2012 Films: “The Avengers”

Who’s In It: Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man; Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America; Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner / The Hulk; Chris Hemsworth as Thor; Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow; Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton / Hawkeye; Tom Hiddleston as Loki; Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.

Who Made It: Joss Whedon directs from his own screenplay, based on a story by Zac Penn and Joss Whedon. Produced by Kevin Fiege and distributed by Paramount Pictures in cooperation with Walt Disney Pictures and Marvel.

What It’s About: A fairly direct sequel to two films from last year, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, this film deals with the formation of the Avengers super hero team as the Earth faces an invasion led by the Asgardian demigod Loki.

My Take: Marvel has beaten DC in making the sort of super hero team film that Warner Bros. should have released more than ten years ago. The Avengers is more than just a good super hero action flick, it’s a flat out good film. Joss Whedon deftly juggles four larger-than-life main characters, and manages to keep a film about living gods, genetic mutants and flying air craft carriers grounded in something like reality. The Avengers is a success as a film, and as the climax of the longterm Marvel film game plan. It took years to roll out the films needed to lay the groundwork for The Avengers, and the pay off is definitely worth it.

For More Information: The Avengers on Wikipedia.


2012 Reading: “A Feast for Crows”

The fourth book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Feast for Crows is very different than the first three books. Whereas they dealt with the events of the War of the Five Kings, by the start of book four the meat of that war is over and the rulers of Westeros face the dual challenge of mending the damage to their realm as winter approaches and stamping out the last bits of rebellion.

This book was controversial amongst ASOIF fans, as it dealt with only about half of the characters familiar from the first three books; the remaining characters get their own book in the coincident follow up A Dance With Dragons.

I consider this to have been a fairly strong entry in the series, and a worthy successor to its predecessors.

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2012 Reading: “Ready Player One”

If you like video games, this book is for you. If you like science fiction, this book is for you. If you think American culture peaked in the 1980s, and it’s all been downhill since then, this book is for you. 

Ready Player One is the best book I’ve read in years. Sure, I can nitpick the story here or there. Yes, there are times I think the author should have beefed up the suspense a bit more. But this book powers through those incredibly slight flaws to deliver a story that is engrossing, intriguing and, most importantly, immensely fun. 

Read this book. Seriously. Read. This. Book.

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2012 Reading: “Then Everything Changed”

Experienced political journalist Jeff Greenfield images different paths our nation might have taken at pivotal inflection points in late 20th Century history: if the assassination attempt against John Kennedy in December 1960 had succeeded, if the assassination of Robert Kennedy had failed in 1968, and if Gerald Ford hadn’t crashed and burned in the presidential debate in 1968. Each fictional history is well-written and engaging, with many quotes and motivations drawn from real history. While engaging, however, this book is probably more appealing to history buffs and political wonks than to everyday readers. 

Click to purchase: for Amazon Kindle; for Apple iBooks; for Barnes & Noble Nook; for other ereader devices.


2012 Films: "The Iron Lady"

Technically released in 2011, this is the first film I’ve seen in 2012.

Who’s In It: Meryl Streep and Alexandra Roach as Margaret Thatcher; Jim Broadbent and Harry Lloyd as Denis Thatcher; Olivia Colman as Carol Thatcher.

Who Made It: Phyllida Lloyd directs from a script by Abi Morgan. Produced by Damian Jones and distributed by The Weinstein Company.

What It’s About: As her mental state deteriorates with age, Margaret Thatcher reminisces about her rise to power and tenure as Prime Minister. 

My Take: This is not the story about Margaret Thatcher that I would have wanted to have seen made. The frame story, set in present day as Thatcher attempts to come to grips with the death of her husband while beginning to suffer the effects of dementia, takes up far too much screen time. What I would have wanted to be the meat of the story, Thatcher’s rise to power in a male-dominated Tory Party and leadership in the waning years of the Cold War, is reduced to a series of flashbacks. However, Meryl Streep rises above the films flaws in a mesmerizing performance. We all expected Streep to carry the film; I simply would have liked her to have had more help.

For More Information: The Iron Lady on Wikipedia.