August Random Reviews

DVDs:

  • House M.D., Season One – DVD Verdict broke my heart by not giving me this screener to review (their review is here). But I decided not to let that stop me from writing my own – click here. Hugh Laurie‘s portrayal of Dr. House and David Shore‘s writing of the stellar episode “Three Stories” were among the 5 Emmy nominations this season produced.
  • Because of Winn-Dixie – The best children’s movies speak to both kids and adults, and become classics because they live in our minds long after we’re the age targeted by the film. Because of Winn-Dixie has a formula kids will enjoy—a plucky and vivacious heroine, an adorable dog and various cute animals, an eccentric group of over-the-top characters, slapstick humor, and big acting. But it lacks the ability to speak to adults. Read the full review here.
  • The Thorn Birds: The Missing YearsThe Thorn Birds was a 1983 miniseries based on the bestselling book by Colleen McCullough, and gave us the story of the forbidden love between priest Ralph de Bricassart and young Meggie Cleary, spanning 40 years from the 1920s to 60s. With that kind of scope, it didn’t lend itself to a true sequel, so the one recourse to suck some more money out of the franchise was to fill in The Thorn Birds—The Missing Years. This quasi-sequel was broadcast in 1996, and covers a short period of time during World War Two, which was not so much “missing” as “considered unnecessary in the original book and miniseries.” Read the full review here.
  • Rory O’Shea Was Here – I almost don’t want to give a plot synopsis. As soon as I mention that it’s about the unlikely friendship between a shy man with cerebral palsy and a rebel punk with muscular dystrophy who become roommates after meeting in a dreary institution for the disabled, it will be difficult to convey the buoyant humor and emotional depths of this film to those who might dismiss it as yet another inspirational movie about how disabled people can overcome obstacles. But Rory O’Shea Was Here is about finding the joy in life and learning to connect, and it’s as funny as it is touching. Read the full review here.
  • Undeclared – The Complete Series Undeclared‘s greatest strength might also have contributed to its downfall: it is a gently intelligent and humorous half-hour TV show that doesn’t fit the normal over-the-top sitcom mould. It’s yet another example of something that would be better called a dramedy, if that wasn’t a horrible perversion of a word that I would never use in a review. It floundered a bit creatively, but the most damaging thing may have been that audiences expecting an American Pie version of college life were disappointed, and those looking for a more mature exploration of friendship and fitting in never found it on their viewing schedules. Read the full review here.

Books in brief:

  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – A touching and compulsively readable tale spanning over 500 pages and the lifetime of its protagonists, Clare and Henry. The book is part high-concept – Henry suffers from a condition that causes him to involuntarily time travel, so that he first met Clare when he was 28 and she 20, but she first met him when she was six and he 36. But mostly, it’s a finely realized love story focusing on fate, the pain and relief of being left behind, and the pain and excitement of leaving.
  • Misadventures by Sylvia Smith – An odd book, consisting of short anecdotes in the uneventful life of everywoman Sylvia Smith. Each section on its own produces skepticism that anyone would choose to read such bland musings about bad dates, random occurrences and transient friendships, but the cumulative effect is oddly compelling, because this is what comprises our lives. It’s the anti-Bridget Jones, showing a middle- aged, single woman’s life through her low-key reminiscences.
“Nothing is more conducive to peace of mind than not having any opinions at all.”
Georg Lichtenberg
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