Friday, January 07, 2011

Pop Culture Roundup

Yep, that lasted a day. Shut up.

My first book of 2011 is Apparition and Late Fictions: A Novella and Stories by Thomas Lynch. You may remember Lynch from The Undertaking, which I read last year. This is a collection of short stories that he's had published in various magazines and journals. I've only read the first one so far, which is about a man taking his father's ashes fishing. Given Lynch's background, I imagine that all of these are going to have something to do with dead people.

I've also been reading Faith and You by Terry Pluto, who was a sports and faith columnist for the Akron Beacon Journal, now for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. This is a collection of his faith columns from over the years. They're relatively short and uncomplicated pieces that seem to have a common theme of wondering about the hard questions of faith while trying to make it through day to day existence. Pluto doesn't have the same poetic touch or theological depth of a Real Live Preacher or Barbara Brown Taylor, but not everybody has to have that. I imagine that many people actually find him quite accessible and are grateful for what he writes. So far, I've really been struck by an essay where he looks after a friend struggling with depression and alcoholism, using Job's friends to explore what's helpful and unhelpful in moments like that. I found it quite powerful, and I'm sure it'll make its way into a sermon sometime.

We've seen How to Train Your Dragon, which everybody else said was good, and we can also now say is good. In a world where Vikings battle dragons we meet Hiccup, a kid who is a disappointment to his Viking father due to his size, lack of dragon-fighting skill, and brainy-ness. Hiccup eventually meets and befriends a wounded dragon and learns about what its kind are really like. It's very much a story of getting to know your enemy and realizing s/he isn't what you think, as well as a story of doing what you're good at instead of trying to meet the expectations of others. This movie is, I think, one of the best ones that Dreamworks has put out.

Now that Coffeewife and I have both read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, we sat down and watched the movie together. The movie is in Swedish with English subtitles, which I didn't mind. However, I did mind pretty much everything else. Even the movie was 2 1/2 hours long, it still managed to feel rushed and cut out huge chunks of characterization and plot. Granted, the book is incredibly long, so I understood that something wasn't going to make it. The main thrust of the movie version is the mystery that Blomkvist and Lisbeth work on together, and not much else gets a whole lot of screen time. And hey, they even give away a little bit of the second book, so that's awesome. Besides that, the actors rarely matched up with what I'd picture them to be. Noomi Rapace did bring some gravitas to Lisbeth, but that was a rare exception. Hollywood is working on its own adaptation; we'll see if it's any better.

Here's the trailer for the movie adaptation of Water for Elephants, which I also hope doesn't suck. There are already parts that I have issues with just from the trailer, though:

And hey look, there's going to be a Pirates of the Caribbean 4: