By Sarah Vowell
Assassination Vacation was a pretty decent read, but the thing you've got to keep in mind is that it's really more of a personal essay than a history--you learn a lot more about Sarah Vowell than you do about the presidents whose assassinations she follows. Vowell has an interesting voice as a writer, sarcastic and dry with a very sharp wit. She's very matter-of-fact about her opinions, which are very strong. The book is filled with little tidbits and details of the first three presidential assassinations--Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley--but what I found more interesting was the peek into Vowell's personality that the book provides. She's quite a character, as you might guess about the sort of person who plans vacations around travelling to obscure presidential museums, historical sites, and cemetaries. To Vowell, history and these presidents aren't dead, they are quite an active part of her life and the world she walks in. I wouldn't recommend this book to religious people or anyone who cares in the slightest for George W. Bush, but those of you who are liberal, atheist Bush-haters should find it entertaining.
Started: 8/11/2005 | Finished: 8/20/2005
The 40 Year-Old Virgin
Steve Carell is what Will Ferrell ought to be but isn't. First, he's funny, and I mean full-on, belly laughs kind of funny. Even when he goes completely and ridiculously over the top, he's still funny. But he's also capable of portraying actual emotion. The 40 Year-Old Virgin was surprisingly cute. Don't get me wrong, it's also the vulgar sex comedy that you expect--in fact, the three little old ladies that sat next to us left about 30 minutes into the film--but watching Carell's Andy develop a relationship with Catherine Keener's Trish was unexpectedly heartwarming. I don't usually care much for Keener, but she did just fine in this movie. The rest of the cast was also pretty good. Juliette particularly liked Paul Rudd. An interesting final tidbit: in the scene from the preview where Andy is getting his chest waxed, Carell is actually getting waxed. Knowing that makes the scene that much funnier.
Viewed: 8/19/2005 | Released: 8/10/2005 | Score: B
The Dukes of Hazzard
The fact that I'm over a week late with this review is probably an indicator of the impression it left on me. Not to say that it was particularly terrible, it just wasn't particularly good. There were plenty of funny moments, although in my opinion the funniest parts were in the outtakes at the end. The performances were, for the most part, mediocre. I admit I have something of a soft spot for Seann William Scott, but Johnny Knoxville mostly just gets on my nerves, and Jessica Simpson was just embarrassing. Still, not everyone was bad--Kevin Hefferman as Sheev (who I don't remember being in the show) made me laugh, and I always like David Koechner, who played Cooter. Willie Nelson was also pretty good as Uncle Jesse. Anyway, I didn't particularly care for it, but all three of the other people I went with did, as did the rest of the audience, so I guess this is just further evidence of my increasing snobbishness. I can live with that.
Viewed: 8/11/2005 | Released: 7/26/2005 | Score: D
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
By J. K. Rowling
I have to say, I'm pretty impressed with the way this series has progressed. Rowling has managed to mature both her characters and her stories seamlessly and realistically. Younger fans, who have grown up with the series, have continued to find that the next book is right at their level. I do wonder a bit, though, at how I'll work this out with my own future kids. I mean, I don't think I'll be able to get away with saying, "The end. Now we'll have to wait another year until you're old enough for the next one." Well, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. I quite enjoyed The Half-Blood Prince. Harry still had his share of youthful folly, but he wasn't nearly as angsty and annoying as he was in The Order of the Phoenix, and it was also interesting to see what Rowling did with the other characters. As with the previous book, though, this one had some very emotionally heavy scenes. I don't mind admitting that I was affected by it. I'm very interested to see how Rowling wraps it all up in Book 7.
Started: 8/7/2005 | Finished: 8/9/2005
Wedding Crashers was all right, but it wasn't as funny as I thought it would be. Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson seem like they'd make a dynamite comedy duo, and, in fact, they were pretty good, but only some of the time. The rest of the time the movie came off as either cute or embarassing, but not hilarious. Still, Juliette liked it quite a bit, so maybe I'm just too uptight.
Viewed: 8/7/2005 | Released: 7/14/2005 | Score: C