AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999) is the black-humored comedy of how cheerleader Mina Sorvino inspires Kevin Spacey to quit his job, buy an old car, work in fastfood and try some good pot, while Thora Birch rolls her eyes and Annette Bening refuses to be a victim. Rewatching this, I felt the same I did the first time—for all it’s merits it’s just too smug about how it’s skewering suburban mores (The Ice Storm did it a lot better), and the implication it’s all Annette Bening’s fault is somewhat sexist. Still, interesting to rewatch “The couch is upholstered in Chinese silk.”
RED (2010) isn’t quite up to the cast, but it’s still enjoyably ridiculous as Mary Louise Parker finds Bruce Willis not what she expected (“I was hoping for hair.”), Brian Cox and hitwoman Helen Mirren reunite, John Malkovitch proves he’s not so paranoid and Richard Dreyfuss turns the CIA into his personal strike force. I think the biggest problem is that the underlying government-corruption plot is very stock; still, worth the time. “When she shot me three times in the chest, I knew it was love.”
WEST 32ND (2007) is a fairly stock crime drama in which a Korean-American lawyer trying to clear a teenage boy of murder finds himself going undercover with an ambitious Korean-American gangster and realizing their respective efforts to carve out a place for themselves give them a lot in common. Outside of the Korean angle, however, this is competent but too routine for me. “There are two kinds of Korean girls.”
THE CANON: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science by Natalie Angier was the result of the science-writer author’s realization that science is now supposed to be interesting only to kids and nerds (“We have museums set up to generate lots of gosh-gee-whiz enthusiasm from school kids—which fades as soon as they hit high school!”), so the book gives a crash course in the basics of physics, chemistry, biology, and so on. A good job, though a lot of this was old news to me.
CHANGES: A Novel of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher reminds me of the comic book covers that announce “This is the issue where everything changes!”—but the effects of Harry’s efforts to stop the vampiric Red Court from sacrificing the daughter he only just discovered he has should certainly shake up the status quo in the next book. That being said, I do wish these hints Harry has some truly huge role to play would pay off, and the cliffhanger is hardly that gripping (I can think of a dozen ways he could get out of it). Still, a solid, entertaining read, as usual.
Speaking of changes, BPRD: The King of Fear wraps up the BPRD’s long-running war against the demonic frog-creatures that first appeared in Seed of Destruction and the malevolent underground descendants of the Hyperboreans, though at a high price and with new menaces arriving in the aftermath. The ending slides perilously close to deus ex machina, but overall a good job, setting up for some new directions in the upcoming BPRD: Hell on Earth.