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Joe Sherry (Minnesota)
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Monster
Monster
DVD ~ Charlize Theron
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 35.16
27 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars the performance of the year, July 16 2004
This review is from: Monster (DVD)
A film by Patty Jenkins
Roger Ebert listed "Monster" as the best film of all of 2003. Charlize Theron won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos. For months before the Oscars the talk had been about how amazing Theron's performance was and how not only was it the best performance of the year, it was one of the best performances in years. This is a lot of high praise that raised my expectations on exactly what it was that I was going to see in "Monster".
"Monster" is based on the true story of Aileen Wuornos. Aileen lived as a prostitute in Florida and became a serial murderer, killing her prospective clients. As the film opens, Aileen is sitting under an overpass and is reflecting back on past events, specifically her meeting of Selby (Christina Ricci). After meeting Selby in a bar, Selby quickly becomes Aileen's best (and only) friend and also her lover. They are both very lonely and needy people. For the love of Selby, Aileen wants to clean up her life, quit hooking, and find a real job so she can support Selby. Unfortunately for Aileen, she is unable to find a job because she has no work experience, no resume, and a huge chip on her shoulder that prevents anyone in a position to help to even want to help her. Selby is demanding, telling Aileen that she needs to start hooking again because they don't have any money, she is hungry, and this is one thing that Aileen can do to support her.
When she is raped by one of her clients, Aileen finally snaps and kills him. She tells Selby that this was a one time thing, but after this first murder she starts killing and robbing her other clients. It is at this point where we start to see Aileen crack under the pressure of what her life has become. She feels that from day one she never stood a chance. She was sexually abused as a child and by age 13 was pregnant and a prostitute. This is her life and she has no opportunity to improve her life. Her experience trying to find a legitimate job is proof of this. "Monster" is the story of Aileen Wuornos and it is brutal and unflinching.
It is impossible to separate the performance of Charlize Theron from the rest of the movie. "Monster" is built on the raw power and pain of Theron's transformation into Aileen Wuornos. This transformation was both physical and emotional. Charlize Theron is a strikingly beautiful woman and early in her career the roles she became known for were little more than the beautiful wife/girlfriend/woman (Legend of Bagger Vance, The Devil's Advocate, The Cider House Rules). "Monster" required a physical change in the appearance of Theron's face and the make-up helped change the beautiful Theron into the ugly Wuornos. The other part of the transformation is that Wuornos was a tormented, pained, and angry woman and this required Theron to not simply be a woman acting but rather to "become" Aileen Wuornos. She succeeds.
During the first half of the movie I could not figure out why Theron had won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She had become Aileen, but the performance was nothing terribly impressive for the first fifty minutes. But when Selby confronts Aileen to return to being a prostitute, that scene nailed it for me and brought Theron's performance to an entirely new level. The raw emotion Theron conveyed carried the movie. The performance became more emotional, angry, vulnerable, fearful, and edgy and at no point did I think that this was Theron acting. I saw Aileen Wuornos.
The movie itself, without Charlize Theron, did not feel to me that it was telling a story that could not have been told on a made for cable (because of the content) movie. But the movie is not so much about the plot and about the story, but rather about the performance and transformation of Charlize Theron into Aileen Wuornos. The performance makes the viewer capable of feeling pity for Aileen without excusing her actions. I don't feel that there is any question that Theron deserved the Oscar for "Monster".
-Joe Sherry

Cross Purposes
Cross Purposes
by Jeff Barker
Edition: Paperback
2 used & new from CDN$ 195.69

5.0 out of 5 stars a different look at Easter week, July 14 2004
This review is from: Cross Purposes (Paperback)
"Cross Purposes" is a two man play which is set near and in Jerusalem during the week leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. The focus of this play is on Jestus and Dysmas, two con-men. Jestus and Dysmas were guilty of the murder of Lazarus and they are shocked, and a little relieved, by the reports that Lazarus is still alive. It doesn't make any sense, because they know they killed him, but Lazarus is alive and this provides the opportunity to get away with the crime. Not only did they murder Lazarus, but they also stole some of his property. The play shifts scenes several times and works its way through Jesus' final week. We are given glimpses of Jesus with his disciples and the Pharisees condemning Jesus. All of this is building and moving together to that Friday when Jesus is crucified and how this all comes together with Jestus and Dysmas.
While it seems that initially the play starts out with a lighter, almost comedic tone in the opening scenes, the power of the story and the impact of what is going on starts to come through. Barker calls this play "a theatrical celebration of Easter week, told through the eyes of the people who were present in Jerusalem at the time." This play is intended for for production in a worship setting. This book contains instructions and suggestions for how the play be performed. The suggestions are along the lines of how to use the cast (written for two men, it can be performed by a larger cast) and brief comments on the staging of the play and props.
The potential problem with looking at a play as literature is that a play is ultimately intended to be viewed as a public performance, rather than reading the play privately. A well written play, however, will allow the reader to be able to visualize the play even though there is nobody performing it. "Cross Purposes" is such a play. I was able to "see" how this play could be staged and performed and feel the power of what it would be like to be in the audience for a production of "Cross Purposes."
A note on my bias: I was a student at Northwestern College of Iowa where Jeff Barker is a professor in the theatre department. I was also a student of Barker's in a playwriting class he taught in the fall of 1999. I have attended several on campus productions of his work and have always been impressed with the quality of his plays. Potentially, this has shaded my reading of "Cross Purposes" to view it favorably, but it is also with the understanding of the quality of work that Jeff Barker produces. This quality of work begins on the page but stretches through to the direction and production of the play. I feel that the quality is present in the script and this helps me visualize the quality of the production.
-Joe Sherry

The Mysterious Case of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys
The Mysterious Case of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys
by CAROLE KISMARIC, CAROLE KISMAR' 'MARVIN HEIFERMAN
Edition: Paperback
25 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars the evolution of two popular children's series, July 14 2004
"The Mysterious Case of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys" takes the reader back to the origin of the Hardy Boys Mystery Series and the Nancy Drew books. While the two series have Franklin W Dixon and Carolyn Keene listed as the authors, neither author actually exists are a person. They are both creations of the Stratemeyer Syndicate. The Stratemeyer Syndicate was the "writing factory" started by Edward Stratemeyer as a means to churn out book after book in a series that he conceived of. He would contract an author to write a book with the requirement the author sign away all rights to the book and to remain anonymous. This led to the birth of Franklin W Dixon and Carolyn Keene (as well as the Tom Swift series, among others).
This book is the history and evolution of these two iconic series for children. The reader is shown how society has influenced the content of the novels, both in the language used as well as the plots. When the Hardy Boys first began in the late 1920's and into the 30's, there early volumes contained numerous racial stereotypes, both among the bad guys as well as the Hardys' friends. Later editions would edit these stereotypes out. This book follows the series through their various authors as well as the change in the focus of the Syndicate after the death of Edward Stratemeyer.
One thing that the authors of this book try to do is tie both series into the society of the time (whether it is the 1930's of the early series, the 1950's or the 1980's). This attempt is what I found less successful or interesting about the book. There are numerous sidebars and pictures and captions about the America's youth during each era and how the books impacted the youth and I felt that this information was extraneous and unnecessary.
What is most interesting about this book is the evolution of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. The characters changed over the 75 years and the books continue to sell. This coverage was the best part of the book and is what I would recommend for the reader. Nothing would be lost by just skipping the sidebars. I do feel that the authors have overstated the influence of these characters, but I cannot question the popularity of the Hardys or Nancy Drew.(...)

House Corrino (Prelude to Dune) : Prelude to Dune : Sereis 3
House Corrino (Prelude to Dune) : Prelude to Dune : Sereis 3
by Brian Herbert
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.79
72 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars a worthy addition to Dune and a fitting end to the trilogy, July 13 2004
"House Corrino" is the third and final book in the "Prelude to Dune" trilogy, otherwise known as the "House" trilogy. To understand this story, it is necessary to have first read "House Atreides" and "House Harkonnen" because the plot lines that started in the first book build to a climax in "House Corrino".
By the time that we get to this novel the former rulers of Ix, House Vernius, had long since been deposed with the last scion of the ruling family living under the protection of his friend, Duke Leto Atreides. Leto and Rhombur (the last of the Vernius family) are working together to finally reclaim Ix from the Tlielaxu and return Rhombur to power. Leto's mistress, the Bene Gesserit Lady Jessica is pregnant with his child. Leto wants a son, but the Bene Gesserit need a daughter from Jessica and Leto for their breeding program which is only one generation away from completion.
Meanwhile, Shaddam IV, the Emperor of a Million worlds is seeking an alternative to the Spice that runs the Imperium. Spice is native only to the planet Arrakis and Shaddam wants an artificial source of Spice that he controls. Shaddam is playing both sides of the game, working to control Arrakis through the planet's overlord Vladimir Harkonnen as well as trying acquire a synthetic spice from the Tlielaxu on Ix.
If this sounds complicated, the reason is simple: it is complicated. Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson are weaving multiple storylines together to build a whole that is far grander than any of the parts. Brian is the son of the creator of the original 6 book Dune series and he has taken on an ambitious project: to write a prequel series that can complement the original books, expand the universe that Frank Herbert crated, and stand on its own merits. While different in style and theme than Frank's work, the "Prelude to Dune" novels are fully a part of the greater "Dune" universe and are worthy additions to the series.
What makes the challenge of writing these novels even tougher is that as a prequel trilogy with characters that we will meet in Frank Herbert's classic (in every sense of the word) novel "Dune", the authors have to create a story that fits within the continuity of "Dune" yet is compelling enough of a story to stand alone. Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson are to be commended for their success. This trilogy fits both requirement and has surely led more readers to discover Frank Herbert's "Dune".
-Joe Sherry

The Stepford Wives (1975) (Bilingual) [Import]
The Stepford Wives (1975) (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Katharine Ross
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 66.10
9 used & new from CDN$ 29.85

2.0 out of 5 stars a great concept, but poorly executed, July 12 2004
A film by Bryan Forbes
This film is the first "Stepford Wives" movie and is adapted from Ira Levin's novel of the same name. The tone of this film is much different than the newer version. The new "Stepford Wives" is more of a comedy, but this version fits into the horror/thriller/suspense genre. It deals with an idea that should scare the feminist movement: that men would rather trade their wife in for a human looking robot than have a strong woman as a mate. When this movie was released in 1975, "The Stepford Wives" had a social identity and a social relevance to the feminist movement. In that vein, the movie might have been more powerful twenty years ago, but I can only react to how it played today.
Walter (Peter Masterson) and Joanna (Katherine Ross) are moving from the big city to the smaller town of Stepford. Joanna is unnerved by the women of Stepford. They all seem to be very happy and content in their lives...lives that are solely focused on pleasing their husbands. Joanna thinks that something is wrong, and seems to get confirmation when new residents who start out normal begin changing dramatically to the "Stepford" type wife. The tone of this film leans towards suspense as tension is building throughout the film as hints are given and Joanna's fear mounts as to what is happening and what may very well happen to her.
The movie has a great idea behind it. The whole concept of Stepford is wonderful for a movie (and a book, too) and it should work much better than it does. The problem is that the acting was not very good, but that may be because the dialogue the actors were given wasn't much better. A big example of this is the character of Bobbie (Paula Prentiss). She comes off as a very hokey character, somewhat hickish, though the character has pretenses of being a true feminist. No character is truly given a chance to develop or show a personality, not even the characters which are supposed to actually have a personality. "The Stepford Wives" was just a disappointing movie, though I can imagine it had more of an impact in 1975, but surely not for the quality of the picture. The impact must have been for what the movie was about. The only thing I found truly interesting about "The Stepford Wives" is that this is the film debut of a young Mary Stuart Masterson (the son of Peter Masterson).
-Joe Sherry

Matchstick Men (Widescreen)
Matchstick Men (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Nicolas Cage
Offered by polski_film
Price: CDN$ 4.94
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Did not live up to my expectations, July 6 2004
This review is from: Matchstick Men (Widescreen) (DVD)
A film by Ridley Scott
With the track record of Ridley Scott in mind (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, Thelma and Louise, Black Hawk Down), any time the man makes a new movie I am automatically interested in it. He has a history of creativity and excellence in filmmaking and any new movie that he directs is worth giving a chance. It was with high expectations that I went into "Matchstick Men", a story of a con-artist.
Roy (Nicolas Cage) and Frank (Sam Rockwell) are partners in the art of conning people out of their money. As Roy explains in the film, he doesn't steal people's money, they give it to him. They are mainly working small phone scams for smaller payouts (though Roy seems to be well off considering the size of his house), but Frank is looking to get a big score, which Roy agrees to work. Simple enough, but Roy also has some serious issues. He is compulsive (he must turn the locks or open and close doors three times before actually opening the door all the way), somewhat manic, and he has trouble dealing with the outdoors. Neatness/cleanliness is another issue. Roy is a man with tics.
Into this imperfect, but somewhat structured life comes a big change: Roy's daughter Angela (Alison Lohman). When Roy accidentally knocks his supply of medication down the drain, Roy has to start searching for a psychologist who will prescribe some more on short notice. The doctor he does find also suggests that Roy gets in contact with his daughter, whom he has never met. Angela is a breath of fresh air into Roy's otherwise empty life, but it is also causing some conflict into the big con that Roy and Frank are working on.
My expectations may have been too high, because I wasn't overly impressed with "Matchstick Men". For the first half to two thirds of the movie, I just could not engage with the characters. Part of the problem probably lies in the fact that I do not care for Nicolas Cage as an actor. It just seems like he is trying too hard to create a character through personality tics (with the notable exceptions of Leaving Las Vegas, and The Family Man). His characters are just not likeable, or interesting enough for me to engage with, but I understand that this is just a personal perception.
The shining star of the movie is Alison Lohman (also in White Oleander) who was nearly 10 years older than the age she was playing in the movie. She can act and look so young and vulnerable despite being in her mid 20's. The rest of the acting was well done (though I still don't care for Cage), but it didn't all come together like I would have expected. The idea of the "con" runs throughout the entire movie and there are several twists along the way, but this is a fairly lightweight movie up until about three quarters of the way through the movie when it completely changes in tone (and oddly enough becomes a better movie). I hoped for so much more from "Matchstick Men", but I didn't think it lived up to the promise of what it could have been with the talent involved.
-Joe Sherry

The Paradise Snare: Star Wars (The Han Solo Trilogy)
The Paradise Snare: Star Wars (The Han Solo Trilogy)
by A.C. Crispin
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.89
71 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the genesis of the young Han Solo, July 1 2004
Han Solo is one of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars Universe, and he has been since the first film was released. With "The Paradise Snare", author A.C. Crispin brings us the first part of the story of a young Han Solo and shows us what made him into the rogue that we have come to love. Han starts out working (indentured, it seems) to a criminal named Garris Shrike. He finally wants out and there is no way that Shrike will let him. But, with the help and sacrifice of his wookiee friend, Dewlanna, Han is able to escape and find a job as a pilot on the planet Ylesia.
On the planet, Han is assigned a bodyguard, Muuurgh, who is as much guarding Han as guarding Ylesia against Han. Ylesia has a secret that relates to the spice mining it produces. It is supposedly a religious community which the pilgrims voluntarily work, but Han soon feels that something isn't quite right. He meets a pilgrim, #923 (we do later learn her name), and starts falling for her and wants to rescue her as well as rescue himself from the soon to be hopeless situation on Ylesia.
This book was much better than I expected. It succeeds at doing several things all at once. First, and most importantly, it is an entertaining story in its own right. Second, it starts giving hints and clues and examples of how Han Solo became the man he was in the movies. He distrusts religion and holds himself back from falling in love. He is friends with a wookiee. Why? The set up begins in "The Paradise Snare". Third, this book sets up more Han Solo novels in the future (two more books of this trilogy) and makes us wonder how a boy dreaming of being a soldier in the Empire grow up to fight in the Rebellion? Within the context of Star Wars, this was a good story.
-Joe Sherry

Death Becomes Her
Death Becomes Her
DVD ~ Meryl Streep
Price: CDN$ 9.97
23 used & new from CDN$ 6.04

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a strange, quirky, and entertaining movie, June 30 2004
This review is from: Death Becomes Her (DVD)
A film by Robert Zemeckis
I think that it is fair to say that this is a strange movie. Helen (Goldie Hawn) is engaged to be married to Dr Ernest Menville (Bruce Willis), a famous plastic surgeon. They watch a rather awful show at the theatre and go backstage to meet the star, Madeline Ashton (Meryl Streep). Madeline and Helen knew each other in high school, and Helen believes that Madeline intentionally steals every boyfriend Helen has. This is the final test before the wedding. Naturally, Madeline, who is vain about her appearance and worried about aging, does steel Ernest away and ends up marrying him herself. This drives Helen crazy, literally. We flash forward seven years to get an update on the characters, then another seven years to bring us to the main section of our story. Madeline is aging and she hates it. She meets up with Helen again, and Helen looks fantastic, as if she hasn't aged a day in the past 14 years. Helen is all glammed up and looks like a star. Madeline is starting to look frumpy. It is all starting to come full circle and Madeline's jealousy is driving her to do something rash.
Rather than do something predictable (in the movies, anyway) like start killing people, Madeline goes to a strange woman named Lisle (Isabella Rossellini) and gets a potion that halts the aging process and returns the body to its youthful, more perfect image. It also bestows immortality. Now Madeline can compete with Helen again! This rivalry and this fight will continue on through life and even into death.
"Death Becomes Her" is a comedy. It is a very strange comedy, and has something of a dark humor, but it is without question an original movie. It is one of the more overlooked movies in Robert Zemeckis's filmography. He is better known for "Back to the Future", "Forrest Gump" and "Cast Away". This isn't a perfect movie, but it is entertaining, creative, and interesting. One important thing that I can say is that I did not find this movie predictable at all. I had no idea where Zemeckis was going with "Death Becomes Her" until the end.
-Joe Sherry

Hardy Boys 05: Hunting for Hidden Gold
Hardy Boys 05: Hunting for Hidden Gold
by Franklin W. Dixon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 9.02
145 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Will Frank and Joe find the gold before the crooks do?, June 29 2004
This review is of the 1963 Revised Version of "Hunting for Hidden Gold". The first 38 titles in the series were revised over the course of 15 years (some with minor changes, others were completely re-written). "Hunting for Hidden Gold" is the fifth Hardy Boys mystery. This edition is said to be drastically altered from the original. What this means, according to the Hardy Boys Unofficial Home Page, is that the text and plot have both been changed.
Frank and Joe Hardy become involved in another mystery when their father calls them out west to help with a case. They are searching for a gang that is involved in robbery, and even on the way out west, they are kidnapped and attacked and it is only with great luck that they even are able to meet up with their father. They find him hurt badly, but begin the investigation on their own and learn about a mystery about gold that was stolen from a prospector years ago. Can the brothers keep out of harm's way long enough to solve the case?
"Hunting for Hidden Gold" is another solid offering in the Hardy Boys series, though I would not say this is one of the best. It is a bit of an adventure story and it gives the sense of really being out west (as opposed to a story set in Bayport). There is a definite sense of place in this book. As usual, this book is recommended for kids of all ages (even the 25 year old kid).
-Joe Sherry

Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach
Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach
DVD ~ Bubba Smith
3 used & new from CDN$ 24.98

2.0 out of 5 stars one of the weaker offerings in the Police Academy series, June 29 2004
A film by Alan Myerson
"Police Academy 5" is a disappointment. Sure, it is a Police Academy movie, so we know it is light slapstick humor, but this one is not nearly as good as any of the previous Police Academy movies. This fifth film is subtitled "Assignment Miami Beach" and this means that some of our favorite officers will be returning and heading south to Florida.
I'll try to sum this up as succinctly as possible, as the plot to this movie isn't terribly important (or well done, for that matter). Plot point 1: Captain Harris (G.W. Bailey) is after the job of Commandant Lassard (George Gaynes). Lassard has reached the mandatory retirement age, and Harris is going to make sure that Lassard retires. Meanwhile, Lassard is headed down to Florida to receive the award of "Police Officer of the Decade", and he wants his favorite recruits (now officers) to come with him. This brings Hightower (Bubba Smith), Tackleberry (David Graf), Jones (Michael Winslow), Callahan (Leslie Easterbrook) and the soft-voiced Hooks (Marion Ramsey) to Florida. Meanwhile, there is a robbery of a stash of diamonds from a museum (it seems), and due to a mix up at the airport, Lassard unknowingly switches bags with the thief. The thief will stop at nothing to get the diamonds back. Hilarity is supposed to ensue.
Unfortunately, hilarity does not ensue. For a fan of the Police Academy movies, the fifth installment is somewhat cute and friendly and easy going (perfect for kids, really), but it is lacking some of the heart and humor of the earlier films in the series. This one only has a PG rating, compared to the R of the first film, so it is plain that this has turned into a family friendly series. Part of the problem with this movie is the lack of Officer Carey Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg), who left the series after the fourth movie. While these have always been ensemble movies, Mahoney has been something of the heart and the closest thing to a "main character" that the Police Academy movies had. He is replaced by Lassard's nephew, Nick Lassard (Matt McCoy). Nick Lassard is a police officer in Miami and, like Mahoney, is a friendly, smart-aleck, womanizer. He just isn't as likeable as Mahoney was (as hard as McCoy tries), and feels like a poor replacement for Mahoney (who isn't even mentioned in the movie). Nick has a love interest, also a cop, in Kate (Janet Jones, better known as Wayne Gretzky's wife).
Overall, "Police Academy 5" feels flat, and much less funny than the earlier (though still silly) Police Academy movies. It may be cheap entertainment, but it's just not well made cheap entertainment.
-Joe Sherry

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