Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reservation Road

Reservation Road - Dvd (2007)
The gloomy weather in our part of the world has meant nights tucked in at home with books or dvds. Somehow I had seen the promo for this movie on another I watched last week, and as I enjoy Mark Ruffolo/Jennifer Connelly, I put in my order and reserved it.

I feel somewhat conflicted, as the I do enjoy dramas, and so often feel letdown by the light and fluffy stuff out there. The date night floofy stories, the stupid chick flicks that have no smarts and worst of all the manboy comedies written by and for 12 year old boys (I'm talking to you Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler), they all leave me so annoyed at wasting good money, and I almost feel dirty watching them. Reservation Road was dramatic, well acted and directed, but I felt a bit gloomy about the story.

After an evening out, a young family stops at a gas station where an SUV, swerves and hits and kills the son who is at the side of the road, releasing fire flys back into the bushes. The driver stunned and scared drives away, leaving the family in turmoil. They both then, have to learn to live with what has happened and how it affects their lives.

I guess not the cheeriest of stories to cover, and I thought that both Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffolo did a good honest portrayl of stress, grief and sorrow. I have to give it a 2/5.

Growing Up Again - Mary Tyler Moore

Growing Up Again - Mary Tyler Moore (2009)
I had seen Mary Tyler Moore speaking on the Rachel Ray show about her new book. Part biography, it was mainly a dialogue about her experiences with being a diabetic. I liked the interview, and took a chance and requested the book.

A light read, taking only a couple of sittings it was interesting to learn that she has been diabetic for so long, and that it has affected her so badly in recent years, and that she is heavily involved in speaking out about type I diabetes. You have to admire her for her charity work, and if I knew anyone who was recently diagnosed I would point them in the direction of this book. 2/5

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles - Roy Jacobsen

The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles - Roy Jacobsen (2005)
I had wandered into the central town library, as I had an hour or two to spare before I met my friends. At 4pm many of the cafes are crowded and noisy and the library is often a quiet place to retreat. I did a quick glance around the shelves, and this little book was resting on the librarians choice shelf. I had vaguely remembered some reviews of this book, and as it was small and light and the ideal size to fit in my bag, I took it out.

Timo lives in a small town in the forests of Finland. In 1939 in the depths of winter, the inhabitants retreat as the Russians advance leaving most of the town burnt out. Timo stays and is joined by a small collection of stragglers, each trying to find their own freedom and way home.

I can't say I was particularly moved or astounded by this small book (like it says on the cover), and after picking it up to read the last 10 pages, after a week in my bag I was hard pushed to remember what had happened and who the characters were. I feel I should apologize, but I am going to have to say 2/5.

The Rosetti Letter - Christi Phillips

The Rosetti Letter - Christi Phillips (2007)
In the 17th centuary, Alessandra Rosetti is faced with the choice of poverty or the convent after her father and brother are drowned with the family riches. Choosing instead to become a courtesan, mixing with Venetians most powerful men.

Claire Donovan is a Phd student who is studying the Spanish conspiracy in the Venice of the 1600s. In order to finish her dissertation, she must go to Venice to do some research. Without funds she finds herself a job of being companion to a teenager in order to finance her trip. Also present in Venice at the same time, is Andrew Kent, a Cambridge professor who is writing a book on the same topic.

For a first novel it was well written, and I am sure well researched with authentic Venetian details. Certainly a perfect novel to stay in bed and read on our wild, wet and windy winter weekend. 3/5

Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road - Dvd (2008)
I guess living the dream, then doing something unexpected was a bit revolutionary for the average 1950s family, but I really didn't get it, and think I have missed the point of the movie. I am sure lots of girls had dreams of living artistic lives in Paris or London at the time.

Kate Winslet did a great job, I loved her Princess Grace persona at the beginning and you could sense her slide by the lack of hairspray, dowdy dresses and not so perfect makeup. Leonardo, I didn't find him believable, I felt like he was playing dress up and pretending to be his grandfather.

2/5 - it was nice to look at, and beats the rubbish that tv pumps out.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Mummy - Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

The Mummy - Tomb of the Dragon Emperor - Dvd (2008)
After a few serious dramas one can always use a bit of fluff and silliness. I did really enjoy the first mummy film, the one that begins with a bit of a tale of Egyptian history and then turns into silly mummy fighting.

So this is film number 3 in the series which starts with a bit of Chinese history and then turns digital crazy with yetis, mummies and skeletons fighting. Well I wasn't looking for serious acting or realistic stories was I? So it is a 1/5 for this predictable endevour. Save your money and your time.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Man On Wire

Man on Wire - Dvd (2008)
This doco played at last years film fest, and I was dying to see it , but the session times didn't work out and I missed it. I missed it also in the rerun but was glad to be able to get it on dvd. I was surprised by this dvd, it's use of suspense turning it into a light hearted thriller, the blend of ren-enactments and footage from 1974 was well done, it was amusing at times, and in others it was beautiful too.

In 1974 Phillipe Petit, assisted by friends, snuck into the top of the world trade centre, rigged up a tightrope and then walked between the two towers eight times, 110 floors up. Amazing stuff, even more so after 2001.

4/5 - really you must see it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - Dvd (2007)
Somehow I missed this one at the movies. Study keeps me away from the cinema sometimes, but it is always a delight to have something interesting on dvd to watch. At the moment I am excited as the Wellington International Film Festival starts in 6 weeks, and I have annual leave for the whole lot, making me a huge geek I know!!! My friend is in charge of booking the popular evening shows and we booked for 10 of these, booked on the first day of the booking office opening.

I don't usually do the mid week dvds, but this week I have no shift and the tele sucks, so I am treating myself to some indoor entertainment and have a few dvds and a pile of books, just in case the swine flu arrives (and I am feeling very sniffly).

Miss Pettigrew is a frumy governess who dismissed from her job, finds herself tossed onto the streets. Being enterprising she manages to find herself in a position of helping a young American actress, and within the space of a day, everything changes.

A delightful comedy, set in 1939 London, this period piece feels light and not too forced (unlike an Easy Virtue, seen earlier in the month). Frances McDormand was perfect in her role as Miss Pettigrew, Amy Adams was bubbly and insightful and Ciaran Hinds/Mr Wentworth was broody and the perfect love interest for the older ladies. 4/5

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Lost Child - Julie Myerson

The Lost Child - Julie Myerson (2009)
Julie Myerson comes across an album, of watercolour pictures painted in the 1800's by a young girl Mary Yellory. She finds later that Mary died at the age of 21, leaving little trace of the life she lived, except for the pictures of her life.

At the same time, while researching the life of the Yellory family, there is turmoil in the Myerson family. The oldest son, at sixteen is thrown out of home. Turning the world of his family inside out and upside down by his continued drug use, after continued disturbances and an assault on his mother, the parents feel they have little choice but to ask him to leave.

Julie Myerson seems to have received a huge amount of criticism for this move, but my goodness I feel that she was so brave to write about this issue that many families are facing and that in her book, she laid out bare and told it like it was. I could feel her pain in her writing, and feel very sad that people could be critical of her.

Although both childrens lives are so very different, it does explain that no matter how much you may love your kids, and no matter what opportunities come their way, they will make their own way in the world.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Proposal

The Proposal (2009)
Well on last nights TV3 movie review, Kate Roger gave this one a one out of five. Me, I am going to give it a 3/5, cause I am feeling kind, and because Ryan is so cute.

Sandra Bullock, well she looks great, but honey you could do with eating some bread once or twice a year. I know you had to be semi-nekkid in this one, but really you could do with a tiny layer of adipose.

Typical rom-com, where they hate each other but will end up married. At least it didn't start off rom-com and then try to drama it up. Nice supporting cast. Take your lady or gay friends, leave the guys at home. Or, wait for the dvd, and grab a pizza.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict - Laurie Viera Rigler

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict - Laurie Viera Rigler (2008)
Courtney Stones solves lifes little problems by curling up in bed with a Jane Austen novel. So after finding out her fiance is cheating on her, she wakes up one morning to find that she is in Regency England and straight into the world of the novels she loves.

Now, even though I finished the book last night I had to look up Amazon to find out the main characters name. I didn't know this had been filmed as Lost in Austen, which I had bought several weeks ago on DVD, but not seen yet. I had wanted to see it on the tele, but my aerial refuses to give me the channel it was viewing on.

Better yet, there is a second novel - Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict coming out on the 25th of June.

It was an amusing wee book, and for a first novel I admire her ability to step into the Regency world without coming across as too twee. I was surprised though that the main character didn't comment much on the changes she observed and that she thought the food was good. I could hardly imagine that in the time before fridges, that families would have been wasteful with putting out large quantities of food at meal times.

And besides a lack of makeup, how would the modern girl cope without a hair dryer and straighteners, and a lack of elastic in your knickers. Oh the horror.

3/5 - cause I like Jane Austen, costume dramas and a bit of Regency England.


Australia - Dvd (2008)
Well I had heard bad things. It was long, and the beginning 20 minutes were stupid. Nicole Kidman, actually I always kind of like you, but it seemed you were trying toooo hard in the first half of the movie and it came off as really false. Just like in Cold Mountain, they made you far too costumed, hair dressed, made up and prissy. In the second half with your uncombed hair bouncing off your botox you seemed much more natural and likeable.

Hugh Jackman, Le sigh - what is there not to love, with your floppy hair, your muscles and your man hands? Well I didn't really love the dye job on your hair or the thick ocker bloke accent in the first half of the movie, but I am willing to forgive you.

It all seemed a bit like it was trying so hard to be Gone with the wind, that it overplayed and didn't make the story amazing or truthful. It was meant to be 1939, but seemed to be trying to be 1860s.

Still for a Saturday night, when the temperature is low and the heater is on, I thought it was better than anything the tv had on offer. 3/5

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson (2005)
I tried to read it, I wanted to enjoy it, but I couldn't do it. The bookmark is still on page 46, I felt as though I was wasting time if I read further, so I stopped.

Pia, have you read this Swedish book? Just wondering, as you are the only reader of this blog!

Do you give up on books? I always feel guilty, as I know the author has made a lot of effort, and often others have enjoyed the read. Sometimes I persevere if I have bought the book, and have less guilt at not finishing library books, as they are free to borrow.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Shanghai Girls - Lisa See

Shanghai Girls - Lisa See (2009)
There is something so nice about being the first one to read a book, whether it is newly bought or new at the library, I don't mind. I had waited I think 5 months on the reserve list for Lisa Sees new book.

Starting int 1937, it tells the story of Pearl and May Chin, sisters in Shanghai who are living a good life, modeling and socialising at all of the popular spots. It then follows them through the Japanese invasion of China and their eventual arrival in the US.

I have read Lisa Sees two previous novels, which were awesome, Peony in Love and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. On Gold Mountain was more of a family history about her Chinese family that had emigrated to the US, and I see echoes of these stories in Shangai Girls. Not as compelling as her historical novels, it was still interesting and compelling and I enjoy her flowing style of writing. 3/5

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Still Alice - Lisa Genova

Still Alice - Lisa Genova (2009)
Alice is a fifty year old university lecturer at Harvard. Over a short period of time she realizes that she is becoming increasingly forgetful and misplacing objects. Realising this may not be simple old age forgetfulness, she is diagnosed with early onset dementia - Alzeimers.

Told from her point of view, this novel reaches in and tells us how the patient feels. The despair and hurt as family and friends learn to cope with the new Alice.

A great read, very moving and sensitive. 4/5

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister - Gregory Maguire

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister - Gregory Maguire (2000)
Standing in Borders, waiting for a friend on a rainy day, I picked up this book and read the first page. Should I buy it, I was keen to read it but it was $30 that could pay for my lunch. So, instead I reserved it from the library and was able to pick it up within two days.

I enjoyed this grown up tale of Cinderella very much. Taking away the fairytale elements and placing the story in 17th centuary Holland in the midst of Tulip fever, I was entranced by the fate of Iris, Ruth and their mother who upon arriving penniless and homeless seek to place themselves in a home.

3/5 for this very grown up fairy tale, without any fairies.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Wuthering Heights - DVD

Wuthering Heights - Dvd (1998)

Out on the wiley, windy moors
We roll and fall in green.
You had a temper like my jealousy:
Too hot, too greedy.

How could you leave me,
When I needed to possess you?
I hated you. I loved you, too.
Bad dreams in the night.
They told me I was going to lose the fight,
Leave behind my wuthering, wutheringWuthering heights.

Heathcliff, its me--cathy.
Come home. Im so cold!
Let me in-a-your window.

Oh my gosh I love that song, still - after all these years. The dvd - mmm not so much. I got that they were acting the jealousy, obsession and revenge bits ok, but the love. I didn't really feel it. Matthew McFadyen would have been so much better as Heathcliff, maybe it is time for a remake.

3/5, and I might have to get another copy of the book.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Easy Virtue

Easy Virtue (2009)
A cold winters afternoon is a perfect time to consider a movie, and as it was my friends choice I went to see this one with no idea of what it was about. Based on a Noel Coward play, the prodigal son returns from his trip abroad with a new wife, and an American one at that. Mother and sisters don't take too kindly to her, but all the boys swoon. Romps, horse riding and witty banter aplenty.

Except, I didn't buy it. Kirsten Scott Thomas was perfect as the cranky mother, but I felt everyone else was playing dress ups. Poor Colin Firth looked a bit constipated and bored by it all, Jessica Biel looked lovely but overacted a tad.

So sorry chaps, I can only give you a lowly 2/5.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall - Dvd

Forgetting Sarah Marshall - Dvd (2008)
Well I did snigger at a few scenes, but really I am too old for this manboy stuff. Comedies that try to act like dramas never really work, and although I loved Jason Segel in Freaks and Geeks, and admire that he hasn't buffed up for the role, I can't help thinking whenever I saw him that his socks must stink. I did admire his singing and hopefully what was his own piano playing in the movie.

Russell Brand was great as an advert for rock star STDs and the hotel scenery was gorg. I guess it is designed to be a great date night movie for 20somethings, as the boys would enjoy it even if it is really a romantic comedy.

2/5 for my dateless Friday night on the couch, what am I saying. Me and the cat enjoyed our night in!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Isle of Tears - Deborah Challinor

Isle of Tears - Deborah Challinor (2009)
I am not a huge fan of New Zealand authors. A lot seem to be too busy trying to show their literary skills and the story gets lost in a flurry of flowery sentiment, and over wordy sentences.

Deborah Challinor, is great though and I think her stories would be popular anywhere they were read. In this book Isla is a teenager, when her parents are murdered leaving her and her siblings orphaned. Finding shelter with local Maori, they soon make new lives for themselves. I particularly like the contrast between their Scottish background and their new Maori culture.

I think it will have to be 3/5 for this book , a perfect winter nights read. I did enjoy it, but I found that some chapters and issues in the book seemed a bit rushed, essential storylines sometimes seemed underdeveloped and would warrant only a page or so. Like there were a couple of chapters on staying in Auckland, but only a few pages about the escape, then an even shorter description of the journey south.

Blindsided - Richard M. Cohen

Blindsided - Richard M. Cohen (2005)
Richard M. Cohen was a journalist when troubled by worrying symptoms, discovered that he had Multiple Sclerosis. Dealing with it and its limitations, his work and family life form the basis of this memoir.

Later in his life he then has to deal with colon cancer and the joy of stomas and bags.

2/5 - I usually like a real life medical memoir, but wasn't in the mood for this one.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Cranford - dvd

Cranford - dvd (2007)
Well it was a very cold and windy long weekend here. So it was perfect timing that the library reserve of Cranford was ready for pickup on Friday.

I have to start by giving it a 5/5, as I enjoyed it so much. It was nice to watch something so witty, entertaining and thoughtful at the same time. If only a modern movie could provide such entertainment. Maybe it is something about seeing boys strutting about in their fantastic outfits and high boots.

Ahhhh the costumes were pretty fabulous too.