher Hitchens' Hitch 22 which, though longer, should be more interesting.

As you may have already picked up on, this review of The End of the Free Market is not going to be a fair one (or a long one). I'm not an economist. I never will be an economist. And I only sort of get the economy. So, reading a book that basically lists out multiple countries' laws and regulations regarding the free market is a confusing, boring mess of words. Multiple times, I realized my eyes were going over the pages, but my mind was elsewhere. I really can't provide an accurate summary.

The reason I found The End of the Free Market so boring? I figured it out: there are no people in the book. Rather than talk about how people are affected by countries' takes on the free market, rather than talk about the lawmakers and rulers, Bremmer chooses to talk about policy instead. And that's where he lost me. The few pages on Russia (where, yes, people made a cameo appearance) were relatively interesting, but the rest of the book lost me. It's certainly not pleasure reading, and I don't recommend it (unless, of course, you're an economist or interested in the economy. You're probably the intended audience for this book.) 1/5.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Nanny McPhee Returns

It's always seems odd to see a kids' movie promoted on the Daily Show. Sure, I know that parents must make up some of the show's audience, but to me, it seems like such a college program. (Though that's probably because I started watching it in college). I have a hard time reviewing movies for kids, because-- I hate to admit it-- I've become a children's movie snob. I still love watching favorites from my childhood, even the bad ones since nostalgia makes up for a weak story and bad acting. My favorite movie of all time is a children's movie (Pixar's Up). I actually watch children's movies and read children's books all the time. But when a movie comes out that doesn't have the nostalgia of The Wiz or the heart and strong story of Up (or practically anything else by Pixar), I'm critical. I can't watch it from a child's point of view.

All that being said, Nanny McPhee Returns was better than I expected. But I didn't expect much. The basic storyline: Isabel (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a young mother, looking after three children and struggling to keep up the family farm while her husband is at war. It's tough enough making ends meet, and when two spoiled cousins are thrown into the mix, causing all five children start behaving badly, Isabel is pushed to her wits end. Enter Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) who, using magic, teaches these children five lessons.

Sound like a mix between Mary Poppins and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle? It is. Though I'd recommend reading those books (or watching the Poppins movie) rather than picking up a copy of Nanny McPhee Returns. Though there were moments when the movie had the wonderful feel of a storybook brought to life (similar to the tone of the fabulous show Pushing Daisies), they were fleeting. The acting was fine, but the story just didn't do it for me. And enough with the bodily function jokes already. I know kids love 'em, but kids will laugh at other kinds of jokes, too.

Nanny McPhee Returns gets a 2/5. It wasn't awful, but I won't watch it again, either.