The Golden Compass: Motion Picture

movie_goldencompass.jpgThe Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman, is the first book of an exciting trilogy about a young girl named Lyra who is drawn into an adventure that crosses into different dimensions and determines the fate of her realm as well as all others. In the first installment, Lyra is lured away from a familiar life at Jordan College to become the assistant of the beautiful Mrs. Coulter, while her closest friend, Roger, mysteriously disappears. When Lyra realizes Mrs. Coulter is up to no good, and finds out that Roger is in danger, she sets out on a perilous quest to save her friend.

The story is a bit laden with detail, but the intricate web of events pulls together to bring you a solid adventure worth reading. With that being said, I must admit I am a bit fearful about the quality of the movie trilogy. It was a very enjoyable, yet brief romp into the fantasy world created by Pullman. For those who have never read the books, the movie should be satisfying, despite some obscurities. Those who have read the books will most likely have mixed feelings, like myself. The more extremist hardcore fans will more than likely bash this film.

I’ll start with what the movie does wrong. The Golden Compass as a book is saturated with details and serves as the foundation for the rest of the trilogy. Therefore, it’s a real shame that The Golden Compass as a motion picture is missing a few key events that were not only interesting, but imperative to the story. Why they didn’t make it a three-hour epic in the vein of Lord of the Rings is beyond me. At a meager one hour and thirteen minutes, it would be impossible to squeeze in all the important information, but the creators do try. As a result, the events in the movie don’t always feel seamless, and have a rushed quality to them. If you didn’t read the books and miss the exposition at the beginning, you will find yourself lost in obscurity throughout the rest of the film. Even if you do pay attention, you may still find yourself wondering who’s who, or why certain characters are important at all. Continue reading

Welcome to Ankh-Morpork, We Will Take Your Money Now

pratchett-making-money.jpgIf you are new to Terry Pratchett and his Discworld, fear not. Each book can mostly be read without worrying too much about what has been going on heretofore. This book, however, is in a way Part II of Going Postal, a book where we first meet Moist von Lipwig, a man who cheats people who feel they are cheating him and must live on the edge if he is not to go over it.

After narrowly avoiding death and finding angels who apparently work for the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, Moist was trapped in the city’s decrepit Post Office that more or less failed to deliver mail and was home to dangerous secrets. He cleaned up the mess, resurrected the place as well as people’s faith in it, and made his reputation anew. In this next book, Moist is forced to explore banking.

The world of financial management appears to have less to do with keeping ledgers than it does with raising the dead, being constantly forced to get into black coaches where (self-) important people smirk, madmen and their Igors, assassins, and being licked by a small dog with a penchant for whirring devices of self-pleasure. There are also magicians, old lechers, and super-duper mysterious chief cashiers to whom the world of numbers is the only true reality. Continue reading

Four Star Secrets Tolerable Only to Foodies

service-included-cover.jpgService Included: Four Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter, by Phoebe Damrosch, is probably in my top most misleadingly named books of all time. When I first read the title, I assumed it would be a gossip-filled spelunk into the dark dinner-discussion secrets of those rich enough to drop over a thousand dollars on one meal. Something like this has it’s appeal to us hoi polloi—lord knows I would jump at the chance to sit for a meal at a 4-star restaurant (but I would probably want to take a crash course in etiquette first), and reading a book about the people who take what Thomas Keller dreams up for granted is not without its draw.

What this fanciful Imagineering leads me to is simply that this memoir is not about the secrets of the insanely rich—Damrosch reveals nary an eavesdrop— instead it focuses on the author’s personal bumbling journey through waitressing, life, and love. The title instead highlights the backdrop against which we see her life unfolding.

Damrosch began waitressing in a trendy Brooklyn café and sundry other eating establishments. When it opened, she landed a job at the Manhattan offshoot of Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, Per Se, by pure chance. From the moment she first dons the Armani Per Se tuxedo, Damrosch’s entire life begins to center around the restaurant. Don’t get me wrong—working at Per Se is clearly not the same as working at Heliopolis Greek Style Family Diner. For one thing, the wait staff goes through a several-week training period, during which they get a crash course in everything from the varieties of sparkling versus still water, to the history of the Central Park overlook that Per Se enjoys. They have 401(k) plans, health and dental benefits, and make enough money to afford living in Manhattan. The job demands close attention to detail and significant study, which I have to admit I never expected, and which I ended up finding fascinating. Continue reading

Bizarre Late Night Reading Material

Bizarre Cover Nov 2007One night, around 2am or so, we were stuck at Penn Station, waiting for our train. The homeless moved slowly and deliberately around us, and the drunk and slutty girls looked for safety in numbers. That was entertaining enough, but we had another good 30 minutes or so to kill. The magazine stand beckoned like the light at the end of a tunnel of boredom. We went straight to the back where they kept the porn.

The magazine that jumped out at us and which I finally bought for about $9 was called ‘Bizarre’ and it was. “Sexy Eel Fun” was promised inside and the Parental Advisory stamp cautioned against purchase by the easily offended.

By the time the train came to carry us home I was thoroughly engrossed reading about the man who raised wolves and fought them for the best parts of a dead carcass to show who was in charge. Next was the Death Dance of Bengal, a tiny little paragraph explaining the picture of a man holding a dead fetus with a belly bloated by the gases that accompany rot. Continue reading

CGI Does not dampen the Epic Glory of Beowulf

grendel

Imagine you and your friends are at the local pub having a good old time. Then the police show up due to noise complains and ruin your whole evening. Now, replace the “police” with the Grendel and “ruining your whole evening” with tearing your friends limb from limb, and you’ve got the beginning to the epic tale of Beowulf.

It has taken many years of planning and writing, but the brilliant minds of Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary were able to bring life to the ancient Norse warrior Beowulf. In this modern epic Beowulf is the greatest hero the world has ever known. His exploits are told all across the northlands and his reputation precedes him wherever he travels. Beowulf (Ray Winstone) and his crew of brave warriors arrive in Denmark after pleas from the great King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) whose kingdom is being threatened by the monster Grendel (Crispin Glover). Grendel dispatched, Beowulf is faced with the Grendel’s Mother (Angelina Jolie) who lurks deep in her watery cavern. Continue reading

Do Not Fill Up At The Generic Music Buffet: Vains of Jenna Break it Down

vains-litupletdown.jpg
From http://www.discaffinity.com

November 2, 2007. Jacki Stone (drummer) met me by the back door of Roseland Ballroom and Nicki Kin (lead guitar) escorted me to the Vains of Jenna dressing room where Lizzy DeVine (vocals, guitar) and JP White (bass) huddled in their respective sweatshirt and leopard print coat, cursing the chill weather.

Vains of Jenna was formed when in a town of Falkenberg, Sweden two rival bands fell apart, bringing their most dedicated members together. The year was 2005. The band was eventually called Vains of Jenna. Dictionaries began arriving in response to the spelling choice, but they were discarded with sly remarks. VoJ, whose influences are Mötley Crüe, Guns N’ Roses, the Rolling Stones, and Aerosmith truly began their career when they played Crufest in Hollywood, in 2005. There, Stevie Rachelle, owner of Metal Sludge and former singer of Tuff, noticed them and quickly became their manager. A week later they were recording in a studio with Gilby Clarke (former guitarist of Guns N Roses). In 2006 they met Bam Margera who signed them to his label, Filthy Note, and they’ve been touring the U.S. ever since supporting their album Lit Up/Let Down.

Back at Roseland, JP and Lizzy are both rubbing their eyes and yawning. Although obviously tired, they are affable guys and after shaking my hand and introducing themselves settle down into their chairs. Torn between the desire to smoke and the intense dislike of the cold weather conditions outside, they eventually lay the cigarette dilemma aside and we launched into our interview.

(JP White and Lizzy DeVine making faces for your amusement)Continue reading

Velocity of Demon Spunk Equals G Times WAR Squared

Friday, November 2, 2007. Oh. Man.

GWAR

The Rockstar Energy Drink Viva La Bands tour, sponsored by Bam Margera (of Jackass), featured Vains of Jenna, an interesting new sleaze rock band from Sweden as opening act, and was headlined by Cradle of Filth, who are pretty uniformly awesome. The tour also featured another band, one that I had heard of, but never seen, and not really listened to. They’re a famously outrageous band, so I had a little bit of a notion of what to expect; I knew it would be fun.

I was so unprepared. I was more unprepared than the proverbial Polish cavalry riding in to face the tanks of WWI. I was more unprepared than you before your Insert-High-Stress-Standardized-Test-Here. I was more unprepared than an extremely unprepared thing.

That last band was GWAR.Continue reading