“This is 40” was hilariously funny. Some very short book reviews from my vacation. And the best viral videos of ’12

Film Title: This Is 40

I freely admit to giving anything Judd Apatow does a chance, because he gave me and the rest of the world “Freaks and Geeks,” one of the best TV shows I ever saw.
Apatow does a little too much gross-out humor for my taste, but his movies are funny and have heart and he really knows how to write “real people” in his movies.

Still, I was pretty surprised at how fantastic “This is 40” was. I saw it on New Year’s Eve and it had me laughing just about the whole way through.

I know critics have given it mixed reviews, but I loved it. Paul Rudd is terrific, Albert Brooks is his usual hilarious self as Rudd’s money-mooching, triplets-having father (I continue to argue that Brooks is underrated; he’s hilarious in everything), and even Apatow casting his own daughters in the flick works, because they’re cute and funny.

Leslie Mann was just OK; she kind of whines a lot even when she’s not trying to, and I just don’t think she’s that good of an actress. But the script is really funny, the supporting cast is great (Megan Fox provides some good moments), and as someone nearing 40 myself, I could sorta empathize with the characters.

Ignore the critics; go see “This is 40.” And if you don’t bust a gut at the scene involving Rudd and a hand-mirror, well, you might not laugh at anything.

**As I’m just catching up on the InterWebs after my vacation, I missed this fabulous end of 2012 video. The 50 best viral videos of 2012, all in one video. For my money, No. 11 (the Isaac Lip Dub Proposal) is still the video of the year. And yes, I just watched it again.

**Finally, with a couple of long plane flights and some nice laying on the beach/pool time, I got to plow through four books on vacation. Some mini-reviews of three of them (the fourth, Mark Kriegel’s biography of boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, I gave up on halfway through. Just didn’t like the writing style, and wasn’t that interested in Mancini’s life, to keep going).

The Obamas, by Jodi Kantor. Fascinating biography from a N.Y. Times correspondent on the First Couple, focusing on them as individuals but also as a couple from 2008-2012. I’m a political junkie so I ate up the “inside politics” stuff (man, Michelle Obama really didn’t like Rahm Emanuel), but the marriage dynamic between the Obamas is a lot more complicated than I would’ve thought.

Kantor seems pretty slanted against both Barack and Michelle for large parts of the book, and she takes a few surprisingly nasty shots at each. But the honest reporting is terrific, and we see Michelle as a tough-as-nails, backroom dealer constantly pushing her husband to try to do better.

Definitely recommend this book.

My Life As an Experiment, by A.J. Jacobs. Jacobs is a really funny writer for Esquire who does these bizarre “year in the life” books; one was reading the encyclopedia cover to cover, another was about living exactly as the Bible says for a year.
This one is a series of one-month experiments where Jacobs goes far from the norm; he tries something called “Radical Honesty,” he pretends to be a hot woman in an online dating experiment, and he lives as George Washington for a month.
It’s hilarious and surprisingly insightful; his prose is funny and to the point and he doesn’t waste time with boring details. His wife is beyond saintly for enduring his craziness, by the way.

The Best American Sports Writing, 2012: I have read every volume since it started in 1991 or so, and each year I’m amazed at how much good sports journalism there is. This year’s selections are all over the place, like usual; a few stories that stood out were S.L. Price’s tale of a Aliquippa, Pa. and its high school football team, holding a town together, and a great story by Bill Donahue in Runner’s World about a woman whose brain surgery made her a stronger endurance runner.

If you love great writing, BASW always comes through.

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