Monday, February 25, 2008

The Weight of Water

The Weight of Water (2000)

I stumbled across this movie on television. Stuck in a Sunday night midnight slot, I recordered it onto the DVDR and only happened to watch it at the weekend, in the doldrums of weekend television. Pleasantly surprised, it is the story of a photographer and her husban (Catherine Mccormack and Sean Penn) who join his brother (Josh Lucas) and the brothers girlfriend (Liz Hurley), on a yacht for a small trip. It is based on a story by Anita Shrever, the author of the Pilots Wife. The photographer is off to take some images of a small New England island, where two Norwegian immigrant women were murdered in the 1870s.

The story of the muder, and the yacht trip are told at the same time, and for once I didn't quite predict the twists and turns in this wee tale. Don't be put off by the Liz Hurley bikini shot on the cover, although she does ooze sexuality in this story, she is a minor player and I am sure the picture is just there to boost sales. The reals story lies in the relationships between all the characters.

A pleasant 4/5.

The Russian Concubine - Kate Furnivall

The Russian Concubine - Kate Furnivall (2007)

Lydia and her mother Valentina escape Russian after the Bolshevik Revolution, into Junchow China. Their life is tough, and Lydia roams free becoming involved with Chang, a Chinese young man with ties to the communists.

I struggled with the length of this book, and several times I was tempted to give up. Although an interesting story I found it a bit drawn out and felt it was an attmept to imitate Paulina Symons long novels about Russia. Then upon reaching page 577, only to find that it was getting set up for a second novel, I felt a bit cheated. So for you, my little big book I will give you a 1/5.

I think a more entertaining, and shorter novel about the russian exiles in China, is White Gardenia by Belinda Alexander.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Lust, Caution

Lust, Caution (2007)

Directed by Ang Lee, this is the tale of a Chinese country girl, who joins with her acting friends, in trapping a chinese/japanese collaborator in world war two. Set in Hong Kong and Shanghai, it is gorgeous to watch but I felt a bit disconnected to the main characters and it moved too slowly for me.

Certainly there are some sex scenes, giving it an R18 rating which make it not a family friendly show. I left the cinema a bit unmoved and not really sure what to think about it. 2/5

Monday, February 18, 2008

Falling Man - Don DeLillo

Falling Man - Don DeLillo (2007)

Don DeLillo is apparently a serious writer who wrote this book about the experience of 9/11 and its affect on the main characters. I have never read anything he has written, just admired and touched his other books at the library and in the bookstores. They seem so grown up, so advanced, that even when I am actually now middle-aged they seem too adult for me. I feel I should be a professor , smoking a pipe, and reading them in an easy chair in front of the fire.

I had read the reviews about this book, about what a great writer Mr DeLillo is and what a brilliant and brave novel this is. I don't know, it just felt too wordy for me - like it was trying to cram too many into my mouth. Like shoving 20 marshmallows in your mouth, so many that you don't enjoy the flavour. I guess it is strange to consider a book to have to many words, when in essence that is what a book actually is composed of.

Mr DeLilo I am afraid I could only summon a low 1/5 for this book. I am sorry, I feel bad for not liking it but I need to enjoy my reading - I want it to flow, to make me want to read more not less, and to make me want to climb into bed at night with it.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Heart of Darfur - Lisa French Blaker

Heart of Darfur - Lisa French Blaker (2007)

I guess stressing out over stupid romantic comedies at the movies is put into perspective when you consider this book. Lisa French Blaker is a kiwi nurse who goes to do aid work in Darfur. Faced with the extreme poverty and hopelessness of a population caught up in a crazy race fueled war, she explains what it is like to work long hot days being able to patch people up and move them on with only the basics of modern healthcare.

I felt her book often bleak and a bit monotonous, but that seemed to reflect how her weeks were. Just trying to go into camps or shelters and provide basic health care to these poor people. She does make an effort to find out many of their stories, women who must leave children at home and walk 14 hours with a sick baby to get help, groups of family who have no access to any water and numerous babies who live or die when they suffer from malnutrition, pneuomonia and malaria.

Definately worth the read, especially if you are not aware of the conflict occuring in Darfur, or just want to understand a bit more. Just think - if you read this and run into George Clooney you will be able to hold your own in a conversation with him, even for a short while. 3/5 from me.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

27 Dresses

27 Dresses (2007)

Oh dear Katherine Heigl, I still love you and I think I forgive you for this movie. I know I read a bad review before I went, I was prepared and I'd rather have seen this than go to some of the other rubbish out at the moment, or watch American idol.

I blame the bad bad scriptwriters, who in anticipation of their strike appeared to have rolled out the formula from the closet.
  • Beautiful girl in love with her boss - check
  • Boss doesn't know she is in love with him - check
  • Meant to be more beautiful younger sister steals bosses love away - check
  • Moody and rude new love interest introduced - check
  • Try to start off funny and then end more serious and moralistic (while achieving neither well) - check and double check
  • Bosses assistant living in largish very nicely decorated New York apartment instead of smallish studio/closet - check
  • Know how the movie will end within five minutes of it starting - check

Oh my goodness, when will someone make a smart chick movie? Girls like Katherine Heigl aren't ever single? She is suuuuuuuuper beautiful - don't try to make her out to be plain and mousy. Bosses like hers know they are a catch, they are rich young and handsome and aren't waiting around pining for their dream girl. Dear movie makers, look at how much money and rave reviews Juno is getting - hitch up your g-strings and write some real stuff, make it funny. Girls are funny you know!!

Katherine Heigl, I forgive you. Don't worry it must have been your pre-wedding brain. I will still respect you, but please don't get stuck with too many rom-coms like this. This movie was painful, and by the expression on your face on the poster I can tell you think so too.

I have to give it 1/5 for Katherine Heigl. I was going to give it a 0, as I felt like walking out on several occasions. So don't wait for the dvd, wait til it comes out on free tv.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

In My Fathers Den

In My Fathers Den - DVD (2004)

This was one of those movies I kept missing, first my friends went, then when I found time to go it had finished, had to work the night it played at the film festival and although it played on tv recently I was unable to record it. So I gave in, and gave up my $4 at the library to borrow it.

Made in New Zealand with mainly New Zealand actors, it tells the story of Paul a photo journalist who returns from the battlefields for his fathers funeral. Played by Matthew Macfadyen, who I think was great in the role except for his impossibly British not a hint of kiwi accent and Emily Barclay who plays Celia, a lonely 16 year old with a passion for writing. They become friends and the movie sets out to tell of the history that twines both together.

Beautiful scenery of Otago in the south island makes you long to live on a quiet country road. I would go there if Matthew Macfadyen lived there. 3/5

Their Darkest Hour - Laurence Rees

Their Darkest Hour - Laurence Rees (2007)

This non-fiction book is based on interviews that historian/film maker Laurence Rees made with survivors of world war two. From Japanese kamakaze pilots, SS officers, Concentration camp survivors, Soviet soldiers and civillians from many countries, all the interviewees were ordinary people who had to make emotional and moral choices. Talking to them in the past 10 years he has tried to find out why they made the decisions they did, before they disapear and take their stories with them.

I found though that each story was a bit too short and I wanted more but had never really considered the point before that during the war, many soldiers were able to make the choices they did because each considered themselves superior to the other. It was also interesting to find that many who had killed civillians, women and children or participated in mass killings still felt no guilt or regret - spooky.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Third Degree - Greg Iles

Third Degree - Greg Iles (2007)

Hi Greg Iles, nice to read a book of yours again. I really enjoyed your earlier ventures - the Quiet game, 24 Hours and Dead Sleep. And then I think you lost it for a little while or maybe I lost patience in wading through a large thriller where nothing happens.

So it was good to pick this one up, and want to continue to read it. It wasn't predictable, I wasn't sure how it would end or who would end up dead. Good job, maybe I will try some of your later books again, when I have a chance. 3/5

Saturday, February 02, 2008


Juno (2007)
Juno, you made me laugh in a good way , more than any other movie lately. Me and my two friends who went to the movies came away smiling and saying good things about you. We went to a little local movie theatre that has couches for seats and sells super expensive trendy icecream in little tubs. Lots of middle aged, well groomed couples frequent the neighbourhood and so most of the audience were 50 or older.

Juno 16, at high school and pregnant. Pregnant to Paul Bleeker, 16 on the running team and with an adiction to orange tictacs. Ellen Page is freakin awsome as the main character who decides to continue with the pregnancy and give her baby up for adoption.

Somehow after reading an article maybe 18 months ago, I had stumbled onto the blog of Diablo Cody, who was the writer for this movie. Cody had become a stripper for some time and lived a bit of a wild life with her husband and family but was engaging and funny in her blog. Unfortunately I deleted her web address, when obviously involved in the movie making business she neglected her blog. I do have to say has done a super job of making a character so funny and real.