Tag Archives: movies

A one sentence review, after viewing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Why did we need another Forrest Gump in which Brad Pitt reprised his character from Meet Joe Black?

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When they get it right

Internet, remember back to when you were a kid. Was there ever a book that you just loved beyond all reason, that you read over and over again, that had so many good parts to balance out any of the bad parts that when you finished reading it you’d sigh?

I had lots and lots of those books. (I still do, and I’m not even remotely a kid anymore.) I love kids’ books so much to this day that I have two whole shelves of ’em, books that maybe will belong to my someday children but then again, maybe not. Maybe I just have them because I love them too much not to have them around for when I want to pick one back up and re-read it again.

A few of those books stand out more than the rest. Some of them I loved so much that I was able to include them in my undergraduate thesis. One of them in particular I love so much that I still cry each and every time I re-read it, even though I know exactly what is coming because I’ve read it so many times and because it’s such a quick read. That book? Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Patterson.

I can’t really put my finger on why I love this book so much. Maybe it’s the language, or maybe it’s the characters, or maybe it’s that it was the first book I remember reading that really didn’t pussyfoot around the idea that sometimes young people die, too. A lot of books were written in the late 60s through the early 80s centered around the very idea that kids shouldn’t be sheltered by life’s problems – death, divorce, drugs, etc. (I could go into further detail about this, but then I’d have to just refer you to my thesis which I still intend to scan because I think it’s pretty good, even 10 years later.) But the point of the books isn’t usually to ruin childhoods or to drive home LIFE’S NOT FAIR, but to show how the main character deals with whatever the problem is. In Bridge to Terabithia, there’s a poor kid who makes friends with a new kid and together they create an imaginary life for themselves outside of the mundane world. There’s no shying away from the fact that Jess, the main character, is poor, or that a lot of the kids at school have family problems. The dialogue and characterization is totally believable. And after Jess’s friend dies (offscreen, as it were), the rest of the book shows him coming to terms with it, with what it means for his life, and what happens next.

A few years ago, when we were in the movie theater, we saw a trailer for Bridge to Terabithia. The trailer looked so incredibly disappointing, as though they’d taken one of my favorite childhood books and transformed it into something totally Disneyfied and not at all the point. In fact, seeing the trailer made me actively angry and I decided that not only would I not go to see the movie when it came out but I’d avoid seeing it in any other fashion as well. It would serve them right, it would, ruining one of my favorite childhood books for the purposes of greed.

I didn’t give it any additional thought, really, until last night when I was flipping through channels and realized Bridge to Terabithia (the movie with the awful, awful trailer that so enraged me) was on the teevee. More out of morbid curiosity than anything else, I decided to see just how bad it was and started watching it while Dan was still making dinner. I was all prepared for righteous indignation and a bit of PALATR, but from the opening credits I realized I had been All Wrong about the movie. Seriously.

The kid who played Jess was perfect. The kid who played Leslie was just fine. There were so many places that they could have changed the story, but didn’t. And even the parts that had been in the trailer, with CGI used to show what Jess and Leslie were imagining, totally fit in the context of the rest of the movie. They even got the casting perfectly for two of the best characters in the book, Janice Avery and May Belle. They showed and didn’t tell, about Jess’s family’s poverty and what an amazing treat it was for Jess, a budding artist, to be allowed to go to a museum in a big city. The characters I’d read and re-read and loved for at least 25 years came alive on my screen and were everything I could have hoped for in a Hollywood movie. But I knew, I just knew, that even though they’d gotten everything right that they’d find a way to screw up.

I waited and I waited, but it didn’t happen. The movie was about as faithful an adaptation of a book as I’d ever seen. There was no hiding of or shying away from the bad things in the story. And the part of the movie that I was convinced they would completely ruin made tears run down my face. I cried and cried, watching that part, and I think it wasn’t because the movie had done it well (though it had) but because they had done such an amazing job bringing the story to life that all my memories of crying over the sad parts of the book came back. 31 years old and I cried at a kids’ movie. On the teevee. With commercials for horrifying toys and breakfast cereals. I dried my tears just in time to see the best part at the very end, the part where Jess shares his secret magical world with his little sister, and it was everything it needed to be.

So there you have it. Every once in a great while, Hollywood gets it right, and I guess I can’t always say that I’ll never see a movie based on its trailer because I may be wrong about it. I was wrong about Bridge to Terabithia and I encourage anyone else out there who loved the book and was afraid of how bad the movie would be that no, really, it’s worth watching. They get it right.

A satisfying ending

Three things:

I finished Neal Stephenson’s Anathem yesterday. At nearly 900 pages, plus fifty pages of appendices, it took longer than most books I’ve read recently. It was also the sort of book that I wanted to think about as I read, since so much of it involved really interesting philosophy and mental experiment.

The basic plot involves a different world, with interesting characters and an amazing storyline. The main character goes through a series of revolutions in the size of his world (so to speak), and each time his world expands it begins with a denouement of sorts. I absolutely loved just about every minute of reading the book – I’d forgotten how much I liked Neal Stephenson, maybe, so I am thinking I might go pick up the Baroque Cycle since I haven’t read that yet. Anathem is highly recommended to anyone who likes to read, and it’s a bonus for those who like science fiction and fantasy or who like playing with words in their head or those who like philosophy of science. Absolutely fantastic, and when it ended I was very sad, because I’d grown to love the characters and the story so much.

Today, we went to see The Men Who Stare At Goats, which was pretty much big dumb fun, with a bit more intelligence than big dumb fun movies usually are. George Clooney and Jeff Bridges got to reprise parts of the roles I’ve always thought they both had most fun playing (Ulysses Everett McGill from O Brother Where Art Thou and The Dude from The Big Lebowski, respectively). Ewan MacGregor is in it as well, and it’s definitely worth a matinee price to see it in the theater, though I’m sure it will be just as good on DVD. Overall, it was quite silly and entertaining while being well-acted and a bit unusual at the same time.

And tonight, the season finale of Mad Men, about which I can say nothing but DAMN was that ever good. WOOOOO! Now we have to wait until next summer to find out what happens. ARGH.

Cheers/Jeers: The weekend

I’m totally stealing this from my pal JT

Cheers: I got to bake a birthday cake and pumpkin chocolate chip muffins
Cheers: The baking was for two different parties we were invited to over the weekend. Parties! I love parties. Steve’s birthday was nice and low-key on Friday, and Deb’s baby shower was fun. I freestyle-painted a onesie (a green dinosaur with purple spikes. Alas, I forgot to bring my camera, so no photos exist).
Cheers: People that I don’t actually know about read my blog. The proof was when we walked up to the house where the baby shower was yesterday and one of the hosts greeted me with, “Hey, I read your blog!” It was the first time anything like that had remotely happened to me. In the Swim, if you’re reading this, post a comment, lady! What a small world, that the friend of the person who teaches the classes I take at the gym is a blogger, reads my blog, and recognized us because sometimes I put up photos of us here. (She found me initally through the lovely Leah.)
Cheers: After a cold and crappy week, weather-wise, Colorado paid us back by a couple of exemplary fall days. They were warm and gorgeous. The one regret I have about the weekend is that we didn’t get up into the mountains to see any foliage at all, but we had a lot of other things going on. Like parties!
Cheers: Chu’s wax works just as well when I do it myself. Plus, we got an excuse to buy a new pot.
* * * * * * *
Jeers: The baby shower was for the person who teaches the classes I take at the gym, and today is her last class for at least 8 weeks, and I am trepidatious about who might be taking over for her! I generally only take classes from instructors I like.
Jeers: Target, while normally a place that has everything I need, did not have several things we were looking for on Saturday. Including canned pumpkin, which the grocery store did not have either. I guess there was a run on canned pumpkin all over Denver. Luckily, I still had some frozen processed pie pumpkin mush from last year in the freezer.
Jeers: Fame, the recently released version. I was so looking forward to this, even despite the presence of SYTYCD-alum Kherington Payne, who I disliked when she was on the show but was willing to keep an open mind about. I love movies that have dancing and singing and all manner of talented kids in them, but I think the movie tried too hard to straddle the balance between performance and plot, and didn’t have enough of either. It didn’t help that some of the actors cast as the main character kids were terrible, and what little plot there was about them didn’t give me any reason to care when bad things happened or whatever. If the movie had done more performance, it might have come close to awesome. If it had focused on one year rather than trying to get in all four, that might have helped. If they’d scrapped some of the performance and gone in for a really interesting plot, that would have been good as well. But as it was, the movie was just really disappointing. And a note to Kherington Payne: Stick with dancing. You can’t act your way out of a paper bag, even when you’re essentially playing yourself.

Legacy, but not the good kind

Neck and back problems run in my family, so much so that my uncle became a chiropractor because of the pain he saw his mother (my grandmother) go through. My mom has had neck/back issues her entire adult life, and my sister had back problems starting in childhood. My first back/neck injury occurred when I was in high school, at a swim meet, somehow managing to mess things up during a flip turn. I saw a local chiro for months after that and was forced to wear my backpack on both shoulders (so uncool!) It acted up again during my first job in college, shelving library books, so much so that I was unable to get out of bed some days. Over the years, I’ve had twinges here and there, but then three years ago, I was in a car accident. A stupid kid rear-ended me at a stoplight. I got whiplash, work paid for me to see a doctor and a chiropractor for a while. I dutifully did all of the things the chiro told me to do to rehabilitate my neck and shoulder. Despite this, my neck has yet to heal fully and every so often it’ll suddenly get all stupid whiplashy again, which sucks because a) it hurts a lot, b) sometimes it resolves itself on its own but other times I have to go back to the chiro and pay for it my own self, and c) it keeps me from doing things I want to do. Like hike 14ers, which we have still yet to do this summer.

Our weekend had no plans, and turned out to be spectacularly uneventful because I couldn’t even comfortably go throw a frisbee around in the park. Sitting, standing, walking, and (especially lying down) hurt. Our biggest weekend accomplishments turned out to be going grocery shopping and walking to the Mayan theater to see 500 Days of Summer (which I really liked, at least enough to be thinking/talking about it the whole walk home). I spent Saturday in a small-to-medium amount of pain and Sunday in a pretty serious amount of pain, which was alleviated to some extent by walking in the sun to and from the movie.

But while it was a nice long walk, it wasn’t nearly enough. We started out the summer taking hikes every weekend, but recently it seems as though there is always something else to do or something (like my stupid neck) getting in the way of our adventures. I spent all last week traveling around the state and was only reminded further how many awesome things there are to do here, especially this time of year. I feel sluggish and some amount of despair, because not only does my neck hurt but that means I can’t do my normal routine, let alone tackle a crazy weekend hike. It’s been far too long since I played with my camera or posted any photos.

I get to see the chiropractor tomorrow. I hope one visit takes care of the current problem and that next weekend’s adventure is a go.

I told you he would review it better than I ever could

Thanks, guy that I married. You are awesome.

The little robot that could

I really like my gym. I like that they have lots of warm towels available at all times, and that they have so many different kinds of classes. The weights areas are spread out, rather than everyone trying to use equipment at the same time. They have thick mats for post-workout stretching, inflatable balls for crunching, and a billion TVs all tuned to something different. In the summer, the gym smells of kids’ lunches because of the summer day camp, with the occasional small human napping on a mat in a corner and lots more chaos than usual. All in all, I’m quite pleased.

One of the perks I’ve noticed is that occasionally, there will be free passes to a screening of a movie available on the front counter. Last week I happened to be passing by and saw a stack of passes to WALL-E, which made me squee because I knew how much Dan has been looking forward to seeing this movie. Last night was the big night, and because it said right on the pass NO CELL PHONES I didn’t bring my purse and walked into the theater empty-handed.

You always know you’re watching a kids’ movie when the theater smells like diapers. Luckily, Dan and I learned our lesson years ago *coughShrek2cough* and we always try to sit in the back row at a kids’ movie so nobody can kick our seats. The theater we were ushered into after being WANDED (seriously, we were wanded in order to get in, I guess they’re really concerned about piracy 3 days before the movie opens?) was about a 50-50 split of kids and adults. And while we were shown to the last seats in the theater, they were in the back row. Hooray!

Now, I’m not going to write a full-scale review of the movie, because Dan does that much better than I ever could. But I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. LOVED. Visually fantastic, aurally fantastic, and plenty in there for both kids and adults to enjoy. I might even go so far as to say it’s up there in Pixar’s top efforts, maybe even the best. And a good chunk of the film doesn’t even have dialogue. It’s that compelling, that entertaining, even without a lot of talking. And it’s worth staying for the credits, because they’re really cool as well. It’s not often that I walk out of a theater thinking that I want to own that movie. But I plan to buy Wall-E as soon as it comes out, because I want to watch it over and over again. Go see it!