Monday, March 31, 2008

The Game Plan

The Game Plan was a rather entertaining family movie. Truthfully as I start to think more about what I watch with Kile getting older, I've started to realize there is not much out there in the way of family entertainment. It is always a welcome change to find a good family film these days.

While the plot is not original by any means, I was still entertained. The Rock portrays Joe Kingman, a superstar quarterback on a fictional Boston Team. Joe is an egomaniac and working toward winning his first "national championship." Out of the blue, a young girl, Peyton, shows up on his doorstep claiming to be his daughter. Peyton has a birth certificate and a letter from her mother as proof. She needs Joe to watch her for a month while her mother is in Africa. Joe is thrown for a loop and has many moments of bad parenting before discovering that there is more to life than himself.

The movie actually surprised me with a loop toward the end that I was not expecting - which I found very satisfying. Otherwise the movie was pretty typical with Joe learning to be a good father and how not to be so self-centered. It is not a cinematic masterpiece by any means, but was an enjoyable family film.

Night Road by A.M. Jenkins

I signed up at to review young adult novels. You get randomly picked to review novels you show an interest in. They send you a free copy and you just have to submit an online review. Pretty cool!

Unfortunately, my first book to review was not that fantastic. Night Road is a teen novel about vampires. For a young adult novel, I found the sexuality of the novel a bit off-putting. But then again, I was reading a lot more detailed romances at age 14 so what can I say! I'll admit that I only made it about 120 pages into the book and then I quit because it was SO BORING!!! Although it is supposed to be a road trip novel, no trip had taken place yet. A vampire named Cole had been summoned to New York to take a new vampire on the road to teach him how to be a vampire. For the first part that I read, it was just introducing characters and terms for people that aren't vampires, but live with vampires as sort of sex slaves/people to feed off of. It took WAY too long for an introduction. Hopefully it gets edited further before it is released!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

I actually finished this a few days ago. It was a very quick read. Although it wasn't my favorite Kinsella novel, it kept me riveted and wanting to finish it fast to find out how it would all end! Sophie Kinsella is also the author of the Shopaholic books. She is one of the best writers in the chic lic genre - her heroines are loveable flawed characters that always have hilarious adventures. I highly recommend her novels if you have not read them before.

Remember Me? just came out a few weeks ago. The concept is rather unoriginal, but Kinsella does a great job with it. As with Samantha Who? and Thirteen Going on 30, it's the story of a woman, Lexi Smart, with amnesia that awakens to discover three years of her life missing. While she now appears to be rich and beautiful, it also turns out that she has lost most of her good friends and is generally considered to be a witch. Lexi also finds out she is now married to a rich and handsome man. While at first Lexi thinks she has awakened into a Cinderella existance, she discovers her new life is not so perfect, especially with the loss of her friends. Will Lexi be able to win her friends back and become the person she used to be? The book has a great ending.

At first I was annoyed thinking, how could one person change this much in three years. But by the end, there was a good explanation and I was convinced. Overall, I really liked the story and thought it was a good book. I recommend it to anyone looking for a quick and fun read!

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Fetch by Chris Humphreys

The Fetch by Chris Humphreys is my March book club selection for the Kewaunee Library. Good thing I finished it today since our meeting is this Thursday!

The Fetch is a young adult fantasy novel. If you are like me and like sci-fi and fantasy adventures, you will probably like this book. The story is an original tale of a young 15-year old boy named Sky who lives in England. After his grandmother's death, and old sea chest has shown up at his house. Secreted away in the chest, Sky finds old artifacts from his mysterious Norwegian grandfather. With the guidance of his grandfather's spirit and help from his cousin Kristin who is visiting during a break from school, Sky learns how to use his "fetch." His fetch is a part of his soul that is able to travel through time and inhabit different ancestors. As one with his ancestor Bjorn, he goes on a Viking adventure. Things are not all rosey as Sky discovers the killer inside while being a Viking and also learns that his grandfather may have not been all that he seemed.

I enjoyed this book. It was a good adventure novel with peril and great twists and turns. I also learned things about the Vikings that I didn't know before. Although some of it I may have predicted early, but since this is a young adult novel - it's not too surprising. I'm looking forward to reading the follow-up book Vendetta. It's on my "to read" list!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Seven Up by Janet Evanovich

I just finished number seven of the Stephanie Plum Series, Seven Up, a couple of days ago. Like the previous six novels, it was a light, fun, and witty read. Perfect for when you are stressed out!

In Seven Up, Stephanie is after Eddie DeChooch, and an old boyfriend of Grandma Mazur's who has slipped his bond for dealing with stolen cigerattes. After going to pick him up with Lulu, Eddie becomes a lot more serious of a bond skipper when Stephanie discovered a dead body in his garage. Somehow Dougie and Mooner, loveable druggies from book six, are also involved with this mystery and disappear. With all of these mysteries to solve, Stephanie also has to decide whether she wants to become Mrs. Joe Morelli and whether she should help out her "perfect" sister who has moved back home and proven to not have the perfect life.

There are plenty of laugh out loud moments. My only problem with the book is that I'm getting tired of the Joe-Stephanie-Ranger love triangle. I just want her to end up happy with one of them!! I guess that's why I don't read these books back to back through the entire series or I would start to get really annoyed!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Other Bolyen Girl

Yes - I actually went to a movie, in a theatre! Quite exciting for me. My best friend Jenn was up to visit for the weekend last weekend and we went to Green Bay to watch The Other Bolyen Girl on sunday. My favorite part of the movie experience was on leaving the theatre, Jenn said, "That didn't end the way I thought it would." Jenn you crack me up sometimes!! Any historical fiction movie about Anne Boleyn is bound to end one way (off with her head!!) as much as we wish Henry VIII was a little more compassionate towards his wifes! So in other words, if you are looking for a happy movie, this is not for you! Also if you are looking for a historically accurate portrayal of Anne and Mary Boleyn, there are a lot of plot holes and obvious inaccuracies that will make you angry. I was willing to overlook these for the sake of the story!

I have read the novel that this is based on, but it has been quite a few years so I can't complain on how well it did or didn't follow the novel. It did make some changes that I approved of, although I noticed other things were off, I was willing to go with it.

The overall plot of the movie was about the rise and fall of the Boleyns. Uncle Norfolk and Thomas Boleyn decide that Thomas' eldest daughter Anne should try to capture the eye of King Henry now that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon has soured. During a trip to visit the Boleyns, Anne inadvertently leads to the King being in an accident. The King is attended by Anne's sister Mary, a tender hearted young girl who has only recently married. He is interested in her and has her and Anne sent to court. There Mary becomes his mistress and falls in love with Henry. Meanwhile Anne runs off with young Henry Percy. He is not allowed to marry without council and the King's permission because he is a noblemen so the Boleyns separate the two and send Anne to France. Anne is angry at Mary for telling her father of the marriage. Mary becomes pregnant with the King's child and Anne returns to England to keep Henry's attention. She refuses to sleep with him and he finds himself smitten with her. Although Mary bears him a son, he sends her away and chases after Anne, breaking Mary's heart. Henry then tries to annul his marriage to Catherine so he can be with Anne . . . and the course of history takes over!!

I loved the performances of Scarlett Johnason as Mary, Natalie Portman as Anne, Kirsten Scott Thomas as their mother Lady Boleyn, and Eric Bana as Henry VIII. They were fantastic performances. I especially liked Scott Thomas as a suffering woman who does not like her daughters being used as pawns. Eric Bana was HOT as Henry the VIII. I don't think Henry VIII has ever looked so sexy. The movie did a good job as showing how Anne turned him from a "faithful" husband and Catholic into someone who no longer has respect for his wife and was dismayed at his loss of religion. It's easy to see how what Anne turned him into lead him down the road to having six wives. The costumes and scenary were also fantastic.

The only complaints I had about the movie were that I wish it had focused more on Mary. It was supposed to be Mary's story, but Anne's is so compelling she sort of runs away with the movie. One giant gape in the script is - what happened to Mary's 1st husband. He is around looking sad and then he's gone. They could have at least mentioned that he died!

Otherwise I thought the movie was a great tale of greed, corruption, and lust. I liked it - although I'm glad that I don't live in those times!!

The website for the movie has the great trailer on it and some good pictures. Click here!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Jane Austen Book Club

First of all, I have read the book, The Jane Austen Book Club, but it was so long ago I can not say if it was accurately portrayed in the movie. I thought the Jane Austen Book Club movie was a good movie in it's own right.

The Jane Austen Book Club focuses on a group of six individuals in California that have started a . . . Jane Austen Book Club to read all six of Jane Austen's novels. While some members are old friends, some are new. Each member has a problem with love and/or life that is nicely tied up by the movies end. The Wikipedia article on this movie has the director's take on how each movie character relates to an Austen character. I don't really agree with all of them - but it's interesting to read. My favorite part of the movie (and book) is Jocelyn and Grigg. While at times Jocelyn seems like Emma, they also at times mirror Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. I love how Grigg loves science fiction and finally gets Jocelyn to read it!

It was a good movie, but I would recommend having some knowledge of Austen before you view it. Otherwise you will be lost during book club discussions on why some members feel the way they do about characters and take it personally.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Elizabeth: The Golden Age was a beautiful movie (great costumes and cinematography) with fantastic acting (Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen, Geoffrey Rush), but sufferered from a poor script.

The story line was set during an exciting time of Elizabeth's reign, the Mary Queen of Scots fiasco, the Spanish Armada - it should have been great! Instead the movie seemed rather forced to me. I didn't like the anti-Catholic sentiments. Religion was a very important part of the politics of the day, but both Protestant and Catholics alike were causing trouble. Phillip II of Spain was Catholic, but was also a power hungry individual, being Catholic was not his full reason for sending the Armada to England.

In this movie, Elizabeth is getting older and still being shown heads of states around the world to marry. She is interested in none, but is interested in Walter Raleigh, a manly man, who has just returned from America. She of course can not marry him. He falls in love with one of her ladies-in-waiting, and meets Elizabeth's angry when they secretly marry. The "evil" Catholics are plotting Elizabeth's downfall and using her cousin Mary Queen of Scots (a Catholic) as part of their plot. (What was up with all of the died red clothes whenever they showed the plotters. I was confused). The plot is discovered after a failed assasination attempt and Mary is executed, much to Elizabeth's dismay. The Armada comes to attack England, but the English are victorious. The movie ends with Elizabeth holding Raleigh's baby with the epilogue that she may never have a child of her own, but she is the mother of all of England.

The plot sounds good, but I thought the execution of it in the movie didn't flow so well. First of all, I really like Samantha Morton, but she was miscast as Mary Queen of Scots. Mary should have been a beautiful, fiery woman with red hair of her own and a match for Elizabeth. She was not. As I noted above, the second problem with the movie was using the "evil" catholics as a plot device instead of giving the entire picture. Thirdly I think they tried to do too much. Focusing on just Mary or the Armada would have allowed for a fuller plot development.

Overall it was an okay movie, but I liked Elizabeth (the first movie) much better.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

I finished The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham earlier this week. It is my Mom's Club book club pick for the month of April (I'm ahead of the game!). I really liked the novel and read through it relatively quickly. It had nice short chapters that kept me intrigued. I watched the new movie version of this book last fall and I think the movie not only did a good job of bringing the novel to the big screen, but actually improved upon it. More of that discussion later. . .

The general plot of the novel is that a young woman named Kitty marries a shy bacterolgist, Walter Fane, even though she does not love him. She mostly marries him because she is getting old (25) and her much younger sister is about to be married. Kitty is married first and returns to Hong Kong with Walter before her sister's wedding, which makes her happy. While in Hong Kong, she meets the older Charlie Townsend and they have an affair. The novel starts with Walter discovering the affair. Walter tells her that she either has to get Charlie to agree to divorce his wife and marry her or she has to travel to the interior of China with him to help in a Cholera epidemic. Of course Charlie refuses to divorce his wife as Walter had predicted and Walter and Kitty travel to the interior of China. While there, Kitty learns a lot about her husband and herself. She works with small children at an orphanage and really comes into herself as a woman. I will say no more or the book/movie will be ruined for you!

I really liked Kitty's journey from a vane and selfish woman to someone that really started to care about other people. I didn't like some of Kitty's racist remarks about the orphans, but as the novel was written in the 1920's, you can't help but expect some of that!

I thought the movie improved on the novel as it really gave a more in depth portrayal of Walter and also showed a lot about the work he was doing to stop the Cholera epidemic, which I found fascinating. I also liked the ending of the movie better. SPOILER ALERT DON'T READ AHEAD IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE ENDING. I liked how in the movie Walter and Kitty find love although in the novel, Kitty never loves Walter, but only grows to respect him. I also liked how in the movie we don't see Kitty again until five years after Walter's death when she meets Charlie Townsend on the street with young Walter. He tries to set up a meeting, but she rejects him. I like that much better than the torrid last bit of steamy loving they had before she abruptly leaves for England in the book. It was degrading for Kitty.

I highly recommend both novel and film. Both were excellent.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Simpsons Movie

Ben and I watched the Simpsons Movie last night and I must admit, nether one of us was that overly impressed. It was basically like a giant TV episode, but without the clarity and focus of a half an hour show. It was entertaining, but I actually have seen many episodes that are better than the movie!

The overall plot of the movie is that Homer and his rescued pig "Spider-Pig" has caused an environmental disaster by dumping pig poo into Lake Springfield. The poo was the last pollutant to tip it all over the edge. The EPA takes over and puts the city under a dome. The Simpsons manage to escape the city and movie to Alaska, but they are moved to save the day and the town of Springfield.

There were several laugh out loud moments and it was worth seeing once. But as I said above, the episodes you see on TV are actually more entertaining.

Queen of Babble in the Big City by Meg Cabot

Queen of Babble in the Big City was a light chick lit read by Meg Cabot. It was an entertaining, fast read. It is the sequel of Queen of Babble, which I read last summer.

In this novel, Lizzie is moving to New York City with her best friend Shari, Shari's boyfriend Chaz, and Lizzie's boyfriend Luke. Lizzie and Shari look for an apartment together, but ultimately end up living with their boyfriends when they can't find anything and Luke asks Lizzie to live with him. Lizzie also has problems finding a job in fashion. She ends up finding her dream job working as a wedding gown restoration specialist - but unfortunately it is an unpaid job. She has to take another job as a receptionist at Chaz's father's law firm to make ends meet. Will Lizzie be able to succeed at her dream job and actually get paid for it? Will her relationship with Luke advance to the next level? What is wrong with Shari? You have to read it to find out.

It's a typical chick lit novel with a midwestern every girl moving to New York City, but I found it to be a good entertaining read.

The Nanny Diaries

Ben's Mom and I watched the Nanny Diaries last Friday night while Ben and Ben's Dad took a nap. Yep, it's a chick flick and not one that appears to be very entertaining for guys. I went into watching this movie with very high expectations due to a few friends telling me how excellent it was. I thought it was a good movie, but not the best. In other words, it was good to watch once, but not a chick flick I would enjoy over and over again!!

The Nanny Diaries is about a young woman named Annie who is at a crux in life and isn't quite sure what she wants to be doing. She accidently is mistaken for a nanny and gets a job with a rich couple (Mr. and Mrs. X) caring for their young son, Grayer. Poor Grayer acts out because he just wants his parents to pay attention to him. Annie finds herself lost in this 24/7 job especially because of Grayer's love and need for her. She also finds love with "Harvard Hottie," a cute guy that lives in the same apartment building as the X's.

I really like Scarlett Johansson as Annie and Laura Linney at Mrs. X. The rest of the characters were never really fully developed and likeable, which was a flaw with the movie. Also it was kind of a downer of a movie. I was near tears for young Grayer and the lack of love in his life. It was sad.

I have the book from the library so hopefully I'll be able to read that in the next few weeks and compare!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Atonement by Ian McEwan

The older I get, the more like my mother I become. It's scary to discover such things about yourself! When I got to the end of this novel, I cried. And when I tried to tell Ben about the book, I found myself choked up again. Is there something about getting older or becoming a mother that makes one more emotional?

Atonement is one of the best novels I have read in awhile. The first section starts off rather slow, but it sets up the last three excellent sections. Section 1 tells the story of young thirteen year old Briony Tallis. She is starting to become a writer by writing a play for her young cousins to perform for her brother and his friend Paul Marshall. Meanwhile, she witnesses several scenes between her elder sister Cecilia and Robbie Turner that she misinterprets. Cecilia and Robbie went to Cambridge together, but Robbie (the son of the housekeeper) is back working as a gardener for the summer. The flames of love have ignited through these events, but tragedy strikes as Briony accuses Robbie of a terrible crime.

Part 2 is during WWII and the Battle of Dunkirk. I knew nothing about this retreat. It was very realistically written, and I couldn't put it down. Part 3 is also a realistic portrayal of Briony as a young nurse in London during WWII. As an 18-year old, Briony realizes that she had made a mistake as a child and tries to atone for it. Part 4 is in 1999 when Briony is an old lady. This is the part that brought me to tears, but I can't really discuss it without ruining the novel for those who haven't read it yet.

I liked the novels approach to the story of a Briony as a young writer with a vivid imagination. It only took a twist of this imagination for Briony to ruin two other lives, but it also only takes a twist of her imagination to bring the lovers back together again. That's probably saying too much, but I really liked this prospective.

I can't wait to see the movie. I'm on the library list - but it will probably be a few months!

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Ben and I watched the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford over the weekend. Or rather we watched half of it and I finished it up on Tuesday while I was dusting. It seems by all of the reviews that I've read of the movie that most people love it, but others absolutely hated it. I found myself in between and consider it a mediocre movie that could have been great with better editing.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford tells the story of the end of Jesse James' life. From his introduction to Bob Ford, to his last train robbery, to his paranoia, it is a great portrait of Jesse James and Brad Pitt did a fantastic job. Casey Affleck also did a great job playing Robert Ford as a very young man who has hero worship for Jesse James, but yet fears for his own life through Jesse's paranoia.

The acting was fantastic, the cinematography was beautiful, and I loved the voice over story telling. What I didn't like was that the movie seemed to drag on endlessly. I found myself just wanting Jesse to be shot! The movie was 2.5 hours long and really should have been two hours or less. I think they really should have taken out a lot of the material from the first half of the movie. There were a lot of pointless scenes that didn't help much with character development or scenes that went too long.

If you only have time for one of the westerns that came out last fall, I recommend 3:10 to Yuma rather than this movie.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Hot Fuzz

Ben and I watched Hot Fuzz this past weekend. Hot Fuzz is a British comedy from the same people who put together Shaun of the Dead. As with Shaun of the Dead, Ben seemed to enjoy the movie much more than I did. I'm not sure if it's a guy thing or if Ben just gets the British humor better than I do!

Hot Fuzz is a parady of buddy cop movies. Nicholas Angel is a cop that is just too good at his job in London so he is promoted to a Sargent and transferred to the sleepy English village of Sanford. Sanford appears to be a sleep village with no crime, but when "accidents" start to appear at a greater frequency, Sgt. Angel starts to suspect that there is more to the village than meets the eye. He is partnered with the police chief's son Danny much to his dismay as Danny is not a very good cop. Together with Danny he investigates the "accidents" and learns that there is a horror in the village that only a giant gun battle can contain.

The movie took a rather strange twist in the middle and made it become a much different kind of movie. I was entertained, but didn't think of it as a fantastic film. I read a lot of good reviews of it so maybe my expectations were too high - or maybe I don't find British humor that funny. I'm not sure!

There are some rather gruesome deaths in the movie so it's not appropriate for young ones. Kile was innocently playing would always happen to look at the screen during those moments. If he is tramatised later in life, I know why.

Has anyone else seen this movie? Did you love it/hate it? I'd be interested in your opinion of it.