September 16, 2008

Movie Review: Traitor


In the middle of our world's hard look at the Muslim religion and the Asian world in general, the movie Traitor is just one of many that has come up in the last couple years to focus on the world of Muslim suicide bombers and "terrorists." I have trouble with the word terrorist because it assumes that someone is trying to cause terror. I am not sure this is always true of Muslim extremists, but in the American mindset right now, Muslim often equates terrorist. Or if you say the word terrorist, they are likely to think of those from traditional Muslim countries.

The question this movie prompts in my mind is who does the title refer to? Who is the traitor? Does it refer to Samir, who betrays those who trust him? Is it the men who have twisted the message of Islam to include radical killings? Are they traitors to Islam because they have walked away from the true message? Is it Roy, the American agent who assumes he understands the situation and is hunting down the one man who is actually capable of stopping a crime?

In this movie we meet Samir, whose father was killed in a bombing. Now he builds explosives that he sells under the table to militants. We assume he is a Muslim extremist. He goes to a prison camp and, after a rocky start, is befriended by another Muslim extremist. They escape their prison, and that's when the fun begins.

They linger in a spot, finding recruits and running missions until their location gets tracked down. Then they move onto another place. Wherever they go, they try to blend in with the locals. They are complete in their devotion to the tasks set before them. Samir gives careful training on the mechanics of setting off a bomb in a public place.

September 11, 2008

Movie Review: Mama Mia

This movie made me smile. I sat in the theater by myself, smiling, laughing, and crying like a fricking idiot. I am not an ABBA fan or anything like that, although who can resist Dancing Queen? I was not familiar with the play. I wasn't going to see it at all until this co-worker told me she had seen it three times and still didn't have enough. She said it just made her feel happy and good. I concur.

A young girl who lives in a romanticized island in Greece is about to tie the knot with a handsome but forgettable fellow. The one thing she feels lacking in her heart is having her father give her away. She doesn't know her father. She lives with her mother, who runs a quaint hotel for vacationing guests. But now she has the solution: she found her Mother's diary and has it narrowed down to 3 candidates. Her plan is to invite all 3 estranged lovers to the wedding festivities. She believes that when she meets her father, she'll just know. It's a preposterous plan, but this movie works. It might not work for men, but it works for me.

Now Mom is confronted with THE ONE from her past. When they met, he had a fiance, and he never returned.

Along the way, the characters sing ABBA songs with much glee. The setting is gorgeous. The island has a mysterious, romantic gleam. You cannot imagine living there. It is something out of a postcard, although it is supposedly rundown. The beauty of the hotel and the surrounding landscape makes you believe that anything can happen, even magic. I wanted to be there amongst them, enjoying the island sangrias. I can't emphasize enough how happy I felt when I left the theater. You will believe in love again.

September 08, 2008

Book Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead


Rose and Lissa are like most teenage girls. They like boys, like to shop at the mall, and feel misunderstood. The only difference is that they are vampires. Lissa is a Moroi princess, a member of the vampire royalty, while Rose is a dhampir guardian who has sworn to protect Lissa even to death. Two years ago, they ran away from St. Vladimir’s Academy, a private school for the Moroi and Dhampir races, for reasons that only Rose fully knows.

Now, the school’s guardians have caught up with them and want to bring them back to the academy against their will. The halls of St. Vladimir’s are filled with the same things they have always been: snotty Moroi, secrets, clan loyalties, and a deathly fear of the Striogoi: vampires who have become immortal and seek to destroy all of the royal family.

As a punishment for running away, Rose has to train every second that she is not in class. Her mentor is Dimitri, a stoic, handsome guardian whom she finds to be ever increasingly attractive. While Rose is training to become deadly to the Strigoi, Lissa is discovering how to be a royal without losing who she is inside. And why does someone keep planting dead animals in Lissa’s path? Is someone out to get Lissa, and if they are, can Rose truly protect her friend?

This book was better than I expected. At first, I felt Rose was just an angst-ridden teenager just complaining about everything. But after awhile, the characters began to take on more depth. Rose and Lissa have a deep bond that goes beyond friendship. The scandals that takes place in the halls of St. Vlad's will keep vampire book lovers thoroughly entertained. There is some sexual content. Not too heavy, but vampires are sexual by nature, so this was expected. There are also levels of vampire sins so it was interesting to read about what this society found to be unspeakable. By the end of the book, you will be rooting for Rose.