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Spotlight: Ben Affleck

Who is Ben Affleck anyway?

After an early start at the age of eight, starring in the PBS series The Voyage of the Mimi, Ben Affleck didn’t make his big introduction into feature films until 1993 when he was cast in Dazed and Confused. After that, he did mostly independent films like Kevin Smith's Mallrats (1995) and Chasing Amy (1997).

Interestingly, in the same year he made Mimi, Affleck made the acquaintance of Matt Damon, a boy two years his senior who lived down the street. The two became best friends and, of course, eventual collaborators.

In his early years in Hollywood, tired of being turned down for the big roles in films and the forgettable supporting ones he did play, he decided to write his own script. Matt Damon was having the same trouble and together they produced a script with the kind of roles they wanted to play! Good Will Hunting (1997) was the result and it went on to win two Academy Awards (nominated for nine).

Career ups and downs followed with much media attention to romance and rehab. After many flops, he seems to have re-invented himself as a director.

He's has earned critical acclaim for directing films including The Town and Argo so perhaps Affleck's greatest talent lies behind the camera where reviews of his films call him ”a sensitive, thoughtful and collaborative” director.
Here are my choices from a long list of his films:

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (2010)

At first glance, The Unwritten seems to be about a grown-up, real-life Harry Potter: a man desperately trying to escape the shadow of the fictional character based upon him. (In actuality, co-creator Mike Carey has said the character of Tom Taylor is based more upon the real-life Christopher Robin of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories than anything else.) But read a little more, and you'll witness Tom Taylor get dragged further into a world that may or may not be fictional, where the collective of human consciousness can grant powers, and a shadowy, book-burning cabal wants him for their own purposes.

The Unwritten is an ongoing comic series published by Vertigo, currently collected in six volumes (the seventh was published in March 2013). It features diverse artwork by Peter Gross (The Books of Magic, Lucifer) and beautiful, lush cover art by Yuko Shimizu (Barbed Wire Baseball).

Spotlight: Edward Norton

One actor whose films I’m always anxious to watch is Edward Norton. He is so gifted and versatile. The characters he plays are often intense and/or troubled, and always captivating and true-to-life. My favorite films are American History X (1998) and Primal Fear (1996), although I’ve also enjoyed many others. Here’s a selection of some of his movies that are available at IPPL:

A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) PG

A very funny and an interesting plot. The film was brilliant, and it makes me want to read the book by Douglas Adams, A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The science fiction series was originally broadcast as a radio show on BBC radio 4. Watch A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy today.

Source Code (2011) PG-13

I enjoyed Source Code. I would recommend it to anyone who liked Inception (2010) and Eagle Eye (2008). There are a few things that I question about the film, but overall it was entertaining to watch.

Check out a Wired.com interview with screenwriter Ben Ripley.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2012)

The author revisits Homer’s Iliad, and allows Patroclus to tell of his close friendship with Achilles before and during the Trojan War. Yes, she finds a love story in this ancient tale of heroes. Trouble comes from Achilles’ mother Thetis, who detests Patroclus and expends much effort in keeping Achilles from him and out of the war. She sends Achilles to Scyros disguised as a lady in waiting to the local princess; fate intervenes and Achilles becomes married to the princess and a father (of Pyrrhus) before he is joyfully found by Patroclus and unmasked by Greek generals looking for recruits.

At Troy, Achilles proves to be the best of the Greek warriors until he is killed by Paris and later joined in his grave by Patroclus’ ashes. Readers unfamiliar with Greek legends will be pleased to find a character glossary at the end of the novel. Some may be disappointed at so little told of the Trojan horse and the dipping of the baby Achilles in the river Styx.

Read more at the New York Times.
Check out a copy of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller today.

 
 

Rounding the Horn by Dallas Murphy (2004)

Excellent mixture of a 1990s trip to the southern tip of South America with tales of past voyages, beginning with Magellan through missionary journeys in the early 20th century. The stories bring in current friction between Chile and Argentina as well as conflicts among the English, Spanish, and the Aborigines in Terra de Fuega. These adventurous explorations leave a salty taste for all of us would be sailors.

Start your adventure with Rounding the Horn by Dallas Murphy today!



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Rounding the Horn: being a story of williwaws and windjammers, Drake, Darwin, murdered missionaries and naked natives--a deck's-eye view of Cape Horn by Dallas Murphy (2004)
Excellent mixture of a 1990s trip to the southern tip of South America with tales of past voyages, beginning with Magellan through missionary journeys in the early 20th century. The stories bring in current friction between Chile and Argentina as well as conflicts among the English, Spanish, and the Aborigines in Terra de Fuega. These adventurous explorations leave a salty taste for all of us would be sailors.

Nonfiction, travel, history, adventure

Hugo (2011) PG

I usually begin my reviews by stating the year of the film and listing the main stars. I briefly describe the plot, perhaps quote a line from the film or describe a scene and emphasize what I believe are some of the high points of the film.

In this case, I decided to write my review as I approached viewing the film. I knew almost nothing about the film. All that I knew was that it won several Oscars, and I had seen a few brief snippets during the Academy Awards ceremony. I chose not to find out anything more about the film, and I would advise anyone who has not seen this film to take the same approach.

If you appreciate art, science, fantasy, a vivid imagination, you will love this film. If you don't appreciate art, if science bores you, if you look at a cloud and that's all you see, you won't like the film.

This film reminded me of what it was like to see a motion picture in a movie theater for the first time. I was amazed and filled with a great sense of wonder. You too can experience this again, if you see this film.

Based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Directed by Martin Scorsese.

Join us on Friday, May 4 at 7:00 for a screening of Hugo. Doors open at 6:30; fresh popcorn will be served. Register at calendar.ippl.info.

Cowboys & Aliens (2011) PG-13

Cowboys & Aliens stars Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde. It is a combination sci-fi/western picture. My initial reaction to the title and to a few previews I saw was, "Give me a break, how silly can you get?" But a few people told me it was a pretty good movie, so I decided to give it a chance. And I am now very glad I did.

This is a fun movie. It works very well as an old fashioned 1950s sci-fi movie set in the "Hollywood West." Daniel Craig gives a wonderful performance as Jake Lonergan, a bad guy turned good who sets out to right past wrongs. It's as though James Bond was sent to the past without a memory of who he was, what his mission is, or any of his special gadgets except one, which he does not know how to use. But he retains his martial arts ability and his ability to "think on his feet."

So sit back and enjoy.

The Getaway

The Getaway (1972) PG
Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw are coupled in this gangster getaway adventure, reminiscent of Bonnie & Clyde. Both characters are in a badly flawed relationship. The story starts when McQueen gets paroled from prison by a dirty sheriff to rob a local bank. Of course, it’s a setup. As the action heats up and everything goes bad, one of the robbers takes two hostages, one being Sally Struthers (All in the Family) who outperforms herself as the unfaithful wife.

There are car chases, shootouts, and a trip to a garbage dump. The acting of McQueen and MacGraw raise the level of the story.

Hanna

Hanna (2011) PG-13
Saoirse Ronan (Atonement and The Lovely Bones) shines again in this gripping thriller. She plays the title character Hanna, a 16-year-old girl raised by her father Erik (Eric Bana) in a remote area of Finland. Her entire childhood has been spent training to be the perfect assassin. When she decides she’s ready, Hanna makes her presence known to Marissa (Cate Blanchett), the agent who murdered her mother. In a cat-and-mouse game across Europe, Hanna is chased by Marissa who is followed by Erik. And things aren’t quite as they seem.

Great cinematography, music, and scenery. But beware – there’s a lot of graphic violence. For a more in-depth look at the film, visit the Focus Features website.

Romancing the Stone

Romancing the Stone (1984) PG
A shy, retiring romance novelist is caught up in a real-life adventure when her sister is kidnapped. I recently discovered this comedic adventure that traverses the jungles of Columbia. There’s also a sequel – The Jewel of the Nile (though I admit I haven’t seen it yet).

Starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner (with support from Danny DeVito), Romancing the Stone is for fans of the Indiana Jones series and The African Queen.


Check out Roger Ebert’s original review.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (2011)
From page one, this story of a big pharmaceutical company plunging into the Amazon to investigate the development of drugs and, incidentally, the death of one of its doctors intrigued me. The story gathers momentum as the scene moves from Minnesota to the jungles of the Amazon. The characters are often flawed but so human. For a real thriller offering so much to think about, try Ann Patchett.

To read an expert from the book check this article from NPR here.

Wild Target

Wild Target (2010) PG-13
Bill Nighy plays Victor Maynard, the best hitman in the business. The only trouble is that Victor has no friends and no life beyond his profession. When outrageous thief and conman Rose (Emily Blunt) becomes his next target, Victor just cannot manage to get the job done. Soon Victor, Rose and hapless man-in-the-wrong-place-at the wrong-time Tony (Rupert Grint, Ronald Weasley of Harry Potter fame) are all hiding out from the new hitmen hired to wipe them all out.

If you like black comedy, this movie is laugh out loud funny, right up to the last frame. For another sympathetic hitman, see Pierce Brosnan in The Matador (2005).

Covert Affairs. Season 1

Covert Affairs. Season 1 (2010)
With a love of travel and penchant for languages, Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) joins the CIA two years after being abandoned in Sri Lanka by her mysterious boyfriend. Suddenly that past experience is somehow embroiled in the present. Can she trust anyone in her division?

With more questions than answers, each episode brings a new case, a new adventure, and a new threat. Annie is a very likeable character; you see her grow and struggle and deal with the shades of gray her job brings. And she couldn’t survive her new job without Auggie (Christopher Gorham), a blind computer geek with a biting sense of humor.

Fans of Alias and Chuck should try Covert Affairs.