Showing posts from September, 2006

Shanghai Noon

Every time I go to my sister's house (Hi, Ivy!), we briefly consider watching Shanghai Knights , but then we don't because I haven't seen Shanghai Noon yet. Well, now I have! It was pretty funny sometimes. My favorite part: a dusty pioneer couple gazes in astonishment at the three Chinese Imperial Guards in their strange get-up, practicing sword play. The wife says, "They're not like any Injuns I ever seen, Jedediah!" and he says, "That's because they're not Injuns, woman. They're Jews!" I think I would have liked it better if I'd seen it when it was still new, but Jon and I had already gone through our Jackie Chan phase when it came out. (At least a couple of times, we took our two babies to a movie theater, hoped they'd fall asleep, and watched some Jackie Chan movie.) My exposure to martial arts films is extremely limited, but Jackie Chan is fun and easy to watch. And of course, I love that he does his own stunts. Owen

The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley

Okay, I admit that I sort of skimmed the last couple of chapters of this book . Also, while I was halfheartedly trying out some of the techniques in the book, trying to get my youngest to sleep better (she's 13 months old! It's time!), she seemed to get worse and worse, until she was waking up every hour and expecting to sleep on me. So I did something more drastic, not "no-cry" but also not "cry it out." And it's working well. (Rejoice!) I don't mean to disparage the book, though. I think it's a great alternative to the two prevailing ideas out there right now: let your baby "cry it out"; or buck and up and let the baby wake up as much as he/she wants to. I think if I'd been more consistent with Pantley's ideas, I could have been successful. She uses a lot of the techniques I used on my first few but was too tired to remember. And she has it systematically arranged, with worksheets and logs, so you can see how well her sys

Unconditional Love

Kathy Bates, Dan Akroyd, Rupert Everett, Jonathon Pryce, Julie Andrews, Barry Manilow, etc. Kind of a bizarre movie, but Kathy Bates is a joy to watch. I've loved her ever since seeing Misery . (I went with a friend, who was pretty freaked out by the movie, and later, it was so fun to call his house and leave messages for him from Annie Wilkes.) She is really a great actress. She sings in this movie, too, and her voice is great. All of the acting in this movie was very good, actually. Not necessarily recommended viewing, but it was entertaining.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

This is a fun classic novel. Alfred Hitchcock made it into a movie in 1940. I haven't seen it for a very long time, but I think it was his first American movie, or something like that. He probably played up the spookiness a lot, but the book is just spooky enough to be fun. (For me, I mean. I don't have much tolerance for scary stuff.) I've read it before, possibly twice, but I really enjoyed it this time around. I knew what was going to happen, of course (Jon and I watched a long Masterpiece Theatre production of it fairly recently, which had reminded me of forgotten details). But the writing is delightfully descriptive, and this time I noticed how much of the story happens in the narrator's head, as she imagines different scenarios. In fact, her swings from euphoric happiness to deep despair reminded me of Bridget Jones's Diary --silly, uniquely female, somewhat immature, and totally believable. It's really fun to read.

Le Divorce (2003)

I don't think I liked this movie . I don't mean to be indecisive, but it was kind of weird. There were several subplots and extra characters who turn out to be pretty important, but they overshadowed the main plot, if it was indeed the main plot. I don't think it should be called a "romantic comedy," either. I guess there was romance if you think it's romantic to watch a young, hip American girl (Kate Hudson) sleeping around--towards the beginning of the movie, she meets a French guy, Yves, and they shake hands and make eye contact, and in the very next scene , they are watching TV together in bed, half dressed. And that's it for that romance! Then she becomes someone's mistress. While continuing to carry on with Yves. There were some interesting contrasts between French and American culture, which made the movie a nice companion to a book I recently read called Almost French by Sarah Turnbull. Also funny and disturbing to watch the English guy to

The In-Laws

Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks play fathers whose son and daughter are about to get married. It's mildly funny, but just an okay movie. I like Ryan Reynolds, who plays the groom-to-be. Albert Brooks is also funny, though in a whiny, annoying way, kind of like Woody Allen. I'm not a fan of Candice Bergen, who plays the ex-wife of Michael Douglas' character. Yep, pretty much run-of-the-mill.

Running With Angels by Pamela H. Hansen

The subtitle of this book is "The Inspiring Journey of a Woman Who Turned Personal Tragedy into Triumph Over Obesity," and it is inspiring. After losing two babies at birth and dealing with the serious diseases of two of her daughters, the author took control of something she did have control over and lost 100 pounds. While she was losing the last 60 pounds, she trained for a marathon. In nine months, she went from running ten steps during her by-then habitual walks to 26.2 miles. Amazing and inspiring.

Danny Deckchair

I liked this a lot. Funny and not run-of-the-mill. (You could call it a romantic comedy, even, but it takes place in Australia with real Australians, which makes it a refreshing romantic comedy.) It's about a guy who accidentally flies away in a deckchair attached to huge helium-filled balloons. He ends up far away and starts a new life. I won't address here the problem with many romantic comedies, namely the question of why we should believe that the old relationship is so wrong and the new one so right; and what is going to make the new relationship work--forever! or for a year or so, if it involves high school kids--when the old one didn't? Perhaps I'm overthinking the romantic comedy genre, which is about the beginning of a relationship, and only incidentally about the end of one, sometimes. Anyway, recommended, especially if you enjoy Australian accents, watching people drive on the wrong side of the road, and hearing lots of strange shortenings of words. W

Digging to America by Anne Tyler

There's always something that makes me sad in Anne Tyler's books. In this one , it was how generally well-intentioned the characters were, but how easily they misunderstood each other. Also how thoughtlessly the characters spoke sometimes. But what I love about Anne Tyler is how true to life her books are, maybe more in this one than in previous novels. The characters aren't quirky and weird, as in many of her other books; they're more subtly complex and ordinary. It was one of those books where, days after I've finished it, I suddenly wonder, "What's going on with so-and-so?" And I'm sad to discover that the story is done. I don't know what else will happen to so-and-so, because she's not real. My mom used to want me to write our family history. She thought it could be like an Anne Tyler novel. It probably could be--we'd fit right into her world, except for the Baltimore setting--but I'm not sure we'd be pleased to see

South of the Northeast Kingdom by David Mamet

This short book by playwright David Mamet is a National Geographic publication about Vermont, where Mamet lived for forty years (I think). Jon and I have been fans of Mamet and of Vermont for several years now, so this was a treat. Mamet's writing is almost like poetry, it's so concentrated. There are no meandering descriptions that invite you to get lost in the text. You have to pay attention to every word (or at least I did)--there's nothing extra. I liked it a lot. In many travel books I've read, the author's descriptions of people and towns, especially small towns, are cute and quaint. They often end up sounding like caricatures instead of real people. (See Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon, for example; I couldn't finish it, he seemed so condescending to those he was describing. I started to imagine how he'd describe me , and it wasn't good.) Mamet's characters, real people he lived and did business with, were respectfully and re

Spencer's Mountain

This movie from 1963 was apparently the inspiration for the TV show The Waltons . We just wanted to watch it because it was filmed in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which is near where we live. In it are Henry Fonda, Maureen O'Hara, and the guy who played the oldest brother in Swiss Family Robinson (James MacArthur, IMDb tells me). We watched it with our kids and were surprised at the sexual references throughout the movie. (Maybe it's naive to think that a movie from 1963 about a homesteading family would be devoid of that kind of thing; maybe sexual references were all the rage in 1963. Then again, we recently watched Gone With the Wind with the kids. It has relatively recently been rated G--in spite of all kinds of things that I wouldn't normally consider appropriate for "General Audiences." Like the violent death of a child; a silhouetted amputation with plenty of noise; a heroine with nearly exclusively self-serving motivations; a few really screwed up marriag

What the Deaf Man Heard

A unimportant but mildy entertaining movie about a kid whose mother disappears en route to a new place, and when he gets to the end of the bus line, sans Mom, he refuses to respond to people and they assume he's a deaf-mute. He keeps it up for twenty years and then has some dilemmas because of what he overhears. I guess it's interesting to think about what people say around those they believe can't hear or understand. Overall, just standard Hallmark Hall of Fame stuff. (Hey, it was free at the library, and the selection there is not really extensive.)

Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce

This is a novel for kids 8 and up, supposedly, though it seems too mature for that young. I really liked it. The main character is obsessed with Catholic Saints and being good, and sometimes he sees and talks to them. There's also a bizarre portrayal of Mormons in their neighborhood (the kid's intrigued, because they're Latter-day Saints , you know), which makes me really wonder if the author has met some LDS missionaries who were kind of odd. Or maybe he just made it up. Or maybe missionaries in England go by their first names (all Biblical) and live in suburban homes in threesomes eschewing material possessions. There's a very good movie version of this, too, but it also may be too mature for young kids. We watched it with ours, but it won't be one of those that gets oft-repeated viewings.


This is the first movie I've seen with Harrison Ford in it since I met him . (Yes! I met him! How cool is that? We did not have a meaningful conversation or anything, but it was still pretty neat. And my kids' got his signature. Han Solo's signature! Sorry to all of you who've heard enough about this already.) This movie totally sucked me in. I was tense pretty much the whole time, even during the opening credits, which is a montage of black and white surveillance photos of main character, Jack, and his family. (I also felt a little uncomfortable watching these creepy photos and realizing that I was doing the same thing when I took pictures of him at our little airport here. I'm not planning to use them for some evil purpose, but wouldn't it be weird if everybody wanted to take pictures of you? Weird and creepy.) Yeah, so like I said, it totally sucked me in. For an action movie, it was surprisingly believable, with a minimum of "yeah, right" m

Cheaper by the Dozen 2

The kids and I watched this together. I know I'm not supposed to, but I think I actually liked this better than the first one. The first Cheaper by the Dozen (with Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt; not the old one) seemed to have even more ridiculously chaotic moments than the second. Though I admit that Steve Martin was physically sillier in this one. Okay, maybe I can't defend my preference for the second one very well. It's true that these funny depictions of large families do no service to large families. But this one had two large families, one with twelve kids, one with eight, and one of the points of the movie is the nearly opposite parenting styles, and how both families turn out good kids (although kids from both families get into trouble). Also, I liked that the trophy wife of the "competing" family turns out to be pretty cool. And that the kids are all nice and like each other. And that it's just the dads who are lame and overly competitive. Okay,


Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom in a fairly decent romantic comedy (or if you want to be cool, you could call it a "rom-com," a term that disturbs me; I used it jokingly for a while, but it kept disturbing me, so I quit). The back of the DVD case claimed that the soundtrack was "great" or something, which made me suspicious that the rest of the movie might suck. But it was a pretty good soundtrack, until they started playing too much Elton John. Or maybe it was just a couple of Elton John songs played too close together or someone who sounded like Elton John. Anyway, still a good soundtrack. It was nice to see a movie not set in New York. In fact, this one took place in Oregon (briefly) and in Louisville, Kentucky. The end features many and sundry places of interest between Louisville and somewhere west of there (maybe in Kansas?), I can't remember where. And I liked that part. I'd really like to visit the World's 2nd Largest Farmer's Market now

The Recruit (2003)

The back of this movie's DVD case claims that you'll want to watch it again and again to see what you missed the first time. Because it's so convoluted and full of twists and turns, you see. But it's not really. (If you want something to watch repeatedly, try The Spanish Prisoner , and then talk to Jon about it.) It was entertaining, however. And that's what I wanted last night--something fun to watch, that wouldn't make me think too much, or at least not beyond trying to figure out who's really the bad guy. That's what I got. As an aside, I'm going to start linking movies to, unless I think they're really worth buying.

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

This was pretty good, though maybe not as compelling as The Giver . I'm eager to read the next somewhat-related book, Messenger , and see how it ties the two novels together. I look forward to reading these with my kids when they're older.