Tag: The Critics

The Critics: ‘‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed

Strayed’s memoir about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail while reflecting on her life, including the death of her mother, is getting rave reviews.

This is a long way from Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods.” Apparently it’s no “Eat, Pray, Love,” either.

From Slate:

By laying bare a great unspoken truth of adulthood—that many things in life don’t turn out the way you want them to, and that you can and must live through them anyway—Wild feels real in ways that many books about “finding oneself,” including Eat, Pray, Love and all its imitators, do not. The hike, rewarding though it is, doesn’t heal Strayed. “I’d thought I’d weep tears of cathartic sorrow and restorative joy each day of my journey,” she writes.  “Instead, I only moaned, and not because my heart ached. It was because my feet did and my back did and so did the still-open [pack] wounds around my hips.”

I’m a big fan of Brad Listi’s Other People podcasts, featuring wide-ranging, hour-long conversations with authors. He spoke with Strayed in February:

The Critics: ‘The Routes of Man’ by Ted Conover

Hard-traveling journalist Ted Conover’s latest, The Routes of Man: How Roads are Changing the World and the Way We Live Today, hit stores last week. The book sees Conover traveling six different roads, some official and some unofficial, from Peru’s mahogany export routes to China’s new superhighways, in an effort to understand the way they are “reshaping the world.”

The Washington Post’s Jonathan Yardley is skeptical of the concept. He writes that “what we have here essentially are a half-dozen magazine pieces, stitched together in such a way as to resemble a real book but missing the thematic core that Conover strains to locate.” However, Yardley adds, “Conover’s six reports are variously interesting in and of themselves, and one shouldn’t expect any more from them.”

Over at NPR, Maureen Corrigan notes that the “vivid armchair travel aspect of Conover’s book is undeniably a great part of its appeal,” but wonders where the women are—the book, she writes, takes place in “a road warrior universe that is pretty much all male.” The Los Angeles Times’ Taylor Antrim is less conflicted, describing “The Routes of Man” as “refreshingly nonromantic road writing.” He goes on:

What Conover has brought back is a clear-eyed understanding that roads confine as much as they liberate, that they make the world more accessible but also infinitely more dangerous and exploitable. Perhaps the only certainty he offers is that these “paths of human endeavor” are inevitable: “They are the infrastructure upon which almost all other infrastructure depends.”

The Critics: Apple’s iPad and Travel

The Critics: Apple’s iPad and Travel REUTERS/Kimberly White
Apple CEO Steve Jobs holds up the new iPad during the announcement for the device. Photo: REUTERS/Kimberly White

Apple’s latest gadget has inspired plenty of talk—and plenty of jokes—over the last couple of days, and among the travel media the big question has been: How will the iPad change the way we travel?

National Geographic’s Mary Anne Potts is enthused, calling the iPad “the ideal on-the-go device for work and play.” Martin Rivers of Cheapflights begs to differ, criticizing—among other things—the lack of USB ports and calling the gadget “a playback device that does very little unless you also happen to be carrying another machine.”

Over at Jaunted, they’ve posted two takes on the iPad—the first argues its merits for travelers, while the second points out its shortcomings. Blogger JetSetCD summarizes:

To put it simply, the iPad is all about media consumption and not creation. It’ll be great for reading eBooks, watching movies, surfing the web, referencing Google Maps and flipping through photos you have already transferred onto it from your regular laptop or desktop. That said, it is not a standalone device; you will need to travel with your laptop in order to upload pictures and video from your camera onto it and do anything on software that doesn’t work on the iPad (like Photoshop).

Finally, PhoCusWright Connect aims to get beyond the rehashing of the iPad’s specs and capabilities and look at the bigger picture for content producers—namely, “what does yesterday’s announcement mean to you and I, what should we do about it and what does the future hold for travelers interacting with our brand and content.”

The Critics: ‘Couples Retreat’

Poster via IGN

A few months back I said that “Couples Retreat”—you know, the one where four couples unwittingly book into an all-inclusive marriage counseling resort?—had “some comic potential.” Well, the flick opened this weekend, and I have to report that while said potential was there, it never blossoms into vacation comedy gold. There are a few decent jokes scattered throughout—everyone likes a good jab at Sandals, right?—and the scenery is lovely (the movie was shot in Bora Bora) but the story drags aimlessly between the occasional laughs.

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The Critics: ‘Confessions of a Travel Writer’*

So “Confessions of a Travel Writer” debuted last night, and the response—at least from the commenters on our interview with host Charles Runnette—has been ... colorful. But what did Runnette’s fellow travel writers think? I dipped into the blogs and my Twitter stream to find out.

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The Critics: ‘A Perfect Getaway’

The Critics: ‘A Perfect Getaway’ Publicity still via IGN
Publicity still via IGN

Remember that movie about beautiful people murdering each other on an isolated Hawaiian hiking trail? It’s landed in theaters, and the reviews are piling up.

The Globe and Mail’s Stephen Cole sets the scene: “Newlyweds Cliff and Cydney are excited to be in Hawaii. He’s a screenwriter without a credit. She’s a rich girl without a clue. And they’re looking for a honeymoon adventure to fuel an interesting marriage. To that end, they’re going to backpack around one of Hawaii’s most rugged islands, climbing slippery cliffs and scooting, doused in insect repellent, through heavy jungle.”

Of course, it isn’t long before things go pear-shaped, when another hiking couple turns up dead. Cue a murderous shell game with the remaining three couples—throughout which, according to Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News, director David Twohy “uses the beautifully shot waterfalls and vistas of Hawaii to distract from some glaring plot holes.” The Hollywood Reporter’s Kirk Honeycutt offers Twohy a backhanded compliment, lauding a “genuinely unexpected twist” in an “otherwise gimmicky, formulaic suspense thriller”—and, disappointingly, notes that the movie was mostly shot in Puerto Rico, not Kauai.

The Critics: ‘Fordlandia’

Greg Grandin’s new book, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City, analyzes the surprising history behind the brilliant car mogul’s disastrous attempts to transplant the American way of life into a remote Amazonian village. Ford is credited as the father of America’s consumer culture, but his utopian plans to capitalize on new sources of rubber resulted in one of the greatest failures of his distinguished career. The critics are chiming in on the man behind the story and the modern day implications of exporting Americanism.

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The Critics: ‘Up’

Pixar’s “Up,” an animated travel movie that we’ve been keeping an eye on, opened the Cannes Film Festival in 3D last night, making history in the process. Today, the reviews are rolling in—and, for the most part, they offer two thumbs, er, up.

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The Critics: ‘Fast & Furious’

The Critics: ‘Fast & Furious’ Publicity still via IGN
Publicity still via IGN

When I listed Fast & Furious as one of my travel movies to watch for in 2009, I have to admit that my tongue might have been straying towards my cheek. I certainly never expected that the movie—the fourth installment in a fading franchise—would smash box office records and enjoy the biggest April weekend opening ever. But with an unexpected $70 million (and counting) in the bank, I suppose the movie qualifies as a phenomenon of sorts. With that in mind, I decided to check it out and see if there were any vicarious travel thrills to be had in between all the lingering shots of hot (auto) bodies.

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The Best Travel Stories from World Hum

Which stories do book editors think are the best travel stories from World Hum? These World Hum essays have appeared in "The Best American Travel Writing," "Best Women's Travel Writing" and "Best Travel Writing" anthologies.

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‘Murderers in Mausoleums’: What Counts Is Your Blood

Jeffrey Tayler's latest book is a masterful guide to the divisions that define so much of human civilization. Jason Daley explains.

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The Critics: ‘Last Chance Harvey’

The reviews are in for Last Chance Harvey, the travel-infused romance that hits theaters today. Opinions vary on the quality of the film overall, but everyone seems to agree that the efforts from stars Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman are a rare treat.

“Just about everything works in this small and surprisingly hopeful film,” writes Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times, “with beautifully attenuated performances by Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, who slip into the characters Hopkins has sewn for them like an old sweater.” LA Weekly’s Aaron Hillis agrees—at least in part. “Hoffman and Thompson—despite the 20-plus years between them, and her graceful restraint in contrast to his creepy assertiveness—have a genuinely sweet chemistry,” he writes, “which is the exact and only reason to seek this one out.”

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Buruma on Naipaul: ‘Alert, Never Sentimental’

Ian Buruma reviews The World Is What it Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul in the New York Review of Books. “Naipaul’s literary discovery of the world is marked by the way he uses his eyes and ears,” Buruma writes. “Impatient with abstractions, he listens to people, not just their views, but the tone of their voices, the telling evasions, the precise choice of words. His eyes, meanwhile, register everything, the clothes, the gestures. ... These observations are filtered through a mind that is alert, never sentimental, and deeply suspicious of romantic cant.”

The Critics: ‘China Road’

A new book by NPR's Rob Gifford chronicles a trip along the "Route 66 of China." Michael Yessis distills what reviewers -- and Jon Stewart -- are saying about it.

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‘Into the Wild’: Sean Penn Adapts Jon Krakauer’s Book for the Big Screen

Sean Penn lined up some impressive talent for his adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s beloved book Into the Wild, the story of twentysomething Christopher McCandless’s self-imposed exile from mainstream society and tragic journey into the Alaskan wilds. Penn wrote and directed the film, which stars Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener, Zach Galifianakis, William Hurt and others. Eddie Vedder and Gustavo Santaolalla contribute to the soundtrack. The movie opens Sept. 21, and already I’m getting that dueling “I can’t wait to see it/I can’t believe what an awful idea this is” feeling of seeing a favorite book get turned into a movie. 

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Restaurants ‘Nudge Diners’ in Campaign for Zagat Votes

The Zagat guides took another punch this week. The New York Post’s Steve Cuozzo revealed that restaurant owners in New York are mounting e-mail campaigns to have diners vote for their restaurants, a practice allegedly forbidden by the Zagats. Yet, according to the Post, the Zagats don’t seem to be enforcing their rules.

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‘A Sense of the World’: Around the Globe With a Blind Man

Jason Roberts documents the life of James Holman, who became a prolific traveler in the 1800s after losing his sight. Liz Sinclair finds the man -- and the book -- compelling.

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A Week in the Life of American Airlines

CNBC airs a two-hour documentary tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT chronicling a week behind-the-scenes at American Airlines. Peter Greenberg hosts, and he—and the program—are getting good reviews. “Some of his access is surprising,” writes The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Robert Philpot. “Greenberg doesn’t just canvass cockpits and executive suites, he climbs onboard with passengers to discuss their comfort level, how much they paid for tickets, or how they used their frequent-flier miles.” Philpot gives the program a B+. Florangela Davila of the Seattle Times writes that “it’s the little gems of information—the weight of a jetliner at departure versus arrival—that will stay with you. And tonight’s portrait might have you thinking twice before ranting the next time your flight is delayed.” CNBC has posted eight video clips from the show. No sign of them on YouTube yet.

‘Getting Stoned With Savages’: The Adventures of Flip-Flop Man in Vanuatu and Fiji

In J. Maarten Troost's new book, he again flees Washington D.C. for a life on the islands of the South Pacific. Kristin Van Tassel reviews his foray into the world of volcanoes, sharks, hookers and kava.

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‘Naked Tourist,’ ‘The Places in Between’ in the New York Times

It’s rare that the New York Times reviews a travel book, and even more rare when it reviews the same travel book twice. And I can’t remember the last travel book that made the cover of the Sunday Book Review. This weekend the paper hit the trifecta. Last Sunday, Lawrence Osborne’s The Naked Tourist: In Search of Adventure and Beauty in the Age of the Airport Mall landed a spot in a roundup of summer travel books; yesterday it got a full review from William Grimes, who called it a “a biting, highly amusing and occasionally profound inquiry into travel and its discontents.” Today, the cover of the Book Review features Tom Bissell’s stellar review of Rory Stewart’s The Places in Between, which chronicles the writer’s walk across Afghanistan in 2002. “Even in mild weather in an Abrams tank, such a trip would be mane-whitening,” Bissell writes. “But Stewart goes in the middle of winter, crossing through some territory still shakily held by the Taliban—and entirely on foot. There are some Medusa-slayingly gutsy travel writers out there—Redmond O’Hanlon, Jeffrey Tayler, Robert Young Pelton—but Stewart makes them look like Hilton sisters.”

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