Sorry I've been MIA so long; it's been crazy! I wanted to pop in with a few reviews on recent movies/books.
I saw Thank You for Smoking a week or so ago, and I LOVED it. The film is about a "spin doctor" for the tobacco industry and his personal/professional journey over the course of several weeks. Nick starts out at the top of his game, suffers what seems to be insurmountable public disgrace, and then miraculously lands back on top. I probably have a keener interest in the subject matter than most because I work in communications, but the way the movie depicts the business of image control is fascinating. Aaron Eckhart plays Nick Naylor, prefessional spokesman for the tabacco industry. Nick is a master of his profession, and he's even better at rationalizing his actions so that he can sleep at night. He's very well-paid for his services, and his colleagues widely consider him to be the best in the business.
Due to a divorce and his desire to spend time with his son, Nick takes the boy on several business-related trips, giving the boy ample time to question his father about the nature of his profession. Nick begins to divulge the secrets of spin to his offspring. I really enjoyed the film's portrayal of Nick's relationship with his son, which played as part touchy-feely, part indoctrination.
The film makes several compelling arguments about the motivation for actions and the freedom of individual choice and responsibility. The plot itself is about argument, about how one uses words, reason, debate, etc., to get the upper hand in the public eye. This is definitely a thinking person's movie, but it is funny and immensely enjoyable if you're willing to make the commitment to listen and think about what you're hearing/seeing.
I also got the chance (FINALLY) to see Casino Royale, the latest in the James Bond series of movies. I personally thought that Daniel Craig did a marvelous job as Bond. I already had alot of respect for him as an actor, and he was utterly convincing as 007. For the most part, I enjoyed this movie. It was interesting to see how James Bond was "created," so to speak, and the filmmakers tried to explain the later character's well-known quirks and trademarks. (For example, Bond allows himself to love a woman in this film, and he gets burned pretty badly, explaining his later preference for shallow relationships rather than deeper ones. Etc., etc.)
The film clipped along pretty well, with some amazing action/chase scenes, until the end. Then, the whole thing just fell apart. Clearly, the filmmakers did not know how or WHEN to end the story, and it just dragged along. It finally died with a whimper rather than a roar. Sooooo, I'd give it 2 or 3 stars. It's worth seeing, but the ending will be a disappointment.
Lastly, I wanted to weigh in on the final Harry Potter book. I picked it up earlier this week and finished it yesterday. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows does a wonderful job of tying up loose ends and bringing the truly epic story of the boy wizard to a satisfactory close. (SPOILER ALERT.) For those of you who have been reading since book 1, you'll recall that at the clase of the last installment in the series, Potter and his friends were charged with finding sand destroying Voldemort's Horcruxes, magical objects into which he'd interred pieces of his own soul, ensuring that he'd live very nearly forever. With Dumbledore dead, Harry, Ron, and Hermione were left to their own wits and powers to accomplish the task and defeat Voldemort. Though long, the book covered ALOT of ground, from the trio's defection from Hogwarts to their destruction of Horcruxes to a final dramatic battle (between the Death Eaters and Dumbledore's Army) on the grounds of the famous wizarding school. Several of the characters we've learned to love throughout the series perished in book 7, and questions regarding the loyalties of Severus Snape were also revealed. I didn't find myself chuckling alot during this volume, but I admit that there were a couple of times that my eyes got a little misty as the characters that I've "gotten to know" were wrapped up.
One caveat - there was a pretty unsatisfactory epilogue at the end of the book, peeking in on a few characters 19 years later. I thought this was best either fleshed out more or deleted all together. Primarily though, I extend my gratitude to J.K. Rowling for not renigging on her promise to deliver 7 books containting a complete story. Other writers who made similar promises, and then saw their books sell millions of copies, EXTENDED their series runs. (A decisions that sorely diappointed this reader. Are you listening, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins?!)
All in all, this was a very gratifying read, and I am happy to know "how it all ends!"