I have not read any of the Spiderwick series, but let me tell you, as soon as this movie hit, all 5 of the books were checked out. From what I understand, the movie covers the entire series. When people talk about “family” movies, I tend to cringe. So many movies that market themselves as “family” these days are code for shows that are overly cute or just plain unwatchable. Apart from Pixar films, I tend to eye anything for “families” suspiciously. Which is why The Spiderwick Chronicles was such a pleasant surprise. The story is intriguing, with characters you can relate to, and enough action/adventure to keep everyone interested. I actually heard myself gasp “Oh no!” during one moment, making myself realize I had been completely sucked in to the movie. Plus, all my childhood memories of magical stories, especially Labyrinth, were running through my head. I think this film has the potential to be like that for kids that are the “right” age. I definitely recommend checking this one out. If you don’t have kids, it might be a fun rental for a popcorn night. If you do have any elementary age kids running around your house, you should probably buy the DVD and pick up the books all in the same trip. This movie could be their gateway into many fantastical adventures.
While Ironman was a fun comic book movie, full of laughs and action, The Dark Knight is something more. It is an EPIC. 2 hours and 47 minutes of action, intrigue, suspense, and nitty-gritty heroes and villians. While Tim Burton’s Batman had character that looked like they had walked out of the comic books, Christopher Nolan’s Batman series has people that grew up in a very real Gotham city. There are no cartoon smudges, just real people – people flawed in their own ways. I don’t want to give anything away and frankly, after watching the movie, I feel like I need time to process all the subtle nuances of the story and pacing. Everyone did a fantastic job, and Heath Ledger does deserve the kudos he is getting, though it is sad that the “important” people in the business are only noticing because he is dead. Their take on the Joker for this film was more terrifying than any Joker I’ve seen before. His make-up applied haphazardly, sometimes running from his sweat, making it look as though he has been crying. Aaron Eckhart makes Harvey Dent more likable then I had ever imagined. What could easily be yet another slimy lawyer turns into a man that wants to save his city. Gary Oldman’s return as Gordon was welcome, and Maggie Gyllenhaal was a far more mature and likable Rachael than Katie Holmes could ever pull off. Probably the best Batman movie yet. I am already wondering what they could possibly do to follow this up…
This book was a solid read. If you lived through 9/11, many of the incidents described will be eerily familiar. Those that were too young to really remember the impact of that day will get a good feel for how it felt to be coming into young adulthood at that time. Marcus and his friends are out playing a LARP-style game in San Francisco when terrorists attack and blow up the Bay Bridge. While trying to get back home, they are all picked up by the Department of Homeland Security and taken away. Eventually they are released back into a city they hardly recognize; a city reacting to the attack. The adults seem to be going right along with all the government monitoring, but Marcus and his friends can feel what little rights they had as teenagers slipping away. They decide to take action and take back their city. Doctorow mixes classic Orwellian plot with a modern teen’s lifestyle. The characters are believable and likable. It does run a little long, and you feel like Marcus is going in circles in the middle of the book, but it all ends well. This title would be a great discussion book for teens.
This movie was NOT AT ALL what the trailer showed me. In fact, the box art of the DVD is also a big FAT LIE. I might have enjoyed this movie had it been advertised correctly. Instead, I watched the trailer and thought I was in for an action/comedy involving hitmen ala Grosse Pointe Blank. It was not that at all. At first, I just went with it, hoping that Rotten Tomatoes wouldn’t steer me wrong (it had a 79%). But, alas, the film was very uneven. It could not decide what it wanted to be – a crass comedy, a dark comedy, an arranging matches movie…it didn’t know and I sure as heck don’t know either. And you see Ralph Fiennes on the cover? Yeah, that’s a lie. He’s hardly in the movie. Brenden “Mad Eye Moody” Gleeson is in the movie, and does a good job but ultimately, this was a bit disappointment. (The chick who played Fleur is also in the movie, it was like a Harry Potter reunion!) Do yourself a favor and pass on this one.
As you probably know, I love Mo Willems. I adore his artwork, his sense of humor, and his ability to appeal to the kid inside everyone. Elephant and Piggie are his easy reader books. These two friends get themselves into all kinds of silly situations. The art may look simple, but it is so expressive. These are the two newest titles in the series – I Will Surprise My Friend and I Love My New Toy. Of the two, I think Surprise is the stronger story, though I know everyone can identify with Piggie’s stress in New Toy. I like to call these books “portable sunshine” as it is hard not to smile as you flip through them. If you’ve got anyone little to shop for, I highly recommend picking these titles up. If you just want to giggle for a few moments, stop by your library or a book store and read threw a couple of these gems.
Even if you have not read Marjane Satrapi’s fantastic comic book series (published as Persepolis and Persepolis II in the US) you will appreciate and enjoy the film adaptation. Satrapi co-directed this 96-minute animated feature, so it stays true to the story and the central message of being true to yourself. The artwork looks exactly like what you saw in the comic, simple yet expressive drawings that capture such a range of emotion. I watched the French language track and then a portion of the Cannes Q&A that took place after its premiere. There is also an English language track, but I didn’t bother with it since the movie was made in France. Plus, something about having them speak a foreign language made it that much more intriguing. I’d recommend this movie to anyone old enough to understand the message. It’s not just about being oppressed by a government, it is about staying true to who you are, about understanding how where you are from is part of you despite how you may feel about your homeland, and how growing up is the same for every one no matter what country you are from. If you’re in the mood for something unique, checking out this autobiographical movie will give you a lot to talk about later.
This little movie was easy to miss when it first came out. I think I only discovered it as a random flip through HBO back in the day. Now they are running it over and over on cable, perhaps because it takes place in July? This is a great little movie, taking you behind the scenes of the original moon landing. Only one satellite dish in the world was positioned so that video footage could be transmitted back to Earth from the moon. And that dish was located in Parkes, Australia. Parkes is a very small town, with more sheep than people. This is just a nice movie. No villians, no badguys, just good men and women working hard and working together to do something for the whole world. All of the actors are great, with Sam Neill (Reilly: Ace of Spies, Jurassic Park) and Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld, The Tick, Emperor’s New Groove) as the Australian engineer in charge of the dish and the NASA rep sent to assist in the job. For some reason, the sequence of the moon walk, seeing the reactions in the dish, in the town, and around the world — makes me chest get tight. What a thing to witness.