How would I describe this book? Probably as “a satirical social critique disguised as a John Greenesque high school sex comedy.” With a narrative voice straight out of a Woody Allen film, Ned Vizzini tells the story of a typical neurotic teenaged schmuck named Jeremy Heere, who inhabits a very atypical plot. He, wanting to be more cool, swallows a pill called a “squip” which is a supercomputer in pill form that begins to inhabit his brain and control his life. This makes him cool, but at the same time takes a toll on his personal life. Did I like Be More Chill? That’s a hard question. Often the tone of the book was too arch-snobbish for me, and the wannabe-Byron protagonist often grated, but the little complexities (e.g. the implied fact that the book is set in an alternate reality) and the dry, sarcastic sense of humor that the squip (who speaks with Jeremy throughout the entire book) itself has pushes past those small disputes I had before. Over all, Be More Chill is a flawed, but entertaining book.

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I’m only vaguely interested in history, so I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get into this one. I’m on season two and boy, am I hooked. It is riveting TV, even though much of the plot is known already. Henry is played with charm, charisma and a touch of evilness that makes it impossible to love him completely, but also impossible to turn away. His quest for power is addictive and the men (and women) around him seem to feed off of his need for world domination. Sexy and biting, this show is much more than just history. Now, whether it’s accurate in its historical tellings, that is something I will leave to the experts.

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Once you start watching, chances are you won’t be able to stop! I mean, this show is truly addictive. Basically, it revolves around four gay friends in Pittsburgh… “friends” being the key word since, aside from the occasional experiment, they remain platonic. I would say the main character of the three is Brian Kinney, the self-obsessed ad exec who comes across as narcissistic but really will go to any lengths to help his friends. Aside from Brian, there is Michael—the most middle-of-the-road, Emmett—the most flamboyant, Ted—the most uptight, and Justin—the most innocent. They all go in and out of relationships together, talk about one-night-stands together, go through life crises together, drink together, workout together, etc. Also mixed in are Debbie, Michael’s wild and outspoken mother, and Mel and Linz, two lesbians who have a child fathered by Brian (and another one later on fathered by Michael). Debbie adds quite a lot of spice to the show, with her opinions on everything. But, the show is definitely spicy on its own with its graphic content. Leave it to cable (Showtime) to come up with something this controversial and ultra-contemporary.

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Before you assume that this review is about that silly American television show that came and went in 2003, think again. This is the British BBC show that gave us silly Americans the idea for our paltry version. My guess on the reason the American version didn’t fly (aside from the fact that it just was not good): prime time network television. Like HBO’s raunchy and sexual Sex and the City, Coupling revolves around what 30-somethings do or don’t do in the bedroom. American TV is not ready for something like this to be shown on a major network in prime time. Thankfully, Americans now have the chance to see the BBC comedy on DVD. Coupling is a smart, risqué, show that challenges any viewer to think about her or his own relationship(s). There are six major players, all of whom deal with their own battles of lack of sex, volume of sex, fears of commitment, worries about never finding their soul mate…etc. The men have one view and, of course, the women another. Together, they clash sometimes and get it right others. Unlike Sex and the City, this show is more about talking about sex, rather than showing it. But, the conversations alone, given how sharp and witty the dialogue is, provide for enough humor to go around…with some left over to spare.

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A poignant drama about a wife who cheats and a husband who finds out. This simple premise turns very dark and deadly, when the movie really takes off and sets the audience on an emotional roller coaster. Unfaithful shows what the pain of an affair can do to a couple…how both the betrayed and the betrayer feel toward each other and toward themselves. The performances of Richard Gere and Diane Lane as the seemingly happy husband and wife are stunning…nothing they say or do seems overly forced or too overdone. The scene on the train after Lane first has her extramarital encounter showcases what a brilliant and underrated actress she really is. The ending leaves everything up in the air, which I did not like at first but after more thought, I came to see that leaving things open is best. Emotions do not always have easy answers, so then why should a movie with so many emotions end neatly?

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Do you want to have some romantic, exciting fun? If so, check this one out! This is one clever, keeps-you-guessing remake, all while being a wild ride. After I watched this one and loved it, I checked out the original film. The 1968 version is less exciting, more confusing and basically, in my opinion, not as good. Now, usually, I would NEVER admit to liking a remake, but I’ll make an exception here since I thought the 1999 version is such a superior film. When I say “superior” I don’t mean in the same category of Oscar winners…I mean a fun, entertaining film that holds your attention to the final minute. The plot remains the same from the 1968 film…a very wealthy man needs some “variety” in his life so he begins to find ways to steal art. Enter a seductive insurance investigator who is determined to get to the bottom of the stolen painting mystery. The methods used to steal the painting are clever…yet believable. I didn’t walk away from this film rolling my eyes thinking that NEVER could happen. It all seemed at least probable…and very clever. Maybe I’m just naïve. But, regardless of that, this film is a truly enjoyable time at the movies.

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For Pierce Brosnan’s first 007 outing, he sure picked a fun ride. This is a James Bond film with bite…one that was perfect for Bond’s reemergence in theaters after a six-year break (the previous Bond film, License to Kill with Timothy Dalton, was produced in 1989). It also is a good film for the end of the 20th Century…no more Cold War doesn’t mean the former Soviet Union countries cannot be used as adequate threats. This story deals with a former MI-6 agent who went over to the other side in order to avenge his past (his Russian parents were Cossacks who were sent home by the British to be executed by Stalin) and cause World chaos. There are MAJOR parts of this film that are outlandish and unbelievable. But, remember, this is a Bond film. Unbelievable is a requirement. Brosnan fits into Bond’s tux perfectly…he mixes the right combination of Connery’s suaveness and Moore’s wit and Dalton’s fierceness. The series lagged with the two Dalton films (License and 1987’s The Living Daylights) mostly because many of the Bond-isms were gone. Yes, Dalton’s 007 was still asking for his Vodka Martini’s “shaken not stirred” but the quips and especially the romances were practically nonexistent…the latter probably because of the 1980s “safe sex” era. Enter Brosnan who brings it all back with gusto! Ian Fleming would be proud.

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The film that forced married men to think twice before straying…as well as reviving Michael Douglas’ acting career…is a top-notch thriller. It got a lot of attention when it came out in 1987 because of its graphic violence and (especially) sexuality. Sometimes, when you strip the controversy from a film, what you’re left with is a movie that really was not worth all of the attention. I would say that is not true here…this is a great film that knows how to convey fear to the audience. Never would I say something is Hitchcockian (I believe that NOTHING will ever be worthy of that label since the Master of Suspense was, just that, a Master…the one and only), but I think that IF Hitchcock would have been working in 1987, he might have made a film in this same vein. The vein being a continual threat of menacing terror that keeps growing and growing until it just cannot do anything else other than explode! So, watch this one for the thrills…not for the attention it got when it came out. And, whatever you do, please do not call it Hitchcockian. If necessary…maybe pseudo-Hitchcockian, or semi-Hitchcockian? But, only if necessary!

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Bernardo Bertolucci continually pushes the envelope and sometimes, I feel, he does it deliberately just to stir up controversy. That is how I felt when I heard about The Dreamers . Once again, the film opening was mired in a heated uproar about the rating system (it was eventually given an NC-17 though an R-rated version was also released on DVD) and sex in motion pictures. So, when I rented it, it was just to see if Bertolucci was once again living up to the reputation I had given him as an over-hyped director. I half expected to fast forward through most of it. Thankfully, I didn’t have to. The film is a good one and deserved to get more praise than it did when it was released, rather than just notoriety over its high sexual content. Yes, the film is sexual. It has graphic erotic scenes (I’m basing this review from the R-rated version), even some incestuous sexuality, which Bertolucci has used before in his films (Luna, in particular). Aside from the sexuality, the story and characters are interesting and captivating. It is a solid, vibrant coming-of-age piece with young people searching for a life like the ones they see in their favorite classic movies. The sexuality is a side note…a distraction that does pertain to the plot but does not actually move any of the action forward. Did this film need to be as sexual as it was? No, but Bertolucci so enjoys stepping over that line and inciting controversy that I’m not sure he could make a movie without sex. And, sadly, that controversy kept some people from seeing a film that is a good story about love and friendship and should be seen.

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A fabulously vivid and enticing film from Mexico that combines food and sensuality. The story, based on the acclaimed novel by Laura Esquivel, revolves around a family who has three daughters…the oldest one is a rebel, the middle one is the “good” girl, and the youngest is doomed to a live of misery and loneliness since she will be the one to take care of her aging mother and can never marry. The youngest falls in love with a man, but the middle daughter is the one the mother assigns him to marry instead. Filled with rage and hatred for her mother and her situation, the youngest takes her anger out in her cooking. Beautifully filmed, this is a wonderfully colorful and lush film that will make you both hungry and excited. What more can you ask for than that?

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