Shorties #10

I wish my bursts of productivity were in more practical realms than entertainment. Getting through a big to-do list would hopefully entail getting my household and finances in order, but instead, it involved knocking things off lists of pop culture to consume. I don't imagine I'll be getting a merit badge for that. But hell, I'll take my triumphs where I can. Let's dispense with some Shorties!

#1: This is How You Lose Her: I don't get a lot of book recommendations from my coworkers, but one woman really sold me on this 2012 collection of short stories by Junot Díaz. I'll never truly be able to walk a mile in the shoes of someone from a different ethnicity, but immersing myself in books by and about them (like Silver Sparrow) gets me as close as I can ever be to their perspectives. This is How You Lose Her features male Latino protagonists, and the stories mostly focus on their infidelities or struggles of identity. Some of the stories were a rough read, not because they were poorly-written, but because they seem to really burrow into the minds of guys who cannot build lasting relationships. (Grade: B+)

#2: Captain America: The First Avenger: Aside from the X-Men franchise, I can feel myself getting more and more bored with the superhero genre. I really enjoyed The Avengers, though, and thought I would make an effort to go back and catch up on some of the lead-up movies. The less said about Thor, the better, and I didn't bother with either of the Iron Man sequels. So I went into Captain America (2011) with a certain amount of trepidation. It turned out to actually be one of the better entries of the franchise. Sure, there are plenty of well-worn superhero tropes to be had, but the story flowed well, there weren't massive plotholes, and the character motivations all made sense. As usual, Chris Evans is game for whatever role he's in, and Hugo Weaving is always dependable as a villain. I didn't do cartwheels after the movie was over, but in an increasingly stale genre, it was a breath of fresh air. (Grade: B)

#3: The Impostors: Ready to hear the cast list? Oliver Platt. Stanley Tucci. Alfred Molina. Lili Taylor. Tony Shalhoub. Steve Buscemi. Allison Janney. Richard Jenkins. Isabella Rossellini. Campbell Scott. Billy Connolly. Dana Ivey. Hope Davis. Seriously! This 1998 farce is about two friends (Platt and Tucci) who spend all their time trying to hone the craft of acting, intentionally causing melodramatic scenes in public to test themselves. They insult the hammy performance of a drunken, albeit famous Shakespearean actor, and stowaway on a cruise ship to escape his wrath. All sorts of wacky, madcap schemes are taking place on board, from bomb threats to suicidal lounge singers to exiled royalty, and our protagonists get embroiled in all of them. It wasn't as good a movie as I was hoping, given the stellar cast (nailing the tone of a farce can be incredibly difficult), but it wasn't half-bad, either. (Grade: C+)

#4: Assassin's Creed 3: I just realized that I brought up how excited I was to play this game, and alluded to the fact when I was in the middle of it, but never said anything about it once I finally finished it. In a word - underwhelming. Like I just said, I'm a completionist, and thus a fan of video game busywork, but this game tested even my limits. Take out a guard with a smoke bomb? An announcement pops up that you need to do it nine more times. Hunt a deer? Do it twenty more times, with various types of traps and weapons. Find a treasure chest? Go find the other forty. Discover a tunnel? Go explore the other nineteen. The game's main story is almost lost in the shuffle, and though it wasn't a terrible game (I'm not sorry I bought it or anything), it certainly doesn't compare to Assassin's Creed 2 or Brotherhood. (Grade: C+)

#5: American Harmony: Every time I go over to my dad's house, he tries to entice me into watching a movie he's got on the DVR or that is in his Netflix queue. Sometimes, he's successful, and I get sucked into a movie I would never seek out on my own. This 2009 documentary is a perfect example. Competitive barbershop quartet performances are not something I'm at all interested in, but after watching twenty minutes or so, I was invested enough to have to stay and see who wins. As a movie, it's laughably goofy - it's everything A Mighty Wind was written to satirize. But for fans of the subject matter (like my dad), you could do a whole lot worse. (Grade: C)


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