Book Review: Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2006)

nick and norah's infinite playlist

I’ve been pretty scattershot with my book reading choices these days. I’ve given up on the pre-planned Ambitious Reading Lists this year and have just been grabbing things willy nilly from the ol’ to-read pile and my growing collection of Kindle ebooks. In the case of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, which I’ve had in a bin for three or four years, it jumped to the front of the pack for one simple reason: it’s short.

Back in 2009, my wife and I checked out the film based on this book co-written by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. I dug it and when I saw a copy of the novel on sale for a few bucks, snatched it up. But, I knew nothing about it going in, so the fact that the book is actually split between two POVs was a surprise. Basically, Nick gets a chapter, then Norah gets one written by Levithan then Cohn respectively.

The story itself finds Nick, a bass player in a band playing in New York City, asking a stranger to be his pretend girlfriend for five minutes so his ex won’t think he’s a lonely loser. As it happens, the girl is none other than Norah, a young woman who’s also recently broken up and trying to figure her life out. The two weave in and out of each others’ lives for the rest of a long NYC night filled with bands, secondary characters, exes, cab rides, burlesque nuns, Yugos and failed sexual advances as told by the two primary members of this burgeoning couple.

I really enjoyed the back and forth nature of this book and how it relates to relationships. From a writing perspective, it was nice to see each writer give the character such a unique and personal-feeling voice even if Norah gets a little Juno-y at times. But the approach also works well from a storytelling perspective. Obviously, in the real world, you only have your own experiences to go on, so it’s fun in fiction to explore this kind of story where you’re living the same events through two different, very articulate brains. While the movie got more into the adventure of the night by way of finding their favorite band Where’s Fluffy? and a few other devices, this one just gets into their heads and rides out the evening.

Aside from the dual narration and dual authorship, I was surprised by how graphic the book is. I wouldn’t say it’s lude or anything like that, but it’s filled with F bombs and a wide spectrum of sex talk. I wasn’t offended by any of this, mind you, it just wasn’t what I was expecting from a young adult book. Then again, I’ve had very little experience in that realm since I stopped reading Christopher Pike books.

I was also surprised with how the movie informed my reading of this book and at times worked against me. The filmmakers nailed it when they hired Kat Dennings. My mental concept of the actress perfectly reflected this character in my mind. In fact, her 2 Broke Girls character seems even more in line with Norah than my memory of the film. But, Michael Cera as Nick just wasn’t working for my brain. He’s described as tall, dark haired, disheveled and kind of muscular. It wasn’t until I finished the book that an actor really came into play in my head to fill the Nick role: a young, lean Jason Segel with the intensity he brought to the role of Nick on Freaks and GeeksOddly, when Norah’s ex Taj came into the picture, I was kept thinking of Superbad-era Martin Starr because I thought he played the part in the film, but it was really Jay Baruchel.  

Anyway, I not only enjoyed the tale told within the pages of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, but also appreciate the reading momentum it gave me. It seems like I start and lose interest in books pretty quickly, even if it’s something I really want to read by a favorite author, but finishing a book always makes me want to read another. I’m hoping I can ride this wave back into Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys and finish that sometime this month. We’ll see though, I’m always getting distracted by something whether it be a trade or Candy Crush.

Best Double Feature Ever: Expendables & Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)

How weird is it that on April 17th of last year, I wrote a post about how excited I was about Expendables and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and now, lots and lots of months later, I got to see both flicks in the theater on the same day? At least sort of weird.

I actually cleared my work schedule earlier this week so I could go see Expendables at the first showing in my town. It was the 11:20 show at the Destinta and I had an amazing time. The movie, which combines all the best action stars ever (okay, maybe there were a few folks not in the movie, but there’s never been a movie with this many of them) as a team of mercenaries doing jobs. The actual Expendables consist of Sylvester Stallone, Jason Stahtham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and Dolph Lundgren. They’re going up against a drug kingpin (played by David Zayas of Dexter fame!) who’s working with Eric Roberts who has Steve Austin as a body guard. Stallone got the job from Bruce Willis when Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t want the job. Oh and Mickey Rourke used to be an Expendable but he retired. I think that covers everyone.

I’m not going to get into the plot too much because, let’s be honest, who cares? If you haven’t seen the movie what you’re wondering is “Is it a solid action movie or a bunch of old men playing war?” It’s a solid action movie. Period. I had a ridiculous amount of fun sitting in the theater watching the flick. There’s all kinds of cheesy one-liners (to be expected), awesome team-ups and fights I never expected to see (seeing Stallone and Statham pall around is like a dream come true) and, as I hope you were expecting, tons of blood, explosions, punches, bullets, knives and body slams (not in a cheesy “hey look we’ve got wrestlers in the movie!” way, but it a way that makes sense).

Speaking of the fighting, I really like how each guy has his own specialties and sticks to them for the most part. Li’s obviously the martial artist, but Statham’s got moves of his own mixing knife and gun play. Stallone uses an array of weapons, Lundgren uses his caveman bulk and Couture just kicks ass. It’s fantastic. I will say that the fight scenes get a little shaky/jumpy, but I just kind of opened my eyes real wide and absorbed as much as I could. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything, but I still want to watch the movie again so I can absorb even more of it.

It’s funny because a few years ago the ToyFare guys and I created a group called The Manly Men of Action which was a generational grouping of action heroes starring Arnold, Dolph, Stallone and Bruce as the 80s team. We also dreamed up groups from the 60s and 70s, skipped the 90s and went on to the 00s which was the whole plot of the first story (check out some rad wallpapers here). So, it’s pretty awesome that Stallone reads ToyFare and turned our idea into a movie, but would it have been so bad to ask us to cameo? Just saying. Oh, also, the movie hints at a long history for this team and previous incarnations and I would be completely down for sequels and prequels and comic book adaptations and an animated series and anything else.

I was actually less excited about Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, but that’s only because my love of 80s action movies goes back further and is much deeper than my love of Scott Pilgrim. In fact, I’m not that huge a fan of the series and haven’t even read the last installment yet. I was really more excited to see what director Edgar Wright would do with the source material and how he would bring a comic book aesthetic to film. And he did it using some crazy jump cuts, lots of sound onomatopoeia on screen, lifting elements from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s panels and creating some truly epic fight scenes.

The story, as most of you probably know, is about clueless Canadian loser Scott Pilgrim falling in love with Ramona Flowers and having to defeat her seven evil exes to be with her. Like aside, the fights are numerous as are the video game references (coins fall from defeated enemies, weapons appear from seemingly nowhere and people glow red when they’re close to death). But I wonder if that makes the movie a little too inside baseball for your average viewer. I went with the missus to see the flick and she hasn’t read the books nor did she play Nintendo much as a kid, so a lot of the elements I was laughing at along with my fellow audience members (there were actually more people at the mid day Expendables than the 7:50pm Scott) went right over her head. She said she dug it and I asked her to write a post about it, but we’ll see.

But, you might be saying, “Who cares what the newbies think, if they don’t get it, screw ’em.” Okay, fair enough, I guess. But, from a business standpoint, you’ve got to imagine that people like me were already pretty much guaranteed to see the movie, but people like her (norms as I call ’em) aren’t. If she goes to work and tells her friends she didn’t really get it, then they might not go. What I’m saying is that it might have made a little sense to explain some of the video game elements earlier in the movie so that EVERYONE gets the gag. There’s even a scene where Scott and his then-girlfriend Knives play a Dance Dance Revolution-type fighting game, but if the elements were foreshadowed there, I didn’t notice. I was just watching the crazy game.

Another complaint–though a minor one–I had while watching the movie is that sometimes, the fight scenes seemed a little stagey, like Michael Cera (playing Scott) was responding to the next move in the series of moves before the attack was coming. It’s a minor complaint because, frankly, the fight scenes mostly moved pretty quickly, but I definitely got that vibe a few times which was a bummer.

Speaking of Cera, I really had my reservations about him playing Scott in the movie. Like I said, I’m not a die hard fan of the books, but in them, the character is kind of an infuriatingly dull loveable loser who just doesn’t understand most of what’s going on around him, while Cera’s awkward movie persona didn’t really jive with that. I’m still not 100% sure on it, as the movie sometimes felt wobbly as far as Scott’s characterization, but that’s how things were in the book. You really like him one moment, then he does something stupid and you want to give him a wedgie. Overall, I dug his casting and everyone else, so good on Wright and Company for that.

Two more quick complaint and this one actually goes back to the books. First off, like in the first volume, I think it takes too long for the rules of the world to get established. You go from normal people to crazy superhero/video game fights in the blink of an eye without much of a warning. The other problem is that the books felt like they were running out of steam and rushed towards the last couple volumes (I can’t speak to the 6th volume). I mean, come on, two of the exes are twins? I guess it’s not necesarrily a bad thing that we spend time with the character of Scott before he and Ramona start dating, but some of the exes just feel rushed.

Okay, enough bitching. The effects are awesome as is the music. I think I might actually go out and buy the soundtrack (though as a music geek I’ve got to call bullshit that Scott can afford one of the most expensive basses around–the kind you have to call Musician’s Friend just to get the price off–and Steven gets such a good sound out of an acoustic that doesn’t look to have a pick up anywhere inside it). I LOVE the bass battle.

All in all the movie’s a lot of fun (at least for 20-something dudes) and, from what I can remember, follows the comics pretty well (though I wonder if deviating a little more might have helped make the story more accessible to non geeks). Anyway, if I had to choose one movie between Scott and Expendables to see again this weekend, I would definitely go with Expendables. I walked out of that movie just feeling awesome all over, but I’m really glad I got to see both movies in the theaters on opening day. I haven’t done that for just one movie in quite a while!

Quick Movie Review: Year One (2009)

The impetus for me posting the full transcript of my Harold Ramis interview was the missus and me watching Year One. Unfortunately, I did not like it very much. For the most part I liked the performances by guys like Jack Black, Michael Cera, David Cross, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Platz, Vinnie Jones, the crazy skinny Horatio Sans and others. Unfortunately, none of those actors are really breaking down any comedic barriers or getting into new territory when it comes to their comedy. Overall, I think the story’s pretty interesting. It’s not a caveman movie like everyone originally thought, but a tour through the book of Genesis. Growing up Catholic, going to Catholic school and taking some ancient lit classes in college have given me a pretty good working knowledge of this story, so it was cool to see it from a different angle. The real problem is that the story seems to drag a lot and there are just too many gross-out jokes. Ramis created some of the greatest comedies of all time and he’s directing a movie where Black eats poop. Come on, you’re better than that. I wonder if all those kinds of scenes were taken out, I would have liked it better, but I can’t say because that’s not the case. By the end of movie I was wondering around our place cleaning and doing whatever I could to walk away from the TV. I was just bored and didn’t care anymore. It was sad. I really wanted to like this movie, especially because I’m sure it was a big part of the reason I got to talk to one of my heroes. Oh well, Ramis did a great job of directing the second half of the birth episode of The Office last week, so I’m happy enough. Here’s hoping if Ghostbusters 3 does happen, it’ll be rad. I don’t believe anything Bill Murray’s been saying about wanting to be a ghost, I think he’s just being Bill Murray. But we shall see. If you’re looking for a funny movie to rent, skip this one and watch something else from Ramis’ illustrious videography.

Michael Cera Chills With The Jersey Shore Gang

I’d be remiss, after posting the video of Michael Cera battling with Conan O’Brien on The Tonight Show, if I didn’t hunt down the videos of Cera actually hanging out with the Jersey Shore gang. The first video is much longer and has more material, but there are also several mini trailers for Youth In Revolt that get a little annoying. Even with all those, I like it because it has him trying on Ed Hardy shirts and explaining why he’s hanging out with the cast.

This one’s shorter, but doesn’t have the trailers.

Michael Cera Dance Battles Conan

Vodpod videos no longer available.

In a rare occasion, the missus and I watched Conan’s soon-to-be altered Tonight Show on Friday night. I think it’s bullshit what they’re doing to Conan with moving Jay Leno back to the 11:30 slot, but what are you gonna do? Anyway, this clip from Friday’s show (which also sported a performance by OK Go, which wasn’t so great) featured Michael Cera teaching Conan how to do a dance battle after learning how thanks to the Jersey Shore crew who taught him in filmed segments while the last episode went to commercial. It’s pretty hilarious and highly recommended for everyone to check out.

Click here for videos of Cera hanging out with the Jersey Shore cast.

Michael Cera On Jimmy Fallon

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Two days ago (maybe one, it was late and I’m starting to forget what day it is), Michael Cera was on Jimmy Fallon. For a couple minutes, they talked about those pics he took with the Jersey Shore cast. Apparently, it’s for some promos that will be airing during tonight’s episode.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Cera and Fallon went on to play one of my favorite party games Taboo. It looks like everyone had a lot of fun.

Four Movies I Dug

2009-02-21
5:28:59 am

It may come as a bit of surprise, but my movie intake has almost trickled to a crawl lately. The movies in this post have been vied over a period of almost months. I’ve been a lot more tired lately and haven’t been staying up as late, but I’m still watching for you, my faithful readers (also because I’m half-addicted to movies, I think). So, here we go:

 

NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST (2008)

I didn’t LOVE Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, but I liked it about as much as I thought I would. I’m a sucker for told-in-one-night movies like Can’t Hardly Wait and the like. Plus, this one stars Michael Cera and Kat Dennings who is crush-worthy in my book (don’t tell Em). The basic story isn’t all that mindblowing, it’s your basic “two people who are dating other people meet each other, fall for each other, have a few difficulties, but SPOILER get together in the end” flick, but what’s fun for me is in the details. Aside from the solid performances and guest spots by the likes of Andy Samberg, Seth Meyers, Jay Baruchel, I like the New York club setting and the smaller details like Nora’s dad SPOILER owning Electric Ladyland studios. I have no idea if the club/band life the movie puts forward is accurate, but I think the idea of following a mystery band around town to be really cool, though familiar (I can’t quite put my finger on why/where from). I also had music geeksplosions when they went to Electric Ladyland. And, I gotta say, I was surprised that this movie, which is based on a book that I haven’t, but now want to, read not only had a sex scene but also a number of gay characters (oh, and the creepiest stripperish dance scene involving an actual girl that I can remember). I guess teen movies have changed a bit and I think it’s pretty cool.

THE HOUSE BUNNY (2008)

I can’t exactly say The House Bunny surprised me, because, well, I kind of thought I would like it. You’ve got Anna Faris starring in a Fred Wolf (SNL, DIRTY WORK!!!) directed movie that mixes Playboy and sororities on a college campus in which the main point of the flick is to turn nerdy sorority girls (including Kat Dennings, Rumor Willis and Emma Stone) into hot chicks. I’d say that’s a pretty killer combination. And, as far as I’m concerned, it lived up to my expectations. Oh, plus it had Colin Hanks who I haven’t seen in anything but Orange County, but I liked that flick and he’s good in this too. Really, if the above description doesn’t tickle your fancy, you won’t dig this movie. If it does, dive on in and have a good time. I wouldn’t rank it in my top five comedies or anything, but it’s still worth a watch.

ALIEN RAIDERS (2008)

Alien Raiders is one of those movies that makes its way into the Wizard building and somehow found it’s way to my hands, probably because everyone knows I’m the horror guy in the offices. Anyway, I knew nothing about this movie and had absolutely no expectations (in fact, I can’t even remember why I watched this instead of something else like, say, Triloquist, which is in my “to be watched” pile). So, I was pleasantly surprised by this mix of Thing and The Mist (basically, “who’s the alien in a grocery store”). I was surprised with how in to this movie I got (I even put a comic down to watch it). For a much better review than I could give, check out my favorite blog on the web Horror Movie a Day. Also check out the comment section for what will be a now reduntant comment, plus a comment from the screenwriter!

DISTRICT B-13 (2004)

Compared to the rest of these flicks, B-13 here is an oldie, but it’s still a goody. Man, I had a great time watching B-13. It’s directed by the guy who just did Taken which I hear is pretty rad and want to check out. Anyway, the story is set in the near future, something about a ghetto in France where undesirables live. The intricacies of the plot escape me at the moment, but there’s an undercover cop and a crook working together to both get a bomb back and save one of the guys’ sister. The story itself isn’t the cool part though, I was a fan of the action scenes, many of which involved my personal favorite YouTube search of free running (or parkour if you’re nasty, or French). I caught this on Netflix’s amazing instant watch and can’t recommend it more to action fans. Seriously, go check it out NOW.

Okay, hope you enjoyed these brief movie reviews. Look for more trade and movie reviews soon!