Archive for January, 2010

My 2010 New Year’s resolution is “More leisure!” and I followed my own advice on Friday, stopped working early, and headed out for a girls’ afternoon/evening of fun.  First stop, a movie, followed by some barbecue and drinks.  What a treat!

We saw The Lovely Bones, the story of a 14-year-old girl who is murdered and then watches her family – and her murderer – as she floats in the “in between” until she can move on to heaven.  It was a bit intense for this group, all of whom (except me) are mothers of young children or teens and felt the fear, anxiety, and horror of the film’s premise as only a mother can.  An interesting discussion ensued over drinks later, including talk of mixed feelings about having adolescents see this film.  On the one hand, it portrays the need to be careful and follow one’s instincts about whom to trust in a visceral way that kids would take to heart; on the other hand, it could easily produce a pervasive fear of and permanent “skeevies” about all strangers, especially solitary neighbors.

Like all of director Peter Jackson’s work, this movie is worth seeing. It tells the story (from the novel of the same name by Alice Sebold) faithfully and poignantly, with only the minimum amount of sap needed to convey the feelings of a 14-year-old girl. The acting is excellent, especially from 15-year-old Saoirse Ronan (who played Briony in Atonement) as Susie Salmon; Susie’s siblings Lindsey (Rose McIver) and little Buckley (Christian Thomas Ashdale) are adorable and real; Susan Sarandon is a force of nature as the chain-smoking, alcoholic grandmother; Micheal Imperioli is realistic yet empathetic as the cop who tries to find Susie; and Stanley Tucci is just utterly creepy – I don’t think I’ve been this disturbed by a portrayal of a serial killer since Ted Levine’s morbidly marvelous performance in Silence of the Lambs!   Continue reading

It took a while, but I finally saw the new Sherlock Holmes, and I had a blast!

Anyone who knows this Movie Freak is aware that I am partial to both Robert Downey Jr. and director Guy Ritchie.  However, some trepidation preceded viewing this film:  What if it turned the legendary Sherlock Holmes saga on its head?  Would there be too many anachronisms?  Or would it simply beat a tired horse to its final grave?

Reading the reviews didn’t help.  A few said that Holmes was just too buff, and the fight scenes would have Sir Arthur Conan Doyle turning in his grave.  Some reviewers claimed that the Holmes character just wasn’t what he ought to be, with the signature deerstalker and pipe, the reticence and haughty righteousness.  One even claimed that the characters of Holmes and Watson were sketched in such contemporary likeness of one another that all they needed to do was exchange clothes and props, and leads Downey and Jude Law could play each other’s roles.

Nonsense and poppycock!  (I’ve always wanted to say that.)

The writing and acting alike are brilliant, and the film is true to its mystery-thriller genre.  It’s a feast of rousing action, deductive reasoning, and camaraderie, perfectly peppered with comic relief.  (In fact, I came away with only one peeve—the character of Watson’s fiancée, Mary, played by the oddly twitchy Kelly Reilly, seems too dislikable, conniving a creature to be with the good doctor; no wonder Holmes is displeased.)

I admit I was skeptical about the action sequences after viewing previews, but they fit right in, and Holmes’ combat style did suit the character.  The wonderfully manipulated scenes of Holmes planning an attack, and then the audience seeing it in real time, depicted just how the genius tactician’s mind would devise the most efficiently method to take down an opponent.  Marvelous!

There was a sufficiently dark and menacing baddie (Mark Strong), a Holmes-has-met-his-match love interest (Rachel McAdams), and the introduction of Professor Moriarty—which sets the stage for sequels, of course.  And I, for one, hope there will be sequels.

In this humble reviewer’s eyes, Sherlock Holmes is a triumph in a sea of recent and upcoming disappointments.  If half the planned remakes and resurrections on film are as good as this one, count me in to stand in line at the theater more often. Unfortunately, I think this one’s a rare gem.

For more movie recommendations, check out my new book, A Book Full of Movies!

Books and movies, movies and books … and then there’s writing , of course, and painting, and traveling, and …

Oh, there are so many things one wants to do, but from day to day what one actually does is work,  take out the trash, do laundry, buy groceries, take the car in for service, and once in a while enjoy a fun evening with friends.  Yikes, is my life really that tedious?

Having published my first movie review book (get ready for another plug — TA DA!  A Book Full of Movies You May Not Have Seen), I am becoming more active in the online literary community Goodreads.  It’s an awesome social networking site for readers and authors alike.  Anyway, as I fill my virtual bookshelves with the books I’ve read (dutifully voting one to five stars for how much I enjoyed reading each) and the books I want to read, I’ve started to realize just how many books are out there that I still need to sink my teeth into. For crying out loud, I haven’t even read all the books by just my short list of favorite authors, and there are so many more that get recommended every day, and books stare like mouthwatering candy from the shelves at bookstores and the pages of e-newsletters bearing the missive “This year’s best books!”  And then there are the great books I’d love to re-read.  I can’t bear it!  There’s just not enough time.

On top of this angst, I started having the nagging feeling that I was overlooking some favorite books.  So I perused the many bookshelves in the house (not the living room bookshelves, mind you; those were taken hostage several years ago by the burgeoning movie collection and, thus, are off limits to all but the most venerable display-quality volumes, or books having to do with movies, naturally), and I found books that I had actually forgotten I had *gasp*.  In fact, I had listed some of these in Goodreads on my “to-read” shelf and even added them to my wish list and actually looked to see if anyone had them to swap (Ooh!  The Goodreads book swap program is amazing!  People list the books they no longer want, and if you want one, you just pay for shipping — the shipper prints a postage-paid label courtesy of Goodreads — and, in a few days, its yours … incredible and wonderful!  I’ve shipped a couple of books already, and its super-duper-easy!), and when I discovered them on my bookshelves … well, I was mortified.  And then *swoon* I found two books on my shelves twice, meaning that I had not only forgotten I had them but had purchased another copy and abandoned the first for lost … forever.

My shame was deep and complete.  I felt like a mother who had abandoned her children to run off with a rodeo cowboy.

Shaking off my remorse and vowing to be a better mother and dust more often, I realized that this and many other regrets of modern life are simply due to the fact that there is just not enough time, darn it!  Since this insight came due to my current immersion in books and the lack of time to read them, I was reminded of my favorite Twilight Zone episode of all time (and I am a big TZ fan who, yes, owns the entire original series), “Time Enough at Last.”  Burgess Meredith plays a bank employee who adores reading and prefers books to people.  When he hides in the vault one day to finish his lunchtime reading, a catastrophe happens, and he finds himself alone — and surrounded by books from the nearby demolished library.  He’s in heaven!  Well, until the ironic twist at the end for which the TZ series is famous.

And it’s in this “Be careful what you wish for” irony that I find solace at present from my predicament of not having the time I want to read, watch movies, write, paint, travel, and hang out with friends.  After all, the reasons for having that time on one’s hands might be less than pleasant.  So, I’ll just keep eking out my morsels of precious hourglass sand, more grateful to have them becasue they are so rare.

Mood:  grateful and inspired

New Guests on ZOOM’D Leadership

Source: ZOOM’D update email by Cynthia McEwen, Avastone Consulting

ZOOM’D Leadership explores the importance of changing the way we pursue the future. ZOOM’D is on the air live each Monday, 2 to 3 p.m. Eastern time, 11 a.m. to noon Pacific.

January 11 Guest:
James Howard Kunstler on “The Long Emergency”

James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency, World Made by Hand, and numerous other books, joins ZOOM’D to shake up thinking about the challenges posed by the coming permanent oil crisis, climate change, and other converging catastrophes of the 21st century. In a riveting description of realities and contraction that the world faces, James highlights two competing forces at play: the dominant push toward the status quo with self-correction back to a consumer-centered growth economy, and the minority force that calls for radically new arrangements in daily life and intelligent responses to the real dynamics at hand.

James explores the pressure points and tensions underlying where we are now, what we can expect this year, and where our current path is taking us in the longer term. Underpinning the direct and no-holds-barred conversation is an ever-growing emphasis on resilience–a watchword central to both communities and our personal lives going forward.

Don’t miss it!!

January 18 Guest:
Dr. Michael Vlahos on “Ancient Patterns of Human Change”

Dr. Michael Vlahos, distinguished professional and author with broad knowledge and expertise in history, anthropology, national security studies, and foreign policy, joins ZOOM’D to explore the nature of human change and the coming great transition as seen through the lens of ancient historical transformations.

Combining perspectives from his 2009 book, Fighting Identity: Sacred War and World Change, experience in his role on the national security assessment team of the National Security Analysis Department at Johns Hopkins University, and rich historical investigations brought alive through masterful examples using art, Michael brings to the table a unique lens with a different prism concerning coming change, “sacred identity,” and war. Other cultures and civilizations have lived with globalization and many parallels to the challenges we face today–and offer much that we can learn. Don’t miss this holistic and naturally integral conversation.

Go to VoiceAmerica to listen to any and all past episodes of the show!

At the 2010 People’s Choice Awards, Johnny Depp was up for Favorite Actor of the Year. After receiving more votes than anyone in the history of People’s Choice, he ended up being named Favorite Actor of the Decade. Depp, who often has been absent from awards shows where honors are bestowed upon him, actually showed up and gratefully acknowledged that the only reason any entertainer is up on that stage (or any stage) is because of the people — the fans.  Click here to see Depp’s cool yet humble acceptable speech.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s introduction of Depp was both funny and accurate, especially in this respect: Depp hasn’t followed trends; he has set them. Over the past three decades, Depp’s shrewd choice of material, in all but a couple of unfortunate instances, has been impeccable and his performance always on the money. Speaking of money, the films he’s been in have grossed more than $2 billion (that billion with a B).

One thing that’s fascinating about Depp is that he’s taken his own road and engendered nothing but respect. Even when people are not huge fans, like yours truly, no one seems to despise him; that’s a tough claim for actors of his generation to make (the only other I can think of who doesn’t seem to have any real haters is John Cusack).

I’ve been a Depp fan from the get-go. Yup, I giggled over his bare midriff  under a cut-off football jersey in Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and religiously watched 21 Jump Street (1987-1990). His films are among the few that I always go see first-run in the theater. My Depp collection contains everything he’s ever done, including films that aren’t distributed in the States (exceptions are a couple of voice-overs and early one-off appearances on series like Arthur Hailey’s Hotel and Lady Blue … bet you don’t even remember those).

On the heels of Depp’s latest award, I thought I’d take a stab at creating my own ranking of “The Johnny Depp Library.”  Here goes! Continue reading

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