Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Wish I had more time!!

I wish I had time to write reviews for all these movies, but I just don't!

Dear Frankie (Awesome drama!)

Daredevil (didn't watch the whole thing - bleh)

Van Helsing (couldn't even get into it)

The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl (the kids LOVED this!)

My Life So Far (Thought it would be good, but it....wasn't.)

The Village (Oooh, pleasantly surprised me! And I didn't guess the ending!)

The Day After Tomorrow (Oh, so implausible.)

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (An oldie, but a goodie - and with Christian Slater too!)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Sahara (2005)

Dirk Pitt!!! A Dirk Pitt movie!

I have enjoyed Clive Cussler's novels since I read
Raise the Titanic in high school. Dirk Pitt is the hero of Mr. Cussler's novels, an explorer for NUMA - the National Underwater and Marine Agency. I haven't read many lately, but perhaps I should!

Then I found out that Sahara was a Dirk Pitt movie and I was excited! But it didn't get very good reviews, so I didn't bother seeing it in the theatre. When it came out on DVD, however, I was RIGHT THERE waiting. Netflix sent it promptly.

Sahara is the story of a World Health Organization (WHO) doctor who is tracking down the source of some mysterious disease in Africa. She is attacked by an evil stranger, but then rescued by none other than Dirk Pitt himself (played in Sahara by Matthew
McConaughey). Of course, they go on to track down the source of this disease, facing tons of obstacles, villains, and SAND. Dirk himself is in Africa on the track of an Civil War ironclad ship that disappeared over a hundred years ago.

I'm not sure why Sahara got such bad reviews. I found it very entertaining. Of course, it's not realistic, but it's an ACTION MOVIE! An ADVENTURE! I don't think we watch movies to be reminded of real life, do we? At least not all of the time!

Steve Zahn plays Al Giordino, Dirk's friend and colleague. I found their relationship very believable, as well as fodder for lots of fun moments in the film. Al gets to be the comic relief, but he also gets to play a large part in the success of the mission. He loves his hats and he is great with firearms! :-) Can you tell I like Mr. Zahn? ;-)

As my sister Debbie mentioned in her 'review' of the movie, Lambert Wilson has a role in this film. It is always interesting to see him as he played such a lovely villain in The Matrix: Reloaded - The Merovingian.

I'm not usually a huge fan of chase scenes, but I thought the boat chase scene was unusual enough to be watchable! There were so many cool moments throughout the movie - yes, they were unbelievable, but that's fine with me!

I watched this movie twice before I sent it back to Netflix and once it was gone, I wished it wasn't. It was a great movie! Then again, maybe it was just Steve Zahn. :-)

IMDB Sahara page review

Monday, August 29, 2005

Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith

Let me preface this by saying that I am not really a huge Star Wars fan. Yes, I saw the first Trilogy (oddly called Episodes 4,5, & 6) in the theatres when they came out. In fact, I remember my sister and I begging my dad to let us PUH-LEEEEZE go see Star Wars when it was HELD! OVER! 52 WEEKS! Everyone we knew had seen it, except us. So we finally got to do it. Must have been 1978.

I didn't really like the looks of Episode 1 when it came out a couple years ago. That Darth Maul.... :::shudders::: Ew..... And why would anyone need the backstory anyway? *shrug*

But then I realized I had a son who was more into Star Wars than he was into Lord of the Rings. (How did that happen, you ask? I am in no way responsible. I did everything in my albeit limited powers to influence him the other way.) So, he missed Episodes 1 and 2 in the theatre, due to me, but ended up watching them on DVD. And of course, he loved them. So when Episode 3 came out, he begged and begged.

It's PG-13, I said! It's dark! It's too intense! But, of course, LOTR is all of those things too. And so, I gave my permission for him to see ROTS in the theatre. My sister's husband is a rabid SW fan and I asked him to take David, which he did.

David was enthralled. He even said he nearly cried. I was amazed, but still had no desire to see it myself.

(Gosh, this isn't much of a review, is it? I guess this is episodes 1, 2, and 3 of How and Why Lisa Watched Star Wars. LOL)

Well, after being totally surrounded by light sabers, Star Wars books, drawings of TIE fighters and droids, and constant Star Wars chatter, it all started to sink in. Then David started READING Star Wars novels. Including this one. Matthew Stover's Star Wars Episode 3

Well, being that it isn't a KIDS book, I thought I had better read it too. To make sure it was appropriate and all. Well, it was a GOOD BOOK. Well-written. Interesting story. So, I thought, maybe I should take David to see Ep3 again.

And so, there we were, with friend in tow, buying tickets for a movie I never thought I'd see, at least not on the big screen.

The familiar music started. The words started coming up the screen, just like the original Star Wars movie. V. cool. David was so excited he was bouncing in his seat.

The movie didn't feel as long as it actually was. I was very into the storyline. None of it was new to me since the novel I read was a novelization of the movie. Actually I am glad I read it first, because there was a lot MORE in the novel than there was in the movie. Much more of the internal struggles each character, especially Anakin, faced. More introductory information for nearly every scene. And some scenes that evidently didn't make it into the movie at all.

The plot was tightly written, and it had to be - to end up where it had to go. We all know how it ends - and how Episode 4 begins - but it was interesting to see how the story got there.

The acting was not as highly developed as I would have liked. Hayden Christensen (Anakin) and Natalie Portman (Padme') seemed especially wooden and their dialogue was often corny sounding. But Christensen seems to have mastered the evil smoldering look, and that was enough for most of his scenes. He is also great at the fighting. Portman is good at standing around looking beautiful and innocent, which is mostly enough for Padme'. I found myself longing for an actor, such as Elijah Wood, who knows how to communicate emotion with just a glance. (Well, since I mentioned Elijah, I may as well point out the LOTR connections, eh?)

Christopher Lee (Saruman in LOTR) plays a very springy Count Dooku, who finds a bad end at the hands of Anakin Skywalker. Bruce Spence was the Mouth of Sauron in LOTR: ROTK and plays a character called Tion Medon in ROTS. (He was also the Trainman in the Matrix: Revolutions!) That apparently is the end of the LOTR-ROTS connection. Back to your regularly scheduled SW review.

Beyond those two actors, the acting seemed to improve - Ewan McGregor in particular standing out as extremely convincing. And what giant shoes HE had to fill as Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The fight sequences were exciting - we were all on the edge of our seats. The special effects are hugely improved over the original trilogy, which is to be expected since such great strides have occurred in filmmaking in the last 30 years.

Speaking of that, I was more than a little worried about Yoda. I thought it would be humorous to see his fighting scenes, but they were pretty convincing, as was his CGI self.

The violence I had heard about - the younglings being murdered, the horrible lava river scene, etc... - wasn't as bad as I had imagined it to be. Good thing too, since I had allowed my 10 year old son to see it without me.

I think I am at a bit of a loss, having only seen parts of Episode 1 and none of Episode 2. I know I don't have even a dribble of sympathy for Anakin. C'est la vie. Perhaps after I read those novels, I will understand his motivations, as my friend Jennifer tells me I need to do.

All in all, I am very pleased I went to see this film in the theatre. This one rates a really smiley Legolas!

IMDB Page Review

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Ocean's Twelve (2004)

Ocean's Twelve was one of the most interminably tiresome movies I have ever watched. I didn't even bother to finish it. (Which is really so unlike me!) I turned it off 10 minutes before the end (Thank God for that feature on DVD - to know how much more is in the movie) because whatever happened at the end held not the slightest bit of significance to me.

The only part I thought was interesting was when Julia Roberts as Tess was pretending to be Julia Roberts and Bruce Willis showed up. I also liked some of the camera techniques.

Catherine Zeta-Jones was totally unbelievable in her role as some sort of European detective. Brad Pitt and George Clooney were nice to look at, but uninteresting otherwise. The rest of the characters were uninspired and one-dimensional.

It probably doesn't help that I didn't like Ocean's Eleven either. I don't generally like books or movies where the protagonists are "bad guys". So, I am not sure why I even brought Ocean's Twelve home from the library. My library just doesn't have much in the way of DVD selection. I'm just glad I didn't waste ANY money on it. Better make sure I get it back on time, so I don't have to pay any late fees. It wouldn't be worth it.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

A Mom Just Like You

Reviewed Vickie Farris's A Mom Just Like You on my homeschooling blog. Go HERE to read it.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

Most thirtysomethings grew up watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) starring Gene Wilder every year on TV. Yes, that was back when there were no DVD players and no VCR's. We actually had to plan our lives around the TV shows we wanted to watch. But, I digress.

Of course, the Willy Wonka movie was based upon a book by Roald Dahl - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, written in 1964. The book has turned out to be a classic, beloved by children (and adults) everywhere. The Gene Wilder movie took a great deal of liberty with the book, however.

I suppose, with the plethora of remakes of shows from the 60's and 70's, it was inevitable that someone would decide to try his hand at reworking the Willy Wonka story. Tim Burton was an obvious choice, with his love for the slightly (ok, MORE than slightly) unconventional storyline. Burton has a coterie of actors that he seems to rely on, and many of these show up in Charlie. You'd have to live under a rock not to realize that Johnny Depp has taken on the difficult role of Willy Wonka himself. Depp is up to the challenge, giving Wonka an offbeat, slightly troubled, self-deprecating air.

Burton's Charlie is much closer to the book, with the exception of an unnecessary subplot involving Wonka's father. The movie would have been better without this rabbit trail, although it is a treat to see Christopher Lee in the role. Drifting away to this storyline repeatedly throughout the film, however, mars Dahl's tightly woven narrative.

That said, it is a treat to see so many scenes and lines directly taken from the book. Having just finished reading it to my children, I was very familiar with the text, and I enjoyed noticing the similarities. One scene taken right from the book was Veruca Salt's demise involving squirrels, much preferable to the "bad egg" scene in the 1971 film.

Freddie Highmore is just delightful as the sweet poverty-stricken Charlie Bucket. He hits just the right attitude, somewhere between melancholy and angelic. Johnny Depp had worked with Highmore in Finding Neverland and was impressed enough to recommend him for the role of Charlie. The actors playing the other children all do a remarkable job as well, especially considering that their roles are essentially one-dimensional. I especially like one scene in which Veruca and Violet Beauregarde declare themselves best friends and then glare maliciously at each other.

The sets are, of course, beautifully done and amazingly detailed. The bleak streets of the city are set in contrast to the candy-colored world inside the factory. The cleverly executed great glass elevator is most impressive, especially the bit of slapstick Depp performs with it.

How can I not say something about the Oompa-Loompas? They are an integral part of the book, performing their moral judgments of each child in song. However, the orange-faced characters of the older film with their memorable chorus could certainly not be repeated, nor were they as Dahl had written them. Burton went a different route (big surprise there, eh?) by casting just one actor, Deep Roy, to play ALL the Oompa-Loompas by the magic of computers. Roy does an astonishing job which required him to don many different outfits and learn a lot of dialogue. I remember thinking that he probably has as much screen time as any of the other actors, including Depp and Highmore.

Much more could be said about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. However, I will leave you with these final thoughts. In reflection, I like the film even more now than than I did when I left the theatre Friday night. However, I had feared that I would not like this film. How could it compare to the movie with Gene Wilder? What I had seen of Depp's portrayal of Wonka in previews and clips actually made me nervous about the movie instead of enthusiastic. Would Burton update the film to make it unrecognizable from its literary origins?

However, as soon as I saw the beginning credits, my doubts fell away. I was charmed from the moment I saw Wonka's hand placing the Golden Tickets on the bars of chocolate. And, may I just say that, surprisingly, there ARE people in the world who don't know the story. For, as Charlie finally unwrapped that Golden Ticket, there was at least one audible gasp of awe. And that feeling of awe was contagious and it remained with me throughout the remainder of the film.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

4 Camping Novels

While camping I read 3-1/2 novels. Finished the 4th one when I came home.

Here they are, in the order I read them, and incidentally also from worst to best.

The Cure - David Shobin
- Dr realizes drug is causing terrible side effects
This predictable book was not nearly as enjoyable as I had hoped it would be. Far better examples of the medical mystery genre (best exemplified by Robin Cook) are easily found. The characters were not believable and the plot itself was quite far fetched. However, I did enjoy reading it, probably mostly because I actually got to "Read A Book" for the first time in ages!

Summer Island - Kristin Hannah - Famous mom's relationship with her daughters
My next choice was Summer Island. About 70 pages in, I realized I had read the book before. I imagine that it was possibly a Reader's Digest Condensed Book, which I read a lot of a few years back. This one made me cry a lot, but some of the underlying themes made me wary. (Example: Homosexuals in long term monogamous relationships)

Manhattan is My Beat - Jeffery Deaver - Imaginative video store clerk solves a mystery
This one was much more enjoyable. I love everything I have read by Deaver, but I do prefer his Lincoln Rhyme series. This novel was a stand alone novel, and it contained a twist I didn't see coming! LOVE THAT!

The Genesis Code - John Case - PI's sister and nephew are murdered and he uncovers a conspiracy
This was the best of the lot. I didn't choose it first because I didn't expect it to be as good as the others, but I was surprised. Although some things seemed predictable, I did NOT expect the final conclusions. The ending seemed a little contrived and even too quickly resolved, but the novel on the whole was entertaining and the characters were nicely done.

I am now reading A Mom Just Like You by Vicki Farris a non fiction homeschooling book by a mom of 10. I am almost done, so review will come soon.

Also planning to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Friday night, so my review of that will appear soon. I am reading this novel to the kids, as well.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Ice Princess (2005)

A "G" rated movie! About girls ice skating! And academics! Sounded good.

But then I had second thoughts. Disney. Feminism. Hmmm...

But I decided to go see it anyway with my girls, ages 8 and 3. James, age 5, tagged along. (David, age 10, declined my offer. LOL)

20 minutes into the film, my three-year-old lost interest. She decided that ballet dancing in the aisle was far preferable to sitting watching the movie. The lovely ice skating (as well as the ballet classes the skaters take) motivated her to dance, dance, dance! So, I spent much of the movie standing in the hallway into the theatre (with a view of the screen). This is the same child that watched ALL of The Incredibles. This movie is much shorter. Go figure.

My eight-year-old was utterly enthralled. Afterwards she said it was the best movie she had ever seen. The fickle opinions of a young girl!

Michelle Trachtenburg glowed as the main character, a high school physics 'geek' who develops an interest in ice skating as a result of a science project. Kim Cattrall, as her coach, and Joan Cusack, as her mother, had very little material to work with and delivered sadly limited performances. Cusack especially is capable of far more.

The plot was a little far-fetched, but fun all the same. I didn't particularly like the conclusion. Why do Disney movies always have the main characters ignoring their parents' counsel? OK, that was a rhetorical question. I don't really need an answer. But it bothers me just the same.

As far as movies go, this one is pretty clean. But sometimes we have to look beyond whether or not a film is clean or not and discern what the deeper meanings are. This one says "Follow your dreams", "Parents just don't understand", "Sports are more fulfilling than academics", and "Teenagers have to rebel." However, it also says, "Cheating is bad", "Work hard at whatever you're doing", and "You can achieve your dreams".

Maybe I am reading too much into a child's movie, or maybe I tend to over-analyze movies. But I think these themes are worth consideration.

I do think this film is worth a viewing for anyone with an interest in ice skating or for many young girls. However, I will be sure to set aside time to discuss these themes and not just allow them to simmer unchallenged in my children's minds.

25 Worst Movies of All Time?

GQ has picked the 25 worst films ever made. Here's the list and my own comments. Movies I have seen are in bold. How many have YOU seen?

#25 Smokey and the Bandit 1977 - I haven't seen this.
#24 Purple Rain 1984 - I loved this movie!! Loved the music! Loved Prince!!
#23 The Godfather: Part III 1990 - Haven't seen ANY of the Godfather movies.
#22 Rocky III 1982 - If I have seen this, I don't remember.
#21 Perfect 1985 - Another one I haven't seen. (Probably because I am definitely NOT a Travolta fan.)
#20 Boxing Helena 1993 - Still another I haven't made time to see.
#19 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?1966 - OK, this is getting repetitive.
#18 Black and White 2000 - OK, THIS one I HAVE seen. Only because Elijah Wood was in it. He kisses Brooke Shields. And THAT I had to see. But it is a BAD BAD movie. Yep. Highly NOT recommended.
#17 Point Break 1991 - [Looks indignant] I suppose I should be thankful that the previous 8 movies weren't Keanu's. I didn't like PB when I saw it in the early 90's. But I like it now. LOL
#16 Son of Ali Baba 1952 - Nope. Another one I don't ever have to watch.
#15 Vanilla Sky 2001 - Had no interest in this one.
#14 Il Postino 1994 - OK, I am beginning to sound like a broken record.
#13 When a Man Loves a Woman 1994 - Nope. Not this one either.
#12 Legend 1985 - No, can you believe I haven't taken in this flick?
#11 When Time Ran Out 1980 - Sigh. No again.
#10 Flash Gordon 1980 - I am SO not a Sci-fi fan.
#9 Jet Pilot 1957 - Don't think I have EVER seen any John Wayne movie, let alone his apparent worst film.
#8 Cocktail 1988 - I have seen this one. And I didn't like it. And please notice this gives Tom Cruise TWO movies on the worst list. And how many are Keanu's so far?? Hmmm?
#7 Raw Deal 1986 - Arnold Schwarzenegger. Nuff said.
#6 Hot Dog...The Movie 1984 - Um. No.
#5 Red Dawn 1984 - Oh man! I loved this movie!! I did! Can it really be the 5th worst movie of all time? (And Patrick Swayze's second one on the list, please note. lol)
#4 The Poseidon Adventure 1972 - No. I was barely alive.
#3 New Jack City 1991 - Nope again.
#2 American Gigolo 1980 - LOL I was too young to see this in 1980 and never had any interest in Gere til, um, lately. LOL
#1 Road House 1989- Oooh, Swayze's THIRD movie on the list! LOL I have seen this one. And I hated it.

Well, I cannot believe that Gigli isn't on this list. LOL I think that's the worse movie I have ever seen. (Although Black and White does come close. I didn't watch all of that one though.) And Surviving Christmas is pretty bad as well.

Here's the link if you want to see pix of these terrible films. LOL

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Much Anticipated Upcoming Movies

Well, I am getting excited about a few movies coming out, and NO, Star Wars is not one of them! LOL I don't plan to see that.

I don't go to the theatre for every movie; I save lots of them for DVD. There are a few that I will pay full price in the theatre for, however, and these are them:

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory - July
The Libertine - August in limited release
A History of Violence - September
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - December
A Scanner Darkly - March 2006

There could be others, but these stand out!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

Kingdom of Heaven is a film I have been anticipating for a long time. It was released on Friday and I made it a priority to see on its release date. Maryann, Ann, Tracy, and Lynn went with me.

Balian (Orlando Bloom) is a blacksmith who finds out that he is the illegitimate son of a knight who comes to recruit him for the Crusades. Balian ends up in Jerusalem, taking a stand to protect the people of the city.

I often found myself making Lord of the Rings comparisons, not least because of Orlando Bloom's presence in both films. Unbeknownst to me until after viewing was that Marton Csokas was also in both films - playing the evil character Guy (husband of Sybilla) in KOH and Celeborn (husband of Galadriel) in LOTR. Many lines and scenes reminded me of LOTR as well. At one point, I thought Balian would shout, "What say you!" One reviewer pointed out that the viewer nearly expects ents and elves to come to the rescue! (

Although the movie has some stunning cinematography, I was exceedingly annoyed by the battle scenes. The filming was intentionally shaky or blurred during the fighting and the blood spattering was overkill.

I felt that Orlando Bloom was able to carry the weight of the movie well, his first turn at being the main character. I was also impressed at how well he has grown up. I sat in front of a few drooling fangirls, who let out audible sighs at Balian's shirtless scenes. Maryann and I kept our drooling silent. ;-) Many excellent actors - Liam Neeson, Jeremy Irons, David Thewliss, and Edward Norton among them - rounded out the cast.

The plot, on the other hand, was ragged and confusing. The fates of some characters was left ambiguous (such as Guy). Other plot points, such as the shipwreck and Balian's time with his father, were skimmed over so quickly that I had a bit of trouble following the storyline. Two and a half hours were not enough to tell this whole story clearly. However, I have heard rumors of an additional 80 minutes on the DVD, so I look forward to that.

The politically correct anti-war theme of the movie nearly beat the viewer over the head. For such a nonviolent theme, I found the battle gore of the movie to be a contradiction. However, I do agree that peace is a worthy goal and there is much in the movie to admire. Balian was a mostly admirable character, refusing to compromise his values in many ways (although his love for a married woman, despite her unhappiness in marriage, was certainly not something to emulate).

The movie is rated "R". In my opinion, this is solely due to the overly bloody battle scenes. If some of the gore had been eliminated, the movie could have received a PG-13 rating. I was disappointed in that, because this is a movie that my ten-year-old son could have enjoyed, if the bloodiness had been less overwhelming.

I'd like to see it in the theatre again, if only to examine Balian's character a little more closely! :-)

Monday, April 04, 2005

4 in one day

On Saturday at Maryann's, we watched 4 movies in one day. It wasn't the first time I had seen any of them, and we watched as we scrapped and talked and cared for the children.

But since I haven't reviewed any of them here, I will give you the list at least.

13 Going on 30

Finding Neverland

The Cutting Edge

Bridget Jones 2: The Edge of Reason

I am hoping this week to put up at least some short reviews of some of the unreviewed movies I have been listing for you.

5/17/05 Or not. ;-)

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Two plus One

Two more movies:
In America

Runaway Jury

(too much different from the book)

One More Book:
Don't Cry Now - Fielding

One of these days I will do a marathon review session. But not today! My new computer has arrived!

5/17/05 The marathon reviewing session never occurred. So, here are my Legolas icons anyhow.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Still Behind, Obviously

OK, I am still not caught up. LOL

More movies....
Surviving Christmas

Sweet November

Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey (watching tonight)

National Treasure (watching this week)

More books...
He Had It Coming - Spencer

Obsessed - Ted Dekker

Edited 5/17/05 with Elf Prince icons.....

Monday, March 21, 2005

More to Come!

Well, I am way behind in my reviews. So, here is what will be coming soon to this blog.

Vanity Fair

Shall We Dance

Quantum Leap - Season 2

My Own Private Idaho (maybe....)

Sugar Cookie Murder - Fluke

He Had it Coming - Spencer

Can You Keep a Secret - Kinsella

That's all I can recall right now, but I am sure there is more.

EDITED: Went back in and added the Elf Prince icons since I am apparently never going to get around to reviewing these. 5/17/05

Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Incredibles (2004)

Call me skeptical, but when I first saw the ads for The Incredibles, I was quite sure that it wouldn't be a film my family would be seeing. My imagination concocted all kinds of unsavory scenarios that could be included in such a film. So, when I began hearing positive reports from friends who had taken their children to see this computer-animated film, I was surprised and encouraged.

My sons (then ages 4 and 9) went with a friend to see the film last year and sang its praises when they returned home. However, I didn't have a chance to view this wonderful movie until March 6, when I took all four of my children (ages 10, 8, 5, and nearly 3) to see it at the local bargain theatre.

I was blown away by this movie. Original storyline, sophisticated animation, family values, genuinely funny jokes - everything combines to create a truly outstanding film!

Mr. Incredible and his wife Elastigirl, along with their 3 children, are in the superheroes equivalent of the witness protection program. They live undercover in the suburbs, with Mrs. Incredible being a stay-at-home mom and Mr. Incredible working for a huge impersonal insurance company. Their previous life as superheroes is relegated to the past, although they often look upon it with nostalgia. Their 2 oldest children both have superpowers as well, but they are forced to keep them hidden, so the family can remain anonymous. Of course, circumstances come about that require the family to resume their role as protectors of humanity. The way this takes shape is amusing and exciting.

My kids were on the edge of their seats. Suzy, my nearly 3 year old, was experiencing her first movie in a theatre (other than the ones she attended as an infant-in-arms). She was enthralled and sat very still for the first hour and 20 minutes. The remainder of the movie found her quite wiggly but still very interested in the film and she did not create a disturbance. All of the kids are enamoured with the film and we plan to buy it when it comes out on DVD this week.

The storyline is something I would never have come up with and one I have not seen before. The plot twists were often unanticipated by my kids and even I was often surprised. The characters were believable and interesting. We care about Mr. Incredible's ethical dilemma at work, we feel for Mrs. Incredible as she realizes what her husband has done, we can feel the anger of the kids at having to pretend to be something they aren't. The kids fight like real siblings and the parents have disagreements, but real love for one another as well. The core family - mom, dad, 3 kids - is something that is becoming rarer and rarer in films and I was very pleased to see it here.

The animation is stunning! The scenery alone is gorgeous, but the characters are enjoyable to watch as well. Although definitely cartoonish in body style, they move realistically and their movements are smooth and pleasing to the eye. The characters are voiced beautifully as well. Holly Hunter as Mrs. Incredible was particularly noteworthy, investing her character with real emotion and strong femininity.

The underlying themes of the film are worth talking about. Be who you are created to be! Family is important! Keep trying even when things look hopeless! All these and more are the messages that can be brought out through the movie.

This is a humorous, meaningful, and well-crafted movie that I am so happy to have seen on the big screen. A great addition to any DVD collection, this film is well worth your time and perhaps repeated viewings!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Watcher (2000)

Keanu Reeves didn't want to make this movie, and I can see why. The director was a friend and Keanu agreed to do a cameo in the movie as a favor. His name was then used to get Marisa Tomei and James Spader to sign on. Then the script was changed and Keanu's character became one of the central characters. His salary didn't increase, but he was obligated by contract to continue. This probably would have been fine, if it had been a well-written movie. By all accounts, Keanu doesn't usually choose his parts by how well they pay or how well they will be recieved. However, this film was not well-written and Keanu continued with it only on the condition that he would not have to promote it nor would he be featured prominently in promotional materials.

Ok, now that we have that out of the way, let's talk about the film. Keanu plays a serial killer David Griffin who has a vendetta against cop Joel Campbell (played by James Spader). Marisa Tomei plays psychologist Polly Beilman who is counseling the Campbell due to a personal tragedy caused by serial killer Griffin. Griffin has moved across the country stalking Campbell, and he continues murdering young women and taunting Campbell with their deaths.

I'm sure you can see where this is going. A big showdown involving Griffin, Campbell, and Beilman is inevitable. Along the way, there are some intriguing plot twists, but the wild camera tricks, the loud distracting music and the poorly written script detract from the story. Keanu is not particularly believable as the sadistic serial killer, and James Spader seems lifeless as the cop. Many critics have suggested that the movie would have played better if their roles had been reversed, and I concur. Keanu can play a villain, but this wasn't his best performance as a bad guy. (See The Gift if you want a good example.)

I'm glad I saw it, but probably won't watch it again, and I definitely won't buy it. (As you can probably tell, I'm working my way through Keanu's filmography. )

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale by Sean Astin (2004)

I'm sure the fact I read There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me. I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan and a voracious reader, so a book written by one of the principal actors is a shoo-in! Sean Astin played the hobbit Samwise Gamgee, loyal friend to Frodo Baggins.

Two issues come to mind when I think of Sean Astin's book. First, I am enthralled by all the Lord of the Rings movie trivia that he includes. Second, I am taken aback by the extremely candid manner in which Sean tells his tales.

The son of Patty Duke and adopted son of John Astin, Sean grew up in Hollywood, acting in his first TV movie at age 8 (co-starring with his mother). The book details much of Sean's journey as an actor, culminating with his experience making Lord of the Rings.

The insider look at Hollywood intrigued me. Sean describes everything from how he interacts with his agents to how much salary an actor might actually keep from the gross.

Learning new trivia about Lord of the Rings was a plus to this rabid fan. I learned that John Astin auditioned for Gandalf, that Elijah Wood rarely had a negative day, that Dominic Monaghan could shake Sean out of his self-pity, that Richard Taylor and his wife Tania have high concentrations of dangerous chemicals in their bodies from their work, how Viggo continually advocated for more realism in the script, how Sean disliked the Bakshi version of Sam intensely (who doesn't!), and more. Much more.

Sean delves even more deeply and I suspect he treads on some feet at times. He speaks candidly about the casting and departure of Stuart Townsend, the actor who was originally cast as Aragorn. He also tells of his insecurity being around some of the actors, such as Ian McKellan, and how he felt unliked by these people. He discusses the difficulty he had submitting to Peter Jackson's leadership on the project, mostly due to a keen desire to be involved in the directing and producing process.

Sean chooses to write in a very conversational tone and this is both helpful and unnerving. At times it feels as though we are peering inside his head. He is very honest about his feelings, even describing times that he cried or struggled to keep from weeping. He is candid about many things that most people wouldn't talk about, and while this does make for interesting reading, I can't help but think there are people angry with Sean for writing these details out for public consumption.

Patty Duke, Sean's mother, has both spoken and written about her struggles with mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. Sean acknowledges this but dances around the issue of his own mental health, denying that he also may have the disease. I'm not a doctor and I don't even play one on TV, but just a quick reading of the text will show that Sean experiences periods of depression and manic activity, which are indicative of bipolar disorder. I hope he has an evaluation for his family's sake, if not his own.

I feel both enriched and saddened by reading this actor's tale. The trivia and the candid look into the making of the LOTR movies made it worth my while. If you are a LOTR fan or interested in the making of a blockbuster movie trilogy, or just a fan of Mr. Astin's, you will also enjoy this book. But, as my friend Ellen said, Sean isn't Sam. And it would be unfair to expect him to be.

Link to

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Constantine (2005)

I went on Friday night with 2 friends to see Constantine. Neither one of them is a Keanu fan. Amy hated the movie. She said it wasn't the worst movie she'd ever seen, but that's the highest praise she can give it. LOL Maryann said it was better than she thought it would be.

But me?? I did like it. I don't think it's my favorite Keanu film, although I am feeling a draw to go back and see it again.

This is not the kind of movie I would usually go see, and, yes, I will admit that it was Keanu who was the main attraction for me. I wasn't sure I'd go see it even with Mr. Reeves as the main character, but I had heard discussions about the spiritual aspect of the film beforehand and this convinced me to go. I wanted to see how Hollywood would manage to do a film like this with spiritual themes. Would it be effective? Convincing? Would it draw people closer to God or push them away?

Ok, a quick plot summary for those of you who haven't been eagerly anticipating this film for months and months. John Constantine is an exorcist, destined for hell due to a failed suicide attempt as a teenager. He is trying to earn his way back into heaven by performing exorcisms and sending demons back to hell. Enter Angela, a police detective whose twin sister has apparently committed suicide. Angela has her doubts about this and enlists the help of Constantine, which sets in motion a chain of events that eventually leads to a infernal showdown. The movie is based on a comic book called Hellblazer.

Many parts of the film were just mesmerizing. I could barely breathe at some points. For instance, Angela and John are attacked by demons outside his apartment. She says, "What IS that?" And he answers, "Wings. And talons." And then.... oh I won't give it away. But - Wow. I had seen this entire scene online before. But - oh my - on the big screen. And that isn't be all!

Keanu was awesome. He really portrayed Constantine's despair and confusion. He has the hardboiled world-weary attitude down pat. We're not meant to like John Constantine. And we don't. But then, we do! It doesn't hurt that he's some nice eye candy as well!

Rachel Wiesz looked luminous as Angela. One very funny moment between Angela and John happened during the bathtub scene. Wiesz has starred with Keanu before, in Chain Reaction, but this pairing far exceeded the previous one.

Shia LaBeouf was funny as Chas. His role as John's apprentice allowed him some funny moments begging John to let him do more of the real work.

I did NOT like Gabriel's character. Tilda's mischievous androgenous portrayal was great, but I thought that the character unnecessarily complicated the story and even caused it to be illogical.

I did find myself wishing for subtitles, as a lot of the best lines were hard to hear. This movie surely has "SEQUEL COMING" written all over it! lol

The film's theology is inaccurate at best, but it is a gripping story and I think it will have a lot of people thinking about spiritual issues. The movie is not for the faint-hearted, though, I will say, and profanity, violence, and demonic images make it inappropriate for children. If you are wondering whether or not you should see it, go ahead, but whenever Constantine says, "Shut your eyes," obey!

Friday, February 18, 2005

Saw Constantine!

I saw Constantine tonight! Really liked it! Will update my blog tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

Next up in my extended Keanu Reeves film festival is Johnny Mnemonic, a futuristic cyberpunk tale from 1995. I KNOW where I was in 1995 - being a first-year mama to David who never left my side.

I wouldn't call this one of Keanu's best movies. In fact, I would say this is probably one of his worst. :-( Keanu plays Johnny, an information courier who makes his living by transporting sensitive data stored in a memory module wet-wired into his brain. A particularly important memory load puts Johnny and the entire world at risk. The movie is based on a short story by William Gibson, and the plot line is definitely original.

Even though the movie is mostly a dud, I did enjoy it. I was curious to see how the plot worked itself out. And even though Keanu's performance is on the stiff side for most of the movie, I still liked it! ;-)
This movie has not been reviewed at

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Psycho (1998)

Evidently someone thought it would be a good idea to do a remake of Psycho. I only watched this movie because Maryann made me. Viggo Mortensen is in it, which is reason enough for her. At least he doesn't play Norman Bates. That unenviable job goes to Vince Vaughn. A garishly costumed Anne Heche takes the role of Marion Crane, made famous by Janet Leigh.

Admittedly we used the fast forward feature liberally, but I did know the story beforehand. This appears to be nearly a shot-by-shot remake of the Hitchcock Psycho, which of course is a classic, although not the type of movie I usually enjoy. WHY remake a classic? Very strange choice. I think it is safe to say that the original was far superior.

Don't bother with this one.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Around the World in 80 Days (2004)

I'm a sucker for an English accent, so when I saw the preview for Around the World in 80 days, it got my attention! It looked like an entertaining light film, and I put it on my Netflix queue and waited for it to come out on DVD.

I am glad I made time to watch it! I found it engaging and amusing, as well as inventive in many ways. I didn't expect it to be profound cinema, so I wasn't disappointed that way, nor have I read the novel by Jules Verne, so I wasn't bothered by concerns that the film didn't correctly represent the book. (If YOU feel like reading the book, here is a link to it online! How cool is that!

I found Fogg's inventions to be cleverly rendered onscreen - the electric lights, the beautiful mansion with its spinning ornamentation, the horseless carriage, and more! The costuming was beautiful; I quite enjoy a period flick!

Steve Coogan was marvelous as Phileas Fogg. He has such an expressive face. I already mentioned the accent! :-) Coogan is a gifted comedic actor. I could see the change very clearly in Fogg's personality from beginning to end of journey. And I quite enjoyed that!

Jackie Chan really is masterful at translating kung fu fighting to the big screen. I checked out his filmography to see if I had ever seen him in any other movies, and I don't think I have. He has nearly 100 movies to his credit, although most of them are Chinese, so it's not likely I'd have seen any of those. I knew of him, of course, but probably had never sought out any movies because I didn't think I'd like watching martial arts onscreen. I was wrong!

Who'd have thought that I actually enjoy watching kung fu, even without Keanu Reeves? I learned something new about myself! LOL It probably helps that my 10 year old son currently wants to become a martial arts master. (in his own words!) I thought the fight scenes in this film were choreographed very well and exciting as well. I also appreciate the fact that there is no blood and gore and that no one dies, which makes it a movie my kids can see.

Speaking of my kids, they watched this film with me today (after I previewed it last night) and they all loved it, especially the aforementioned martial arts master.

I liked a lot about this movie. The dialogue was sharp and witty. The journey was enhanced by the CGI effects between scenes. For example, the train puffing along with sparkles in its steam. Very pretty. I thought the part of Monique was well-written, and the actress Cecile de France played her with an artless charm.

There were a lot of cameos in the film, by actors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kathy Bates. It has kept me busy at IMDB checking just who all these actors were. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the ship captain was also in A Knight's Tale, which is one of my favorite movies.

Evidently the plot has very little in common with the book it is based upon, but to me, that didn't matter at all. The adventure! The inventions! The color! The romance! The kung fu! All things that I experienced with relish! And don't forget the accent.... :-) link:

Napoleon Dynamite

I watched Napoleon Dynamite on January 31.

I had high expectations for this movie after hearing it raved about by so many people I respect. I am sad to report that I really didn't like it much. I guess I am not the angsty type.

The story really didn't go anywhere and the main character wasn't that interesting to me. I didn't get much of a sense of his thoughts, hopes, and dreams. In fact, the majority of the characters were strange and unlikeable. The best of the lot was Deb, the teen girl that befriended Napoleon and had a tendency to wear her hair in an extremely unflattering side ponytail. She at least seemed to have something beneath the surface.

I have put off this review too long and I had more to say, but I can't remember it now. It doesn't help that I have a bad cold. Maybe I will think of more to say later. Feel free to berate me for my dislike of this movie. LOL

Monday, January 31, 2005

Congrats to Keanu Reeves

OK, I just have to turn into a drooling fangirl for a sec here.

::::cheers madly:::

Keanu Reeves received a star today on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Congratulations, Keanu!

OK, I'm done.

:::composes self:::

Back to your regularly scheduled blogging.

Double Shot by Diane Mott Davidson (2004)

Oh! The joy of perusing the New Titles shelf at the library and discovering a new Goldy mystery by Diane Mott Davidson! Double Shot is the 12th in a series of mysteries featuring Goldy Schulz, a caterer in Aspen, Colorado who has a penchant for getting involved in criminal cases.

The Goldy series is one of my favorite crime series. Davidson writes light-hearted murder mysteries in an entertaining clever manner. Gore is kept to a minimum and there are lots of amusing side plots. I also enjoy that Goldy's life continues on during the novels, instead of staying static, as is the case in some series novels. Her son grows up, she gets remarried, her business grows and changes. Also, recipes for some of the dishes Goldy cooks are included in the books. (I haven't tried any of them, for, unlike Goldy, I am no cook.)

This particular novel, however, was not one of the best in the series. Especially at the end, the writing seemed half-hearted and not as charming as usual. Also, since the murder victim in this installment was someone Goldy knew well, it was more serious than many of the others. I did not anticipate the identity of the murderer, though, so in that aspect, Davidson hit her mark!

I enjoyed reading Double Shot, and I will definitely continue reading Davidson's novels whenever I see them!

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Permanent Record (1988)

Well, in 1988, I was busy - graduating college, getting married, setting up our apartment, student-teaching, adjusting to married life, etc... So it isn't surprising that I missed this movie then. I am glad that I finally discovered it!

Permanent Record tells a story of two best friends. David is a talented popular college-bound student; Chris is also a talented guy, but aimless and happy-go-lucky. When David commits suicide, Chris and the entire community must deal with the aftermath. This story unfolds through snapshots of the lives of the teens involved, rather than an action-driven straightforward plot.

A young Keanu Reeves shines as Chris, struggling to make sense of his friend's death and agonizing over what he could have done to prevent it. The actresses playing the teenage girls gave strained performances, with the exception of the actress playing Kim.

Interesting to note: Keanu Reeves auditioned for the role of David, but instead was cast as the more pivotal role of Chris. Also, Keanu thought the feel-good ending of the film was a cop-out. I'm not sure I agree with him there, but I'll refrain from any spoiler comments.

Memorable moments:
-Chris crying in regret and sadness in the arms of David's father
-Chris playing guitar in the recording studio
-Lauren singing Chris' song onstage
-David's little brother telling Chris that David is dead
-David's mom in terror thinking David's little brother has been hurt
-Kim and David discussing their affair

The movie is rated PG-13 and contains mature themes - suicide and sexual themes -, as well as teenage drinking, and probably some strong language as well. Not a movie for young children, but teens would benefit by viewing this film and discussing it. I am glad that I watched it!
This movie is not reviewed at

Please comment if you have seen this film.


Saturday, January 29, 2005

Miracle (2004)

I am definitely not a sports enthusiast. Nope, the closest I get is watching my own kids play soccer. (Actually I was duped into coaching soccer this year too, but that's another story.)

However, Miracle is more than a sports movie. To me, it was a movie about becoming all you can become. It's about teamwork and overcoming differences.

Kurt Russell plays Herb Brooks, the coach of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team. In a nutshell, the team goes to the Olympics and, against all odds, wins the gold medal against the Soviets. This is one of the most memorable sports triumphs ever and makes me wonder where MY head was in 1980.

The hockey sequences are exciting and clear enough for even a non-hockey fan like me to follow. There is some awesome skating in this film! Being someone who has never really watched hockey, I was amazed at the action.

The group of young actors playing the gold medal hockey team worked together well to portray the difficulties the team members faced on their way to the Olympics.

Moments and themes that stood out to me:
-Coach Brooks pushing the team after a game even after the rink lights were shut off
-The US goalie's amazing stops and blocks throughout the Olympic games
-Coach Brooks' wife who stood by his side but wasn't a doormat
-That we barely saw the coach's children
-The assistant coach whose emotions were often written on his face
-End credits that gave the achievements of the players today - amazing bunch of guys!
-Herb Brooks died before the movie was released
-Working harder than you ever thought you could really pays off.


Despite this movie being so long (138 minutes), I am going to let my children watch it if they like. There is mild profanity in the film, according to (I tend to block that out as I watch, so rely on the accuracy of screenit. ) It is rated PG. I think that the message of determination and hard work is worth any shortcomings the movie may have. Also the hockey games are quite exciting, which I think David will enjoy.

I will try to remember to include links to the movies at IMDB and at the end of each of my reviews.

How's that for my first film review here at Mirkwood Reflections?



Welcome to my new blog - Mirkwood Reflections.

My purpose here is to create a place where I can review movies and books that I have recently watched and read. Feel free to comment on any of my reviews.

Thanks for visiting Mirkwood!