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The polar vortex finally reached us here in Texas - it's been colder than usual, but two days ago, it rained all day and dipped into the twenties at night. I waited up until 3:00 in the morning, nestled into my armchair with a flannel blanket, two kitties, and a book propped open in my lap in front of the fire, but alas, no snow. I did wake up the next day to find our lantana draped in ice, however. Of course, today it was 70 degrees, so I suppose that's the end of that.

However, I was in a meta mood, and within my stack of books piled precariously beside me, I fished out one called Shelf Life. Now, this is the third book I've read titled Shelf Life - the first being a series of short vignettes set in an Australian supermarket, the second an anthology of books about bookstores with a foreword by Neil Gaiman, and this one, a sort of memoir written about a woman's year working in a bookstore. I had high hopes, but - well, to back up, allow me to fill you in on the bookstores I remember.

The first bookstore I can recall going to that wasn't a chain Half-Price Books or the sterile aisles of Barnes and Noble, was a tiny shop next to our eye doctor that amazingly still stands. It was called Copperfield Books, and by the name alone, I knew I would love it. It sits unassumingly tucked into the corner of a shopping strip. As you walk in, there is a desk to the left, usually manned by a genteel woman with eyeglasses dangling across her shirtfront, who beams and tells you to have fun browsing. As you wander further, there are little open squares formed by the bookcases. It is one of those places that you have to get on the floor and run your fingers down the spines of the last shelf, searching for that one perfect title.

The second bookshop was appropriately named Bookland. It occupied a much larger space, but was filled to the brim with every sort of book you could want. There was a long table covered haphazardly with magazines, and thigh-high piles of National Geographics slipping out from underneath the legs. The place felt perpetually dim, crowded with the ghosts of authors slipping through the mystery aisles, browsing the history section, sitting in comfortable chairs by the mysticism portion, and sliding through the pages of my favorite place, the fantasy aisles. It was a used book store, and one got the impression from the overstuffed, sagging shelves that the owner never had the heart to turn down any book brought to him. It had pulp sci-fi novels with covers of half-clad women clutching at men clad in loincloths fighting aliens with swords. It had books forgotten and ridiculed, books loved and cherished, books read and re-read until they ended up here, hoping for someone new to flip through their yellowed pages. It was at the bottom of one of these shelves, nestled in the north-east corner, that I found The Green Rider and read the first twenty pages without moving, enrapt in my new find.

The owner gave the place its own color. You could stroll up and smile apologetically and ask, "There was this book... I think it had a dog?" and he would snap up immediately and say, "Oh, yes, we have that," and lead you directly to it without glancing at a computer. His assistant, a gangly, awkward teenage girl with red hair and round glasses, always sat hunched behind the counter, her face buried in a book. She was comfortable, like the place she worked - here, I thought, was a place with people who loved books as much as I do.

From there, I moved to San Antonio, where I found my third bookstore, Nine Lives Books. Another used shop, this one was more eclectic. The owners also ran the Tenth Life animal shelter, so cats would roam around the store, rubbing against ankles, hiding under the chairs, and nestled amongst the shelves. If you sat down to peruse a paperback you had tugged off a shelf, a warm body would immediately press against your lap while you absently stroked soft fur and turned a page. On special days, they would invite tarot readers, Celtic bands, and other misfits into the front of the shop. Especially in San Antonio, at that point of my life, Nine Lives was finding a place where I belonged, finding my tribe hidden, but not extinct.

All of these places I remember fondly. I still get lost in the Barnes and Noble and Half-Price Books of the world, and who knows how many hours I've spent clicking through Amazon, but those independent bookstores are still the places I find myself losing myself in.

So, what's wrong with Shelf Life by Suzanne Shea? She recalls fondly the bookstores of her own youth, but they're all sterile. She talks about bookstores with restaurants and furniture sections. She talks about best-sellers and self-help books, and dismisses those once-loved, battered copies that found new homes through the shops of my youth. It's all glossy and run like a fine-tuned machine. Rather than talking about readers, she talks about customers. Two pages were just a list of all the magazines the bookstore she worked at carried. It's retail, not reading.

To quote Sean, "I never trust a bookstore where people aren't reading."
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So went to see Sherlock finally! Thoughts on it are under the cut; spoiler warning, naturally.

Elementary, My Dear Guy Ritchie )
kitsjay: (Tried Not to Laugh)
Well, I went to see Fast Five with [ profile] be_merry and her little sister and it was--how do I put this?

Any movie where I have to legitimately turn to the person next to me and ask in all seriousness, "Did that man just spit glass?" is a winner.

Also, I think they may have broke their previous record in "time it takes to break major laws of physics for a cool action scene", and I'm including Michael Bay movies in that assessment.

After the movie left, I jokingly said to Christy that it had too much plot, not enough wanton destruction, but actually my only real complaint was (a) the alarming lack of homoeroticism and (b) car porn*.

*Note: These things might not have to be split up.

Seriously, though, there was a GT40 in it and they barely glanced at it. I'm all for cars going ridiculously fast and doing things that aren't so much implausible as impossible even in magical My Little Pony land, but the first one was all about loving shots of scantily clad women parading around, Vin Diesel and Paul Walker trying hard to act like they were heterosexual and failing, Michelle Rodriguez being the badass chick she is, and some seriously questionably shots of cars and their engines. The first one it looked like the camera was about to jump the cars. If porn movie music had started playing in the background while the camera, stroking its 70's Tom Selleck 'stache, caressed the contours of that Charger, no one would have batted an eye. If that car hadn't been made in the '70s, the camera could be charged with statutory rape.

You get what I'm saying here.

Instead, we got some quick flashes of a car, not even enough to identify its make, and had to rely on Random Cockroach Dude saying, "I get the GT40!"

Half the fun of these movies is how uncomfortably squirmish you feel watching them, like you just walked into a scene where the camera and car are straightening their clothing and pretending they buttoned up their chassis right.

(Okay, seriously, enough jokes about it.)

So that was disappointing. Also, and this is going under a cut though God knows why, because you probably could have guessed this ~plot twist~ without having seen any of the movies and the movie itself seemed to get bored with it within the first five minutes, it is still technically a spoiler (pun not intended).

Here )

Anyway, other than that, it was perfect. Everything I wanted and more. Everyone, and I do mean everyone comes back for it, except Paul Walker's beautiful hair, The Rock is in it, and the Spellmaster from Sabrina: The Teenage Witch.

Also props for finding a Spanish Sandra Bullock. Well played, movie, well played.

Oh, there was one annoying character who showed up and claimed to be fucking Mossad. Uh-huh. I'm pretty sure Mossad's qualifications are a tad stricter than, "Must look foxy in a bikini", but maybe they've lightened up on that recently, who knows? (Though seriously, cool deal on getting an actual Israeli actress).

So there you have it, Fast Five in all its glory. Do I recommend it?

If you have to ask, you clearly did not hear what I said: The man spits glass. 'Nuff said.
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Summer movies hold a special place in my heart. What makes a summer movie? They're usually terrible, with plots more hole than substance, beautiful people in beautiful places doing beautiful things, and they're the absolute best when you don't feel like thinking because it's 101 degrees outside. They're the kind of movies that make you daydream and think about the best moments from summers past and dream about summers future.

So now that we're in the full grip of summer, enjoy the list of the top 10 best summer movies.

10. My Life in Ruins

Nia Vardalos stars in this romantic comedy about a tour guide in Greece who struggles to find the Greek "love for life". Yes, it's your typical chick flick. Yes, it's the same chick and the same schtick from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Yes, it's totally awesome anyway. It's charming, beautifully shot, and makes you melt a little inside. Actually, this is one movie I honestly would say that I would prefer it if they had focused more on the romance and less on the side stories. The male lead, by the way, is gorgeous, and has the best, least-likely-to-be-romantic-but-is-anyway line ever.

9. Fool's Gold

This movie was released in the spring, which was a mistake. The scenery, plot, even the actors are pure summer. This movie makes you start thinking about things like chucking away your job and life to go be an underwater treasure hunter somewhere in the Caribbean. The soundtrack consists of reggae classics, including Bob Marley, and the plot is peripheral compared to gratuitous shots of sparkling blue water and shots of Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson in swimsuits. If you try to actually watch this movie for its plot, you will start tearing your hair out. The first time I watched this movie, I kept saying, "Wait a minute, didn't they just--" and then Matthew McConaughey would appear without his shirt again and I'd forget it. So pop it in, kick back, and let your mind shut off completely.

8. Blue Crush

I first heard about this movie because of my not so unreasonable crush on Michelle Rodriguez and found out it was based on a wonderful piece by Susan Orleans called, "Surf Girls of Maui", which is well worth reading. It focuses on Kate Bosworth, a girl big-wave surfer who had a bad spill and now struggles to overcome her fear of surfing again in time for the big surf contest. This one I have the opposite complaint about than My Life in Ruins; I wish they spent more time on the storyline and less on the romance. Still, the supporting cast is wonderful, especially the beautiful and absolutely charming Sanoe Lake, and the storyline, while it may be cliche, still makes me smile.

7. The Endless Summer Series

The first is the 1966 classic, Endless Summer (natch), the second, Endless Summer II, filmed in 1994, and the "unofficial" third, Step Into Liquid. The first feels like a real-life Gidget movie, but has its charm in nostalgia and a kind of quirky look at '60s surf-life. The second features two modern surfers who grew up watching the original and plan to pursue it. It captures the spirit of the first, particularly with the original's director/writer Bruce Brown narrating, while tackling issues with surfing today, such as housing development and overcrowding. Step Into Liquid is more documentary, less slapstick, but is still an awesome movie and is actually directed by the son of Bruce Brown. It looks at the evolution of surfing from early Polynesian surfing to modern surfers. If you've ever seen Riding Giants, then you'll recognize many of the same surfers: Laird Hamilton (♥), Kelly Slater, Gerry Lopez, etc.

6. Fantastic Four 1 & 2

So you may have noticed a trend with my favorite summer movies thus far. They all have beautiful shots of islands and crystal water and surfing. Fantastic Four may not seem like it, but it's got the same elements that draw me to the other movies: it doesn't take itself too seriously. Chris Evans is pretty to look at, too. Many people compared this unfavorably to other superhero movies that came out during the same time period, but again, I don't think you're meant to take this movie seriously. No, it's not as polished as Ironman or have the psychological finesse of Batman, but it's got good action scenes, funny lines, and did I mention Chris Evans is very pretty to look at?

5. Pirates of the Caribbean

Remember when Pirates of the Caribbean came out? When Orlando Bloom was still popular and we all had those wonderful hopes that the other movies would be just as hilarious and fun as the first?

In that magical time, before our hopes were dashed with two awful sequels, we had Pirates of the Caribbean, which introduced us to Captain Jack Sparrow. And we loved it. Everything about this movie--the swelling music, the romanticized pirates who wore tri-cornered hats and beads in their dreadlocks, even the chilling ghost story that reminded me of Caribbean folk legends, humid and hot and spooky all at the same time, everything about this movie was fun. I was so disappointed by the second that I had almost forgotten how good the first one was. Do yourself a favor and re-watch this movie.

4. Mamma Mia!

I confess, I wasn't that much of an ABBA fan before I saw this, but immediately went and downloaded all their songs after I saw this movie. This movie has a lot to criticize: for one thing, no one is going to be rushing to offer Pierce Brosnan a record deal. But it's still an absolute blast to watch and makes me happy all over. I'm normally not a huge fan of musicals, but this is one I could watch all day. The plot is feel-good, the music is feel-good, and to top it all off, there are beautiful, beautiful shots of Greek islands throughout the entire film. Like I said, it's the perfect movie to leave on in the background; nothing feels as good as belting out "Dancing Queen" while cleaning the house.

3. Fast and Furious series (except for Tokyo Drift)

I am a guy-movie-girl. I love action movies and being awful does not detract me from watching it. Fast and Furious pretty much hits everything I love about summer if you don't include surfing: hot cars, hot people, hotness everywhere. Paul Walker practically glitters in every shot, if you watch 2 Fast, 2 Furious, you get the bonus of watching Eva Mendes pretend she's not starring in a terrible movie while the two male leads live it up in the background to a soundtrack that actually made me kind of like hip-hop, and finally we reach the fourth (seriously, do not watch Tokyo Drift, it's not worth it), which is more serious and actually a little bit more polished than the previous, but for my money, I'll take the first any day. It's got Michelle Rodriguez (♥) and Vin Diesel (♥ ♥) and pretty much embodies everything terrible (acting, lines, plot) about these movies and yet... everything I kind of love about them, too.

2. The Replacements

Yes, I am a total sucker for sports movies and this is one of my favorites. Keanu Reeves stars in this summer-sports farce. The plot features around second chances; a pro-football team goes on strike, forcing the league to hire scabs as replacements (hence the title). Naturally, these scabs are all odd-balls who have some form of quirk. Keanu Reeves plays the replacement quarterback, who was on the professional-track, except he chokes whenever the pressure is on. It's got a romantic storyline with the head cheerleader (yes, the quarterback and the cheerleader get together), some truly funny moments with the replacement team, and makes you remember why rooting for the underdog is so much fun.

1. Sahara

Number one on the list is someone featured on this list before, Matthew McConaughey. What can I say, the man embodies summer. In this story, based on the Clive Cussler novel (perfect summer reading, by the way), McConaughey plays Dirk Pitt, adventurer, romantic, and explorer extraordinaire, with his trusty sidekick, Al Giordino. It's got everything you want from a summer movie: a plot so weird and off-beat that there's no way it should work, beautiful shots of water, a soundtrack that includes an Epic Scene corresponding with "Magic Carpet Ride", gorgeous male lead meeting a gorgeous female lead, adventure, comedy, you name it.

This movie, unlike Mamma Mia!, My Life in Ruins, and some of the others, doesn't give you a warm fuzzy feeling, it gives you a rush. The others may make you think about running away to have an adventure, this one makes you feel like you're already in one. I love this movie. It is absolutely one of my favorite movies, but it definitely, hands-down, wins for the best summer movie.

So that's it! What are y'all's favorite summer flicks?


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January 2014



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