Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
Neil Gaiman's Coraline is a dark fantasy tale about a girl who, together with her inattentive and self-absorbed parents, moves into a new home. She discovers a secret portal of sorts that transports her to a twisted alternate reality where there are 'other' versions of all the people that she knows (who have buttons in place of eyes!), and where cats can talk. Naturally, it's not all fun and games and she soon realizes that she's in trouble. It's essentially a children's book and is a fairly quick read (like one sitting quick). Bizarre and creepy, just the way I like it.
The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway)
Another short book (or novella, as they like to call em). I remember reading this as a kid and not getting it. Having now read it as an adult, I'm not sure I get it any better! Alright, so it's basically about an old fisherman who's had an incredible run of bad luck but never gives up hope. He finally hooks a big one and ends up being dragged along by it for a couple of days; it becomes a case of his will overcoming the obstacles nature hurls at him (a metaphor for life itself, perhaps). Alright I liked it, but I have to confess it's not one of those books I can see myself dying to re-read a few years down the line.
Memoirs of a Geisha (2005, film)
I thought Arthur Golden's book was terrific - vibrant, full of detail, evocative of a particular time and place, and featuring a personable and compelling main character for a narrator. The film, directed by Rob Marshall of Chicago (I hated it!) fame, captures most of the events of the book and the atmosphere accurately enough, but loses something in translation. The story, which begins in the 1930s or thereabouts, is about a girl who's taken from her home and brought up to live the life of a geisha. Much drama ensues as she aspires to become a successful geisha. The film is certainly lush, well acted, and well made overall, but it just lacks something. Perhaps it's because it can't achieve the same level of detail concerning geisha lifestyle, and because it lacks the distinctive narrator element of the book. It's an enjoyable film that doesn't deserve the apathy it's received from the critics, but it isn't great either.
Useless fact: This movie features a strange, awkward looking kiss between two of the protagonists - maybe one of the actors had too much garlic bread for lunch or something.
Extras (TV Series)
From the minds of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, creators of The Office, comes Extras. It's about a man named Andy (Gervais, brilliant as ever) and his friend Maggy, both of whom work as extras - Andy believes himself to be a real actor, and each episode essentially involves him trying to get himself a line in whatever production he's in while interacting with various real-life actors like Ben Stiller, Patrick Stewart, and Kate Winslet. While it doesn't quite reach the greatness of The Office (it lacks the range of quirky characters), it is very funny and features the same awkward brand of humour.