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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Seven Pounds — DVD Review

If you’re wondering what Seven Pounds is about, you’re no worse off then people who have seen the movie were two-thirds into it. “Slow” doesn’t begin to explain the glacial tempo that characterized most of the movie.

Will Smith plays IRS agent Ben Thomas (sort of) who is looking to redeem himself after causing a tragic accident. On a search for seven worthy people, Thomas claims to have the ability to drastically change their lives for the better. Gradually, and I do mean gradually, it becomes clear exactly how and why Thomas is looking to help seven strangers.

I understood what the makers of the film were going for, it just didn’t work. Forcing an audience to wonder what in the world is going on for the majority of a film or any other story doesn’t make any sense. I imagine it’s possible to pull off, but constantly bringing the question to mind isn’t the way to do it. Certainly, viewers are given a vague notion of why Thomas is seeking redemption before too long, but the question isn’t resolved soon enough. Ultimately, the ending and the actual gift Thomas offers the individuals he selects is a surprise, salvaging something for the viewer that has spent two hours watching the movie.

However, the ending was problematic for me, leaving one very specific question open. Without giving it away, I wondered if he was looking to help someone with the specific problem of the woman focused on in the film, Emily Posa played by Rosario Dawson. I realize this is very unclear to readers who haven’t seen Seven Pounds, but I thought it was worth mentioning. If he was, I think it makes his eventual relationship with the woman very questionable.

Thomas appeared to be meant to have a confident charm, but his desire to get to know these strangers without revealing anything about himself came off as slightly obnoxious. As a fan of Smith, I would have thought he could pull that off quite well. I’m never sure who deserves the blame in such a situation, but as a viewer it really didn’t matter. It definitely hurt the movie.

I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a secondary character – Ezra Turner, a guy who is blind played by Woody Harrelson. At one point, Thomas tests the customer representative (and aspiring pianist) by pretending to be an incredibly rude customer who starts berating the character about his blindness. I knew what he was doing, so it didn’t bother me much. But I did question the level of ignorance being displayed, albeit under false pretext. In our politically correct world, which I certainly don’t want to support, I often wonder why it’s ok for people with disabilities to be the butt of jokes. This isn’t quite the same thing, but I thought it was questionable.

Overall, I would recommend giving something else a shot instead of watching Seven Pounds.

Friday, April 3, 2009

David Balducci's The Camel Club — Book Review

The Camel Club is a direct response to the changes in the world, or at least the United States, since 9/11. The West Wing fan in me picked it up, I admit, because of the picture of the White House on the cover and the promise of some presidential intrigue on the inside flap. That didn’t quite hold up, but I still found some value in it.

A small group of largely disenfranchised men, including one that goes by the all too obvious pun-certainly-intended Oliver Stone, regularly get together to keep track of Washington, D.C., conspiracies. They end up witnessing a murder that eventually involves them in a plot that puts the United States on the brink of nuclear war.

While the book flowed well enough to keep me reading, the ending absolutely destroyed the novel for me. My difficulties with over the top endings may be the reason I never make it as a novelist, but this was just so outlandish and requiring a complete suspension of believability that it took away from the enjoyment of the story.

There were actually some worthwhile insights, assuming they were fact based, into the way the Arab world views itself and us. I could almost claim the same thing – meaning worthwhile insights – into the inner workings of the White House, but the suggestions were so far-fetched I assume they were mostly fiction.

The book was bad enough for me to take forever to actually write this review – I read the book in the fall – but I guess it was good enough to want to finally write it all this time later. More than likely that has a lot more to do with my anal side and needing to finish what I start than the quality of the novel.