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Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

I’ll admit it–it is harder to have fun all the time than you might think.  Honestly, I really, really like sitting at my desk having uninterrupted time to get work done.  Leaving the house is stressful, and sandwiching fun in between not only work but also family business like medical appointments (two this week) is not easy.

So this week I outsourced some of the fun to John, and therefore this post will be short on pictures even though the week was not short on fun!

On Monday evening, John took the kids to see The Incredibles 2.  John and the kids all love movies, me not so much, so that’s been “his thing” since the big kids were little.

Tuesday I took the kids and Emily out to breakfast at Maple Street Biscuit Company, a newish place that I had been passing daily while picking up William at school and had been dying to try.  If there’s one where you are, you should go.  Only William was not a fan, because the waffles had infinitesimally tiny bacon pieces in them which he admitted he could not taste but had to remove one by one anyway.

Wednesday was the Fourth of July (I’m sure that is not news to you).  We had a cookout at our house with my family.  We had planned to go downtown for the symphony and fireworks show afterwards but it was like a million degrees so instead we took William’s suggestion (actually his demand) and watched Independence Day, which is definitely one of my top ten favorite movies of all time.  Bonus:  everyone in our neighborhood was shooting off fireworks like crazy and we could see them through our windows without leaving the television or the air conditioning.

Thursday was the big event of the week, planned for some time since I had bought a Groupon for it months ago–a visit to Rainforest Adventures,  which is an hour’s drive away in Sevierville.

Things I liked:  it was mostly inside and air-conditioned, we could see the animals up close and they seemed very happy and well-cared for.

Thing I did NOT like:  The overwhelming stench of animal urine that greeted us the moment we walked in the gift shop and literally made me feel ill throughout the two hours we were there.

Here are a few highlights:

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William with the serval

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Lorelei and William admire two ridiculously large pythons

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William with the black caiman

Friday it was John’s turn again.  This time he took Lorelei and William to see Ant Man and the Wasp.

I take Saturdays off.  So far they are all still sleeping which is fine with me.

See more summer fun posts below.

Why We Can’t Have a 70s Summer and What We Are Doing Instead

The Summer Fun Continues . . .

More Summer Fun

Summer Fun Update

Summer Fun:  Vacation

That 70s Summer

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John and I are spending the weekend in Dallas with my sister and brother-in-law.  They have an in-home theatre, and last night we ate Italian food and watched The Godfather.

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I have only watched it start-to-finish once, I believe, and that was twenty years ago. Now that I knew what was going to happen, I was able to appreciate the nuances of the film, particularly the ground-breaking portrayal of gangsters as complex characters who love their families and look upon what they do as “just business.”

In that spirit I offer you five life lessons from The Godfather.

1.  “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”

Vito Corleone backs this statement up.  He works part of the time from his home office so that he can be with his family as much as possible. Children and grandchildren overrun the family compound, sometimes even darting into his workspace.  When he comes home from the hospital, family surrounds him as he lifts a hand in blessing.  He dies playing in the backyard with his grandson.

2.  “Don’t ever take sides with anyone against the family.”

The family bond is sacred.  Internal disagreement is one thing; Don Corleone encourages the input and listens to the counsel of his sons before making his decisions. But once that decision is made, a united front should be presented to outsiders at all times.

3.   “We don’t discuss business at the table.”

There’s work time, and there’s family time.  When you are with your family, you should be with them.

4.  “Leave the gun.  Take the cannoli.”

Priorities are important, and so are the promises we make to the people we love.  Don’t let work responsibilities stand in the way of family obligations.

5.  “I’ll take care of you now. I’m with you now. I’m with you.”

godfather 2

We owe something to the people who raised us.  Someday we may be called upon to care for them as they cared for us.

What lessons have you learned from the movies?

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When I was a teenager, the poster below (or one very like it) hung on the back of my bedroom door.

footloose kevin bacon

It wasn’t because I had a huge crush on Kevin Bacon, although I did think he was cute.   What I loved was the movie–Footloose.

As I checked my phone before bed last night, I learned that Kevin Bacon, who remains incredibly cool 30 years later and has aged better than most of us, appeared on the Tonight Show and was not too stuck up to engage in a little self-parodying here.

This was serendipitous because at the very moment he was doing this, I was watching Footloose with my big kids (well, two of them) who HAD NEVER SEEN IT.   John picked it up for me the last time he was at the video store, knowing how much I love it, and I’d been waiting for a good opportunity to share it with them.  This weekend, with John and the little people off on a quick visit to Baltimore, was the perfect time.

I was a little worried that they wouldn’t like it, that it wouldn’t stand the test of time or “translate” well across the 30 years that have passed since I saw first saw it.  I even wondered it I would still like it. (Yes, I did, for the record.  Just as much, with maybe even a little more depth as I now have a lot more understanding of Pastor Shaw’s point of view!)  Why should I care so much?  you ask.

I can’t even think of a way to describe the way I feel about this movie and the night I first saw it without resorting to the worst kind of cliches.  I was 17 in February 1984, just like Ren in the movie.  Like many teenagers then and now, my life was completely wrapped up in my group of friends.  I could not imagine a future in which I did not see or talk to them every day and I dreaded the thought of going away to college and leaving them.  We saw the movie at what was then the Cinema 6.  These days it’s an artsy place showing lots of foreign films, but back then it was our favorite theatre, perhaps because of its close proximity to the Downtown West location of Mr. Gatti’s (gone now), which for some reason was our high school’s acknowledged hangout even though the school itself was on the other side of town.

We were having a slumber party at one friend’s house and it was the birthday of another friend, and I don’t remember how we came to the decision to go to the movie, if it was spontaneous or part of the plan from the beginning.  But perhaps it’s worth noting that I remember anything about it at all.  I mean, I know some of the other movies I saw in high school, but no other evening at the movies maintains this much space in my memory, or evokes so much feeling.  I clearly remember watching the opening sequence–all those feet–and feeling excited about what was to come.  But what I remember even more is coming out of the theatre after the movie.

There were, if I remember right, six of us there that night, five girls and one boy.  I can remember coming out of the movie almost dancing–maybe actually dancing, there on the sidewalk to the south of the theatre.  I don’t remember what we talked about, other than how much we liked the movie.  Probably we were discussing what we were going next, which might have been back to the slumber party, or maybe to Gatti’s for pizza–that part I don’t remember.

What I do remember so clearly though is how I felt.  Maybe it wasn’t the movie itself.  Maybe it was just the joy of being young and with close friends, out alone at night under our own steam, having friends who were driving and a couple who even had their own cars.  But for me the way I felt that night is inextricably linked to the movie and always will be.   I felt . . . empowered.  Like I could do anything.  Like life was good and all of it was ahead of me (that part at least was true).

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Beware!  Herein lie spoilers!

I’m not in the habit of writing movie reviews, but then I’m not in the habit of going to movies either.  John loves them, and occasionally he insists on taking me, but usually I’d rather spend date nights talking.  I go to the theatre for big events:  Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Hobbit . . . the movies whose opening date you’ve known for months, the ones where your heart is pounding and you are a little bit breathless as the show finally begins.  Y’all, I had actual tears in my eyes when the theme music started.  This is serious stuff to me.

Why so serious? you ask.  Because I am, and have been, a certified Tolkien geek for most of my life, since I first read The Hobbit when I was about eight years old.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it–and its “sequel”–since.  I read it aloud to my children; I read The Lord of the Rings (yes, all 1,200 pages) aloud to my husband.  Pre-fire, I owned most of Tolkien’s books, including obscure works; I had the soundtracks of the animated versions of his books; I had encyclopedias and atlases of Middle Earth; I even had the War of the Rings board game.  In college, I wrote a term paper on Tolkien’s life; in grad school, I created an annotated bibliography of sources related to the languages he created.

So I’m not a casual fan, or someone who just discovered Tolkien because of Peter Jackson’s movies (which up until now I’ve mostly been pleased with).  And this is a family full of serious Tolkien fans.   We were so excited about this movie that we kept the kids out of school today so that we could go as early as possible.

the hobbitSo I hate that I was disappointed.

I was skeptical when Peter Jackson announced that he was making The Hobbit into a trilogy.  I knew he was going to have to make additions, but I expected that most of them would involve adding scenes from other Tolkien sources (like Gandalf’s meeting with Thorin in Bree, a scene in this movie) or expounding on things that are mentioned in the book but not fleshed out (like flashbacks to the fall of Dale and Erebor in the last one).  I did not expect him to flat-out MAKE THINGS UP.  His efforts to insert matters from The Lord of the Rings  into the first installment were irksome, requiring mischaracterization of the relationship between Saruman and Galdalf, and I groused about that then, but for the most part his tampering was minor enough to overlook.

But not this time.  You know, I could overlook Azog not being actually dead in the first movie, but I can’t overlook the appearance of Bolg as well and orc after orc after hideously ugly orc in this one, especially not in freaking Imax 3-D.  THERE SHOULD BE NO ORCS IN THIS SECTION OF THE MOVIE.  They go back to the Misty Mountains and don’t reappear until the Battle of Five Armies.  Y’all, orcs are repulsive to look at and I’m tired of seeing them get their heads cut off.  I mean the thrill is totally gone.

You know what else shouldn’t be in this movie? Legolas.  Now. don’t get me wrong, I love Legolas.  And I was prepared to go along with his presence, because Thranduil IS his father, and he is a Mirkwood elf, so he was probably there.  So give him  a few lines or whatever, but don’t give him a huge subplot, complete with a love triangle.

Oh, and don’t create a “she-elf” to be one of the vertices of said love triangle, and have her be the one who enlightens Legolas on his duty to leave the safety of the forest against his father’s will in order to help stop the spreading darkness (which is not really even mentioned in this book but which is insisted upon over and over in the movie–by the elves, Gandalf, the orcs, and even Smaug).

So belatedly I should say that the first problem I have with this movie is it adds things that never happened.  More things than I’ve mentioned.  But enough said.

Second, just because a movie is fantasy doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be believable.  Believable, I mean, within the confines of its own universe.  So yes, dragons and elves and dwarves exist, but even awesome elves like Legolas cannot physically do the things he does in the crazy action sequences (SO many action sequences) in this movie.  After awhile you are just shaking your head.  Nor can Thorin constantly survive blasts of Smaug’s fiery breath.  Or people fall repeatedly from great heights and hop right up with no broken bones.

Third, wouldn’t you think that one of the pluses of turning a short book into three long movies is that at least nothing would need to be cut?  That you would get to see every beloved scene on screen?  Well, think again, Buster.  Because Mr. Jackson is so enamored of his manufactured subplots that he doesn’t have time for the things that ACTUALLY happened.  The weeks of weary travel through Mirkwood?  Five minutes, tops.   Bilbo’s time spent skulking in the halls of the woodelves?  We see plenty of Thranduil (and what an ass he is) and Legolas and Tauriel (aforesaid she-elf) but we have no idea what poor Bilbo is up to until he appears with the keys.  The weeks the dwarves spend on the Lonely Mountain before they get inside?  They arrive moments before the keyhole appeared.

Fourth, the Ring.   The chief importance of the Ring in The Hobbit is that it’s Bilbo’s little secret weapon–he’s invisible while he fights the spiders, he’s invisible in the elf king’s halls, he’s invisible while talking to Smaug.  The Ring is NOT yet exerting some malevolent influence over him, for one thing because Tolkien hadn’t thought of that yet (although he goes for a little revisionist history later himself), but more important, MUCH more important, because it takes years and years and years before the Ring even begins to affect Bilbo.  His ability to resist its evil effects is miraculous and a tribute to him and to hobbits in general, and Gandalf makes much of that in The Fellowship of the Ring (the book, I’m talking about here).   But in this movie he has to be constantly pulling it out and staring at it and hearing the words that he does not even know are inscribed in it inside his head–in the Black Speech, no less–and even tells a spider, “It’s mine!” (At least he didn’t say it was precious.)  And when he should be using it, he’s always TAKING IT OFF.  Like when he is standing a couple of feet away from the MOUTH OF A FIRE-BREATHING DRAGON.

Finally, and most important of all, Peter Jackson has missed the point of The Hobbit in every possible way.  It’s a children’s story that he wants to rewrite for an adult audience.  It’s a simple tale that he wants to make complicated.  It’s a standalone book that he wants to tie to the War of the Ring.  And at its heart, it’s BILBO’s story.  It’s the story of how a simple, stay-at-home hobbit left his comfortable fireside for an adventure he never knew he wanted  and discovered that there was more inside him than he and others guessed.    Bilbo is largely missing from the second installment, which plays partly like Thorin’s story and partly like a prelude of the evil to come.  His triumphant moments are passed over quickly or even taken away from him all together (the elves come to the rescue and finish killing off the spiders, his single-handed liberation of the dwarves from the eleven king requires more elvish assistance as well as help from the dwarves and Bard).  In the book the dwarves respect and rely upon Bilbo more and more as time goes on.  That’s important–central–and you don’t see it here.

If I had never read The Hobbit, I would have liked this movie.  It was fast-paced and exciting and visually appealing.  I thought the 3D was used to much better effect this time around–there were times where the characters looked REAL to me in a way I can’t exactly explain.  The spiders and Smaug were awesomely scary.  I liked Tauriel’s character.  But as someone who loves the book, I instead found myself constantly shaking my head, and thinking, “Did he really just do that? Really?”

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les mis poster

Y’all, I am OBSESSED with Les Miserables right now.   Searching Twitter and Tumblr tags, listening to every soundtrack I can find on Spotify pretty much nonstop, reading reviews and analyses online . . .  I cannot WAIT to see it again.  Let’s not call this a review, exactly–it’s more of a tribute (or a gush) because this movie is WONDERFUL.   It rose to the top of my favorite movie list like a rocket.

Here’s where I would normally tell you that if you aren’t interested in this movie and don’t plan to see it, you should move along.  But I won’t say that, because everyone should see this movie.  You just don’t know what you are missing.   Some are avoiding it because they think it is depressing.  No.  It’s sad.  Very, very sad. But SAD and DEPRESSING are different.  This movie–this story–is UPLIFTING.

I learned about catharsis in high school English, but I didn’t understand the point of it then.  Why seek out emotional experiences in fiction?  Aren’t our tears over the reality of life enough?  Now, though, I love me some catharsis and Les Miserables has been a source of it for me for many years.

I saw the musical on stage probably 20 years ago.  I purchased the soundtrack–on cassette–and when my big kids were little I was in the habit of listening to it regularly.  I remember clearly standing in my little yellow kitchen, chopping vegetables for supper, tears rolling down my face.  It was Fantine’s death scene that always got me then.  I only had to hear the opening line for the tears to start.

As for my kids, they grew to love the songs as well, especially “Master of the House” because of the bad words (okay to sing but not to say!).  I was so excited when almost 12 years ago the play came back to Knoxville.  I wanted the kids to see it, and we spent over 80 dollars we could ill afford then on the tickets.  My dream was squelched when I (nine months’ pregnant with #4) got put on bedrest for high blood pressure just days before the show.

John and the kids got to go, though, and in the years since we’ve kept the magic alive, frequently bursting into the initial sung conversation between Javert and Valjean. (Things like that happen around here a lot.)

I’ve never seen it since, and I was beyond excited for the movie, and especially to finally get to experience the story with the big kids. (They loved it too.)

You always wonder and worry a little about seeing an adaptation or a remake of a much-loved book or show or movie.  You know there are going to be changes.  And the newer version is going to stick in your head.  Will it spoil the old one?  If you haven’t seen this movie yet for those sorts of reasons, don’t let it hold you back.  Of necessity, a film is different from a play.  And there are some small changes.  But the changes add rather than detract.  Where additions are made they come from the book or reflect its spirit.  Here is the first of several blog posts I’ve been reading that explain this beautifully, along with quotations from the book.  Read them all.

Having experienced the story onstage and onscreen and through the music now over so many years, one thing that has interested me how my own reactions to the material have altered.  Part of that has to do with the differences in media but I also think it reflects where I am in my own my life.  As I said earlier I used to find Fantine’s death the most devastating part (it’s still sad!).  I think that was because I was empathasizing with her as we were both mothers of little children.  This time I was most moved by the death of the young men on the barricade.  Why?  Because I am now the mother of two almost grown up boys.  They reminded me of Jake and Teddy and their friends.

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One virtue of the movie format is that you get to know the minor characters so much better.  Even with the best seats in the house you can’t see individual faces at a play the way you can on a screen.  The young men on the barricade were humanized and individualized in the movie version.  The tragedy and waste of their deaths became personal.

Some reviews I read criticized what I saw as a strength:  the way the movie showed the characters in closeup while they were singing their big numbers, never leaving their faces for the duration of the song (which by the way were actually sung while filmed, not lip synched and added later).  Me, I thought it was amazing.  THEY were amazing.  No, they didn’t always belt out the tunes, Broadway fashion, because this was a different format, and not necessary in a film.  They ACTED the songs.  The feelings they showed were amazing.  They cried while singing.  Their voices broke with emotion.

Anne Hathaway should get an Oscar.  What everyone is talking about is The Song, and The Song is amazing, but to me her acting was just as moving in the small parts.  The way her lips trembled and her eyes filled when she knew she was about the lose her job.  The way she cried while her hair was being cut.

fantine hair cut

 

I’ve got nothing negative to say about the casting or the music, although plenty of people seem to.  I concede that Russell Crowe’s voice isn’t on the same level as the rest of the cast.  However, I liked his Javert very much and I think his softer singing shapes his depiction of the character.  His Javert was meditative, thoughtful, driven but not fanatical, trying to do what was right but getting it all wrong.  I understood this Javert.  I felt sorry for him.  I didn’t want him to die.

Hugh Jackman’s transformation from convict to Monsieur Madeleine was impressive.  We couldn’t figure out how they could possibly pretty him up!  I only knew of him before this movie.  If you’ve thought of him as an action hero he will surprise and delight you here.

I won’t go through all the characters because you can read about them anywhere.  But I will say that I am a critical person, trained to be that way as an English major, and I wouldn’t–couldn’t–criticize anyone’s performance in this movie.

I have more to say–especially about the music and the religious themes.  Because this is a profoundly Catholic movie–more than the play–and I loved it for that as well.  But I will leave that for another day and here end with a plea:  GO SEE THIS MOVIE.

P.S.  If you have a heart, you should approach Les Miserables prepared to weep.  Don’t see it with people you don’t want to cry in front of.   I had to stifle an actual sob at one point.  You’ll cry because it’s sad, and you’ll cry because it is beautiful.

 

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