Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Howl's Moving Castle (2005)

Howl's Moving Castle is one of those Japanese animated films that I've always discounted as clearly Not My Thing. I'll be really honest and admit that Moving Castle ended up in my Netflix Q merely because Christian Bale provided the voice of Howl. I have a slightly embarrassing habit of searching out as many of an "interesting" actor's movies as possible. I'm sure you'll forgive me this silly foible. Right? Right?

Whatever brought Howl's Moving Castle to our family is irrelevant; I'm so glad we were allowed the opportunity to view this unusual animated film! My entire family was fascinated all the way thought, even my husband who rarely sits through any movie that doesn't star Jim Varney.

The movie is originally Japanese but has been dubbed in English with well-known actors (Bale, Billy Crystal, Josh Hutcherson). We watched the English version, but I've been told that the Japanese track with English subtitles is very engaging and I do intend to check it out. Despite a Japanese origin, most of the characters look completely European, which I found surprising. The style of animation is not wholly manga (with those inevitable immense eyes), but achieves an engaging and sweeping style.

A loose plot structure makes the story somewhat difficult to follow, but most questions are answered, so give it some time. As I mentioned, the movie mesmerized each member of my family, from my six-year-old daughter to my fourteen-year-old son to my forty-seven-year-old husband. (Although he did proclaim it 'silly' on several occasions, the fact that he sat in the room for ALL of the film speaks volumes.)

The description of the movie involves witches and a fire demon which originally put me off, but having had Moving Castle repeatedly recommended to me, I thought we'd give it a go. For those of you that prefer to avoid mention of witches, demons, spells, and magic, this is not the film for you. If you have a more tolerant view of such topics, I think you'll be pleased at the light-hearted way this is handled. Despite serious difficulties faced by the characters, the magic plays a secondary role to the characters' own strengths and moral fiber.

Charming and sweet enough to please my daughters, yet filled with enough action to satisfy my sons and enough humor for my husband, Howl's Moving Castle is a gem. This is one I'd like to own!

IMDB page
Screenit.com Page

Sunday, February 22, 2009

OSCARS - My commentary

I haven't made a habit of watching the Oscars in recent years, but Hugh Jackman hosting was a draw I couldn't ignore. So, here are some of my thoughts thus far.

LOVED Hugh's opening number. The man can sing AND dance. What an intimate seating arrangement this year too - the front row is just a step from the stage! Anne Hathaway was delightful in her cameo.

I turned off the acceptance speech from Milk's screenwriter because my children were still in the room and he was going on about gay marriage. I did understand his heartfelt comments, however, and I read somewhere that he stated, rightly, that God loves everyone - gay or straight. True enough.

Because I hadn't yet turned it back on, I missed Wall-E winning Best Animated Film. I had really hoped Bolt might come out of left field and win. I enjoyed that film so MUCH more than Wall-E, but David was pulling for Wall-E.

I enjoyed the romance montage, other than the now apparently obligatory homosexual kiss.

Got a kick out of Ben Stiller dressed as Joaquin Phoenix per his appearance on Letterman.

The musical IS back! LOL Loved that song-and-dance number with Jackman and Beyonce, also featuring Zac Efron and his costar from HSM3 and Dominic Cooper (ditch the beard, Dom!) and Amanda Seyfreid from Mamma Mia.

I'm getting tired of hearing about Benjamin Button and seeing all those awards going to that film. Maybe once I've seen it, I'll understand? Those who have seen it tend to use words like "odd" to describe it. I wasn't thinking I'd ever really get around to it. But three awards says something, I suppose!

Annoying was the word for Bill Maher's thinly disguised rant that his film Religulous wasn't nominated for Best Documentary. (It wasn't the best one, Bill. Sorry.)

Will Smith was great! Who hasn't stumbled over their words and who couldn't wish for as great a recovery as Will's?

Loved the Jerry Lewis tribute. It made me cry and want to go watch Jerry Lewis movies, and I'm not really a fan of physical comedy! His longtime commitment to finding a cure for MD is commendable!

Also teared up a bit at Heath Ledger's win for Best Supporting Actor (The Dark Knight). His family accepted the award. I couldn't help thinking that, wherever he is now, he probably doesn't care a bit about getting the statuette.

OK, how about the gowns? Fashion? Loved Queen Latifah in navy, Penelope Cruz in sixty-year-old ivory and lace, Miley Cyrus - all tiered and beaded. Wow, there were a lot of white, ivory, champagne, and silver, grey, platinum dresses! I'm not crazy about one-shoulder gowns and there were a lot of those!

So, that's it! I was glad I watched. I've put Best Picture Slumdog Millionaire (total 8 awards!) on my Netflix Q, as well as Benjamin Button.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

2008 Movies I DIDN'T see (but plan to....)

Here's YOUR chance to give ME a review. This is a list of 2008 movies I wanted to see, but didn't manage to do it for one reason or another. All of them are on my To-View list.

Any on this list you'd recommend or warn against?

  1. Bedtime Stories (PG) (2008) (Adam Sandler, Keri Russell)
  2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (PG-13) (2008) (Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett)
  3. The Tale of Despereaux (G) (2008) (voices of Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman)
  4. Yes Man (PG-13) (2008) (Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel)
  5. Australia (PG-13) (2008) (Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman)
  6. Quantum of Solace (PG-13) (2008) (Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko)
  7. Slumdog Millionaire (R) (2008) (Dev Patel, Madhur Mittal)
  8. Rachel Getting Married (R) (2008) (Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt)
  9. Changeling (R) (2008) (Angelina Jolie, Jeffrey Donovan)
  10. Fireproof (PG) (2008) (Kirk Cameron, Erin Bethea)
  11. Nights in Rodanthe (PG-13) (2008) (Richard Gere, Diane Lane)
  12. Kung Fu Panda (PG) (2008) (voices of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman)
  13. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (PG) (2008) (Documentary)
  14. Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who (G) (2008) (voices of Jim Carrey, Steve Carell)
  15. The Other Boleyn Girl (PG-13) (2008) (Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson)
  16. Mad Money (PG-13) (2008) (Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2008 Movies on DVD

Here is a list of 2008 movies that I have viewed on DVD. Some were ones I was really looking forward to (Fool's Gold, at least until I read the reviews), others were the luck of the draw (Eagle Eye, Maryann had it.).

  1. The Duchess (PG-13) (2008) (Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes) - depressing
  2. Eagle Eye (PG-13) (2008) (Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan) - better than I imagined!
  3. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (PG-13) (2008) (America Ferrera, Alexis Bledel) - interesting, but I don't think this series of movies is for young girls
  4. Space Chimps (G) (2008) (voices of Andy Samberg, Cheryl Hines) - We really liked this!
  5. Journey to the Center of the Earth (PG) (2008) (Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson) - corny
  6. Get Smart (PG-13) (2008) (Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway) - David's new favorite! lol I found a lot to laugh at as well.
  7. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (PG-13) (2008) (Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf) - Terrible. Do not bother.
  8. Then She Found Me (R) (2008) (Helen Hunt, Colin Firth) - Loved this. Deeper than the normal romantic drama. It was raunchy in some spots though, deserving the R rating. However, I thought it was quite real.
  9. Speed Racer (PG) (2008) (Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci) - Remember how excited I was for it? Sadly, this movie didn't do something quite right. However, I really liked it anyway.
  10. What Happens in Vegas (PG-13) (2008) (Ashton Kutcher, Cameron Diaz) - Liked it more than I thought I would.
  11. Made of Honor (PG-13) (2008) (Patrick Dempsey, Michelle Monaghan) - simply ok. The Scottish accents were the best part!
  12. Baby Mama (PG-13) (2008) (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler) - This was hilariously funny!
  13. Deception (R) (2008) (Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman) - Terrible, terrible, terrible. Even with Jackman and McGregor. Still terrible. I remember now why I usually just say no to R rated movies.
  14. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (PG-13) (2008) (Frances McDormand, Amy Adams) - Um. Odd. Odd movie.
  15. Definitely, Maybe (PG-13) (2008) (Ryan Reynolds, Isla Fisher) - Didn't really like this one.
  16. Fool's Gold (PG-13) (2008) (Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson) - Liked it better than I thought I would from reading the awful reviews. It was sweet and funny in spots, but rather contrived in others.
  17. Penelope (PG) (2008) (Christina Ricci, James McAvoy) - ADORED this one! Highly recommend!
  18. The Bucket List (PG-13) (2007) (Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman) - Forgettable.
  19. 27 Dresses (PG-13) (2008) (Katherine Heigl, James Marsden) - Didn't really like, but I think that's because I didn't really like either of the main characters or their choices.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Movies I Saw in the Theater in 2008

Here is a list of movies I saw in the theater in 2008.
Not a long list (eleven), but perhaps more than an average year?
I guess I am going to the theater about once a month. Not too shabby. I still need to write reviews on several of them, but I've given you my 10 second recommendations instead.
  1. The Day the Earth Stood Still (PG-13) (2008) (Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly) - Do you like Keanu or sci-fi? Then see it. If not, don't bother.
  2. Bolt (PG) (2008) (voices of John Travolta, Miley Cyrus) - I didn't review this, but it was one of my favorite movies this year! GREAT FUN! Way better than Wall-E.
  3. Twilight (PG-13) (2008) (Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson) - My review
  4. The Dark Knight (PG-13) (2008) (Christian Bale, Heath Ledger) - My review
  5. Mamma Mia! (PG-13) (2008) (Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan) - My review
  6. WALL·E (G) (2008) (voices of Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight) - Worth a viewing.
  7. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (PG) (2008) (Ben Barnes, William Moseley) - Read the book instead.
  8. Iron Man (PG-13) (2008) (Robert Downey, Jr. Terrence Howard) - My review
  9. Nim’s Island (PG) (2008) (Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster) - My review
  10. Jumper (PG-13) (2008) (Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson) - My review
  11. The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie (G) (2008) (voices of Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki) - My review
Hmmmm... Interesting. Two G-rated movies, Two PG-rated movies, and the rest (7) are PG-13. No R-rated movies at all on this list. Hollywood, wanna pay attention to that?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Couple of Quick Reviews

Couple of short reviews for you. Movie night at Maryann's last night!

Henry Poole Is Here PG (Luke Wilson)
Artsy sort of film that explores the issues of faith and believing in miracles. Also explores relationships between people. I hated the music and the artsy cinematography, but utterly enjoyed the characterizations of Henry Poole, Esperanza, the checkout girl, the neighbor woman, and her daughter. (Don't remember a fiancee and an overbearing mother, as noted in the summary on Flixster, but oh well.) Worth a viewing if you can overlook the strange camera angles and odd pop music. Lots to talk about here! (Or if you enjoy that sort of thing, then it'll be a movie you love!)

Henry Poole Is Here - IMDB page; No Screenit.com Page Available

Eagle Eye PG-13 (Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Billy Bob Thornton)
I liked this better than I thought I would. It's hard to tell you what it's about without giving away the plot, but this thriller is worthwhile. LaBeouf is intense and energetic as the young "slacker" Jerry and the supporting cast is excellent. Especially enjoyed Michael Chiklis as the Secretary of Defense. I'll let my 14yo watch this one.

Eagle Eye - IMDB Page; Screenit.com Page

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

January Reads

I've been neglecting this poor blog! I'll try harder in the future!

Just four books in January. I tried hard, but reading time was scarce! I did write 27,000 words on my novel in January though!

The Falcon and the Sparrow by M.L. Tyndall - 01/13/09
Good - Inspirational Regency (999 Category: Serendipity – Unplanned books I want to read )
Dominique is hired as a governess to the son of an English admiral but has a hidden agenda as a French spy, a task she is forced into to save her brother's life.
I really enjoyed this Christian Regency romance! (Regencies are set at the beginning of the 19th century in England.) Far from your typical sappy Christian novel, this one dealt squarely with issues of faith and morality, rather than presenting a sanitized view of life. Both main characters were believable and likable.

Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich - 01/14/09
Good - Fiction (999 Category: Kindred Spirits - Books By Favorite Authors)
An FTA has absconded with a magnetometer and Diesel shows up to help Stephanie capture him, along with his own target, Wulf.
Oh wow, so FUNNY! I love Evanovich and this book was a laugh-out-loud romp through New Jersey. From the moment Diesel reappears in Stephanie's life to Ranger's ever-present black vehicles, every page was filled with humor.

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler - 01/25/09
Fair - Fiction (999 Category: Screen Time - TV/Movie Tie-ins)
Six very different people decide to read through Austen's works as they work through their own personal romance issues.
I'd seen the movie (and didn't really like it), but now that I've read ALL OF AUSTEN'S NOVELS (go me!), I thought it might be worth a read. I both really liked this novel and really disliked it. What I didn't like? The odd point of view (told 1st person plural, but I never really figured out who was speaking). The many flashbacks inserted willy-nilly. The gay storyline (although it was not as prevalent as in the movie. Also, the high school teacher/student romance was almost non-existent, although in the movie, it was much more serious and distasteful). What I liked? The characters! Reading about Austen's plots and characters and understanding it! Worth a read? Sure, if you like Austen.


The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity by Wm. Paul Young - 01/29/09
Good - Fiction (999 Category: Faith - Spiritual Life)
Mac gets a note from God after a terrible tragedy has overtaken him.
I didn't like or hate this as much as I expected. Several people I respect have really adored it and similarly, several people I respected have really disliked it. Other people had a response much like mine - lukewarm. I thought the story was powerful and some of the ways God is presented really made me think. However, I thought the theology was weak and not Biblically sound. The writing was just adequate, but not skillful. Do I recommend it? Yes, but with caveats. Be sure to line up the theology with the Bible. I don't subscribe to the "seeker" or "post-modern" views of Christianity, so I'm sure that those who do will find this a more agreeable read. And please remember, it's a NOVEL.