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