April 30, 2007

Movie Review: The Lady Vanishes

I know most people only want to read about new movies, but I feel like it's my job as a film addict to tell you about movies that are oldies but goodies. There may be someone out there who has never seen a classic film. It is hard to appreciate the film world without a full understanding of where things come from. For instance, I was talking to a young man about the movie Disturbia. I found it to be very "disturbia" that he had no idea this was a modernized version of Hitchcock's Rear Window--sad because it elevates Disturbia to a level it doesn't deserve. One might be prone to think that Disturbia is more original than it is. And how can you survive in the world without knowing the works of Hitchcock?

It is in this spirit that I felt compelled to review Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, a 1938 black and white picture from Hitchcock's British period. It has all of the trademarks of a Hitchcock picture. We have secrets, affairs, women who fall in love with a man they initially detest, espionage, spies, quirky dialogue, and humor.

April 23, 2007

Movie Review: Meet the Robinsons vs. Disney short venting

This past Saturday, I went to see the new animated feature Meet the Robinsons. This is a watchable, sometimes amusing flick about a genius kid named Lewis who wants to be adopted. Instead of showing his potential adoptees how cute he is, he tries to dazzle them with his latest invention. The result is disaster after disaster. The funniest case of this is when his doodad that should perfectly mix the right portions of peanut butter and jelly for a PB&J explodes, sending peanut butter everywhere. What our young scientist didn't know was that the man half of the couple is allergic to peanuts. Whoops.

This time, however, Lewis is sure his new project for the school science fair is THE one that will solve all of his problems. He will build a memory retrieval machine to remember who his mother is, meet her, and convince her to be his mom again. A mysterious, evil bowler hat man sabotages the invention during the science fair, humiliating Lewis and convincing him that the machine doesn't work.

April 21, 2007

Book Review: Haters by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez

I really wanted to like Haters. It is a school story mixed with elements of paranormal romance. The main character has a strong psychic ability. She can see things before they happen. Over at the Disco Mermaids, Eve suggested you could describe the flavor and plot of a book by combining movies. This idea appeals to me since I am a film addict. I would call this book Heathers (dangerous run-ins with popular girls) crossed with Premonition (seeing the future) crossed with a Harlequin romance (explicit sexuality and romance). No, I'm not kidding.

Part of this book I really liked. The narrator had a very snarky, hip voice that made her appealing. Pasquela Archuleta, or Paski, has just found out that her dad is moving them to California. It seems his comic book, Squeegie Man, has been optioned for a movie deal. He's going to be rich, but he has to move to California. He and Paski move to the OC; Paski must leave her dear friends and new boyfriend behind to start a new school. Before she leaves, her grandmother gives her an amulet. She tells Paski she must honor her psychic gifts or there will be trouble. Paski doesn't give a toot; she would rather be a normal girl.

Movie Stuff: Am I Alone?

Kelly over at Big A, little a had a great idea for a post. She listed the names of books that most people really loved, but she found to be just okay or mediocre. An alternative way to look at this would be to think of books you really loved but no one else seemed to care about. I listed several on her blog in the comments.

I thought it would be fun to do the same thing for movies. I can think of several movies I watched and felt deeply moved by only to discover that others did not share my opinion.

Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001) Directed by Steven Spielberg
In this heartbreaking story, the world has found a way to mass-produce loving child-robots. We meet a couple whose child has been frozen until they can find a cure for his disease. To ease their loneliness, they purchase David, a mass-produced boy that has been programmed to love his mother unconditionally. Then, the bratty son gets defrosted and gets jealous of the relationship David has with his mother. He makes it his mission to get rid of David by manipulating him into doing things that will scare his parents. David's mom decides to leave him in the woods in an effort to get rid of him. David is devastated and decides the only way he can earn his mother's love again is to become a "real boy." Yes, it has lots of allusions to Pinocchio. There is a lot more to this movie then listed here. I cried during most of this movie. Later on, I found out others were not as moved. According to them, the child had been programmed to love; he doesn't really love the mother. How can a robot really love? Should we feel for a robot? Is he like a computer or a fax machine? I found it cruel that they created this boy to love his mother, and she saw fit to get rid of him. Where was he supposed to go? What was he supposed to do? Many people found this movie to be stupid, boring, or even long-winded. I thought it was fascinating and touching. There is a wonderful scene where David is under water in a pod, moving towards what he hopes is the end of his quest: finding the Blue Fairy, who will give him a wish. Manhattan has been buried under water. It is beautifully filmed. When they stop the pod, David is sitting in front of the buried, demolished and waterlogged Coney Island Wonder Wheel crumbled in a pile under the ocean.

Lady in the Water (2006) Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
This was my favorite movie that came out last year. Most of the reviews I read responded to this movie with not just boredom, but out and out hatred. I actually avoided seeing it. Then, I went to catch it at the $1.50 theater. I couldn't believe people hated this movie. For me, it was like seeing the reality of the world reflected on the big screen. There were a lot of strange elements, but it just touched me. Here was a man who felt useless and ashamed of his past. He basically feels like a loser. Then, from out of nowhere, he is given a purpose and a mission: to protect this beautiful creature at all cost. Suddenly, he is a new man. He understands that if he doesn't do this, no one will. Then there are all of his tenants. They are such a motley crew, but it's like their lives had lead them to this place for just this purpose. All of them work together to see the lady get home. I think the world is a lot like this movie. And I think that is why people hated this movie: because it was too real. If this movie was true, then the life we are leading is false. So much of what we do benefits ourselves alone. It is only when we lay self aside and turn our energies towards others that we can be free.

If any of you have movies you feel alone in your response to, please respond in the comments.

April 17, 2007

Teen Program Idea: Library Art Trading Cards

This past Saturday, my co-worker showed our Teen Advisory Board how to create library art trading cards in the spirit of Post Secret. This was a very original idea she thought up. I just showed up and participated in the craft. This is not something I would have done on my own. Whenever I actually do crafts, I enjoy it, but graphic arts were never my strong point. My artistic side comes out in my singing and acting. I love a crowd! But now that I have made a few cards and watched others do the same, I would do this again in a heart beat.

If some you are saying, "huh?", then I apologize. It seems that a lot of people are familiar with Post Secret, so I am assuming many of you will know what I am talking about. This Frank Warren guy came up with this brilliant idea to have anonymous people mail in their deepest secrets on a decorated postcard. It can be decorated in whatever style (painting, collage, drawing, glued objects). The only requirement is that it has to be a secret the creator has never told a living soul before. He originally posted the cards on a blog/website. Then, he started compiling cards into book collections. I have read 2 out of the 3 books Warren compiled. Many of the card artists said this was a liberating experience for them. To release their secret and know that someone finally knows can be like purging painful memories from the past. I think the Post Secret idea is great, but it also makes me really sad whenever I read the cards. Some of these secrets are so painful, and to know that someone has held onto this alone seems unbearable. Many of the confessions show the deep holes some people have in their hearts. They try to fill it, and it doesn't work. I am filled with love for these people. Okay, so going back to the program . . .

April 13, 2007

Movie Review: 300

There was a time when the movie 300 would have been a perfect movie for me. I would have loooved this movie back in the day. "The day" meaning when I loved the gore movies. I used to be a huge horror movie fan, and although 300 is not a horror movie, it is filmed like one. Each scene is meant to shock and make the audience squirm.

There is this really great short story I remember, but I can't remember who wrote it. It was written by an Asian writer. Anyway, it's about this man who sees a painting of a tree. He doesn't purchase it but later wishes he had. He spends his whole life trying to find it and raise enough money to buy it. Then when he finally has it in his grasp, the painting is unveiled, and he is disappointed that it is not the same painting. The point of the story is that the painting WAS the same. It wasn't the painting that had changed; it was the man himself. He was not the same person when he saw the painting the second time, and the painting had lost its beauty.

I think that story has a very important point. What might be a great movie to one person will fizzle for another. For me, 300 did not dazzle, but I can assume it thrilled many a viewer.

For the historical information about this battle, I will send you to wikipedia. For purposes of reading this review, I will say that the movie covers a famous series of battles where a small Spartan army of 300 soldiers fights with a much larger army and kicks butt.

April 11, 2007

Book Review: Monkey Town by Ronald Kidd

I just finished reading Monkey Town: The Summer of the Scopes Trial by Ronald Kidd. This was another coming of age novel. It is supposed to be part love story, as well, but the love story is very lightly applied. It is more of an afterthought and seemed like it was there solely to get more girls to read it.

Kidd claims he wrote this book based on the true accounts he heard from Frances Robinson about her life in the town of Dayton during the Scopes Monkey Trials of 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee. He does share that Frances was actually only eight years old when this happened, although in the book, she is portrayed as being 15. He obviously thought this story would appeal more to teens, and he is probably right.

In our story, Frances Robinson is a precocious 15-year old who is in love with Johnny Scopes, a teacher at her high school. Johnny Scopes is one of those young (24 years old), cool teachers who breaks the rules of establishment only to pay for them later. He is a football coach but ends up substituting for a period of time in a biology class. While filling in for the teacher, Scopes decided to cover the topic of evolution (an illegal action in the state of Tennessee at that time) since it was in the official textbook. Frances's father, F.E. Robinson, decides to use this scandal to try to get some publicity for his beloved town. F.E. is a drugstore owner who sells Coca-Cola, claiming the drink has medicinal powers to make more money.

F.E. asks Scopes to go under trial for teaching evolution as a publicity stunt. He promises nothing bad will come out of it. All Scopes has to do is admit he taught evolution, allow himself to go through a fake arrest, and the town will take care of the rest. Scopes agrees.

April 09, 2007

Movie Stuff: Great Quotes Don't Equal Great Movies

If you read my blog regularly, you are probably wondering where the film reviews are. Zee says she is a film addict and yet she hasn't written a movie review since around March 22nd. How can she say she's a film addict? Okay, see here's the thing: I have been watching movies, but I haven't reviewed any of them because there wasn't much worth talking about.

My latest list of movies I am going through is the AFI's Top 100 Movie Quotes of All Time. I already wrote about Soylent Green (#77 for "Soylent Green is people!"), which I liked very much. Previously, I was going through just the AFI Greatest Movies of all Time. And I made one very poor assumption. I assumed that if a movie had a great quote, the movie itself would be great, or at least entertaining. For a great quote to be a great quote, doesn't it have to mean something? Doesn't it need to inspire awe and amazement? I am not really sure how these great quotes get chosen. If I said to you, "I rule, baby!" Would you call that a great quote? Maybe, if it was said by the right person at the right time. So, I can share with you what movies I have watched, including their "great quotes," and tell you what I thought of the movie.

April 05, 2007

Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Colin Singleton is a self-professed prodigy. He can anagram the heck out of any word combination (except a few un-anagramabble words), and he was once on a show called Kranial Kidz. He's the type of character one would call book smart but not very street smart. Colin's one big bummer in life is that he has been dumped by a procession of 19 Katherines. So he walks around looking for the next Katherine, although he is sure Katherine 19 is THE one.

When we first meet Colin, he has just been dumped by Ms. 19. His best friend, Hassan, decides to hornswaggle Colin into a summer road trip, meant to shake him out of his doldrums. They don't get too far. The boys find their nesting place in Gutshot, Tennessee, home to a factory where tampon strings are created.

April 04, 2007

Book Review: King Dork by Frank Portman

All right, 'fess up? Who was a dork at school? Anyone? Anyone? Oh, I bet everyone's got a hand raised. My horrific school time was middle school. I went through my ugly phase with a combination of large glasses and crooked teeth. I also insisted on this weird hairstyle where my hair would completely cover one side of my face. I thought I was being a skater chick. The boys all had "squeebs" that covered one eye. I thought I should have one, too! I got made fun of a lot in sixth grade. There was also this huge bully that would routinely beat my friends up. Somehow I escaped her physical wrath, but I was terrified of her.

Well, no matter what your story, I think you might have trouble outdorking King Dork. In my head, as I read, I imagined a combination of Napoleon Dynamite, Bill from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, one of those computer geeks from the 80s films, and a Will from Good Will Hunting.

Here's some really original things about this book:
  • He is picked on but has a very large ego.

  • He has a reasonably good relationship with his stepdad.

  • He doesn't wait until the end of the book to stand up for himself.

  • He is sympathetic one moment and odious the next.

I couldn't wrap my head around his character. Every time I thought I had him pegged, he surprised me, and that's what kept me reading.