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Adam Beck "carolinaguy" RSS Feed (Chapel Hill, NC)

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Mad Men: Season 4
Mad Men: Season 4
DVD ~ Jon Hamm
Price: $6.00
155 used & new from $2.31

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pound for Pound, Probably the Best Season Yet, January 28, 2011
This review is from: Mad Men: Season 4 (DVD)
Though Season 4 petered out a bit at the end with a few too many plot mechanics and a distressingly predictable and repetetive finale, the first 10 episodes were, all in all, sensational. The Season 3 finale, "Shut the Door. Have a Seat.", set up a delicious situation which was a chance to reinvent all the characters and storylines. Matthew Weiner and company took advantage of the plum they handed themselves and got the new firm set up in cutting edge digs and managed to weave old characters in and out as needed. Overall, the show was fresher, more focused, and more streamlined. This season really did trace the trajectory of Don's downfall from booze and buried sorrow--which culminated in a hit-between-the-eyes moment in episode 6, "Waldorf Stories". It was so perfectly set up that when you got the impact of it, it was truly stunning. (January Jones as Betty Draper was in this episode for one brief scene, but she delivered the three-word line that made Don realize he'd finally hit rock bottom. Interesting the connection those two still have.) From there, we began to follow Don as he made the first real attempt we've ever seen to take control of his demons. This led to what may be the best episode the show has ever produced, "The Suitcase", episode 7. (Or at least equal to Season 2's phenomenal finale, "Meditations in an Emergency".) Primarily a two-character piece for Don and Peggy, it was the episode the entire series had been building to, if only we'd known it. The two had to work overnight on a Samsonite presentation and various demons and frustrations finally escaped and Don got some bad news from California that at last led to a needed breakdown. Written by creator/executive producer Weiner, "The Suitcase" is television at its very finest and may well win Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss those elusive Emmys come this summer. (Weiner, at least, is basically assured another writing Emmy for this masterpiece.) From this point, the financial woes of the newly-formed Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce take center stage and involve a fascinating examination of women's roles in the '60s workplace, as well as a life crisis for Roger Sterling, which provides John Slattery the chance to do career-best work. The final few episodes don't live up to the start. They're well-crafted, but it's distressing to see the plot wheels turning a bit obviously and watch Don appear to begin repeating familiar patterns. However, we never know what Season 5 will bring us.

Other delights from #4:
--Pete Campbell becomes a man with a backbone and a conscience
--Don gets saddled with battle-axe secretary Miss Ida Blankenship, who constantly spouts wildly inappropriate comments and is played to delightful perfection by Randee Heller; this humor is much-needed as a juxtaposition to some of the darker goings-on
--Roger writes his memoirs!
--Joan leads a conga line!
--Some Japanese businessmen are quite impressed by Joan's, er, assets
--John Slattery directs a couple of episodes, "The Rejected" and "Blowing Smoke", and proves himself as capable behind the camera as in front
--Episode 5, "The Chyrsanthemum and the Sword", features a hilarious caper played on a rival agency and a truly good performance from January Jones. She sometimes gets some flack, but I think she plays an incredibly complex character with just the right touch of lacquered veneer over raging internal chaos. In this episode she ranges from near child abuse to breaking our hearts talking to a child psychologist with a thinly-veiled desperate need to be heard. This episode won the Writers Guild award for outstanding single episode of a drama series. (The series, incidentally, won the award for overall drama series as well.)

In all, this was a fascinating season exploring the difference between a character's appearance and their reality. Everyone in a large cast got chances to shine--and they still made room to incorporate some historical happenings which are skillfully woven in.

I'll Mature When I'm Dead: Dave Barry's Amazing Tales of Adulthood
I'll Mature When I'm Dead: Dave Barry's Amazing Tales of Adulthood
by Dave Barry
Edition: Hardcover
185 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Just Skip the 2 Clunkers; The Rest Are Great, November 23, 2010
Most of these essays are sidesplittingly hilarious--the only ones that didn't work were the parodies of "24" and "Twilight". These things are such easy targets that long-form satire grows dull quickly. Barry is at his best when he's doing the observational hit-and-run swipes at life's foibles and has an overall point. Topics such as owning a dog, children's sports, life in Miami, and planning a wedding provide much better fodder for him. If you've liked Barry's previous humor collections, have no fear, this one will appeal to you as well.

Leonard Maltin's 2011 Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2011 Movie Guide
by Leonard Maltin
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
95 used & new from $0.01

13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still Probably the Most Comprehensive Guide, August 4, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
On a first perusal, this appears to be more of the same. There are lots of updates for people who've become more noteworthy over the past few years. Maltin still seems to overvalue his pet older films and undervalue newer offerings. It seems like it's awfully tough for current movies to get a **** rating from him.

For those who are curious, here are his ratings for a few popular hits/award winners new to this edition:

"The Hurt Locker" ***1/2
"Avatar" ***
"Precious" ***
"Up in the Air" ***1/2
"Up" ***1/2
"I Love You Man" **1/2
"The Hangover" ***
"Crazy Heart" ***

Don't Stop the Carnival: A Novel
Don't Stop the Carnival: A Novel
by Herman Wouk
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.43
260 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Hugely Entertaining Novel, June 7, 2010
Even at 400 pages, I was still sorry when this one ended. It moves along swiftly from one incident to the next with a wonderful flow. It's stuffed with memorable scenes and characters. Yes, Norman has a rough time of it, but there's enough success and triumph over the odds that it stays fun. The finale brings several plot threads together, then adds a couple of surprises. (It was surprising to me, anyway.) The only jarring notes were pretty casual strains of homophobia and racism, but that's probably more a by-product of its time and setting than anything else.

Certainly worthwhile.

The Only Girl in the Game
The Only Girl in the Game
by John D. MacDonald
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
18 used & new from $7.92

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of John D.'s best early pulps, March 22, 2010
Of course John D. MacDonald would write a crackling good crime story while at the same time examining the politics of the early golden years of Las Vegas. Our hero is the manager of a popular Strip resort who becomes romantically involved with a female employee. Of course, she has secrets and is under the control of a not-very-nice heavy. It's your standard noir pulp plot, but the rhythm of MacDonald's dialogue and his story pacing elevate it. There are some remarkable descriptions of soul-searching in a lonely cabin in the desert outside town. There are also fascinating descriptions of the inner workings of a casino resort. Along with "Clemmie", "Please Write for Details", and "Murder in the Wind", this is one of the best non-McGee MacDonalds.

End of the Tiger
End of the Tiger
by John D. MacDonald
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
21 used & new from $0.01

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best of the John D. MacDonald short story collections, December 7, 2009
The short story format was how JDM got his start, but he later proved that full-length novels were more his strong suit. This collection features mostly stories from after the author had fully established himself, including some written in the 1960s after the creation of Travis McGee. The best stories for me were "Hangover" and the novella "The Solid Gold Trap", which is a mini-version of JDM's suburban drama novels such as "The Crossroads", "Clemmie", "Cancel All Our Vows", and "Contrary Pleasure". In general, the writing here is much smoother and more assured than the earlier work compiled in "The Good Old Stuff", "More Good Old Stuff", and "Seven".

Where is Janice Gantry?
Where is Janice Gantry?
by John D. MacDonald
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
29 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong MacDonald mystery, December 7, 2009
Fans of John D. shouldn't miss this one. It has an atmospheric Florida coastline setting, a strong mystery, and several memorable scenes and characters. This is one of my favorites of his non-McGee novels, along with "A Man of Affairs", "Please Write for Details", "The Crossroads", and "The Damned".

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