Thursday, June 28, 2007

And Now a Couple of LDS Movies ...

...not to say that these are official productions of the church, but made by LDS people.

Money or Mission (2006)

I was distracted by how much the lead character, an almost 19-year-old boy getting ready to go on a mission, looked like Meg Ryan. Otherwise, it was short and okay. But here’s a general complaint: I find almost every female character in these movies made by LDS people annoying—way too perky and cheerful and smiley. With the exception of Napoleon Dynamite, of course.

Money or Mission is more like a church production than others I've seen, but that's not surprising. It was made from an article that appeared in the Ensign.

Take A Chance (2006)

This one was mildly amusing at times, but otherwise similar in quality to The R.M. and The Singles Ward. The religious family in this movie is generically religious, but they’re not the focus of the intended hilarity. Maybe that’s why the hilarity isn’t all that hilarious.

The more I think of it, the more I realize that this movie, and no doubt others like it, really didn't need to be made. They’re the Catch and Release of LDS films. Maybe The R.M. and the The Singles Ward are enough.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My Foray into LDS Fiction

I've had a couple of LDS fiction phases, but neither lasted very long. As a teenager, I read several Jack Weyland novels, and later when I worked at the BYU Bookstore I read a few novels published by Orson Scott Card's publishing company, Hatrack River (more about that later). But recently, a good friend surprised me with the revelation that she is working on an LDS romance novel. I'm not a fan of that genre, but I was so impressed that she'd written 100+ pages of an actual novel that I begged her to let me read it. She finally relented, but she suggested that I read some examples of the already-published stuff, so I’d know what she was going for. So this is like research, I guess.

Beyond Perfection by Juli Caldwell and Erin McBride

This was the one that started it. I read it before I found out about my friend's work-in-progress. I ran across it at our local library—it’s a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and I’m a sucker for those, and some mind candy sounded good right then. Unfortunately, I was in the mood for peanut M&Ms, something with at least the hint of substance, and this was Pixie sticks or Jolly Ranchers. I get annoyed when the main character is referred to as “the sad brunette” well after her identity has been established.

It was while telling my friend about this book that she revealed her secret.

Soul Searching by Shannon Guymon

The cover of this was decidedly less embarrassing than the typical LDS romance novel, which often features lace and curly letters. The story was okay, though the characters were a little flat.

Love Lights the Way by Michele Ashman Bell

In spite of the cover (flowery and pastel) and cheesy title, this one was pretty good. It took place on the Oregon coast, about which it is nice to dream. The characters were again a little flat but likable.

The Heart Has Its Reasons by Kerry Blair

I liked this title even less than Love Lights the Way, but it was my favorite one. There were relatively few cliches and moments of bad writing to annoy me—those few were references to the love interest’s rippling muscles, but since he was a professional baseball player and thus presumably well endowed with muscles, perhaps that can be forgiven. Also, I liked the characters and the conversion story of the main guy—it seemed more natural and believable than the spiritual crises of characters in the other books.

On the other hand, I have a sneaking suspicion that the more of these one reads, the more one wants to read. It’s kind of like watching TV—easy and pleasant and not very challenging.

Paradise Vue and Return to Paradise by Kathryn H. Kidd

I read both of these many years ago when I worked at the BYU Bookstore. They are (were) published by Orson Scott Card’s publishing company, Hatrack River, which probably doesn't exist anymore, but OSC has plenty of online presence, and you can still get the books he published. They’re not romances, but more like LDS comedy with some serious elements. They are pretty funny.

I meant to read something by Anita Stansfield, too, since she's kind of the queen of LDS romances, very prolific and widely read. But I couldn't bring myself to get excited about any of her titles. Maybe later.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Arrested Development, Seasons 2 and 3

Arrested Development is some of the best television from the last few years. I love the Segway-riding Gob and the son named George Michael (and they only mention the singer/songwriter George Michael once in the whole series!) and the manipulative, drinking mother. It’s all smart and hilarious. Many thanks to Chris and Camille for loaning us their DVDs. We’ll send them back soon, but probably not before reviewing some episodes.

Music and Lyrics (2007)

This was funny and cute, but not sickeningly so. The fake ‘80s video is a masterpiece—mostly Wham!, but also elements of Duran Duran and other ‘80s New Wave bands. Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore learned to sing for these roles, which is pretty cool.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Jon and I are mean parents. We don’t let the kids watch movies that are rated PG-13. Of course, they love the Star Wars movies, so we’ve been meaning to preview Star Wars: Episode III for a long time, so we could approve it (or not) for them. They’ve been waiting for a long time, mostly because I hated Episodes I and II and I was dreading having to sit through another too-long Star Wars movie that sucked. But we finally did it. The first 45 minutes or more were agonizing—boring and flashy and stupid; it got slighty better later, but nothing can make up for the terrible dialog and bad acting (by actors who are otherwise decent) and Anakin’s extreme pouting.

Anyway, we let the kids watch it the next day, but since it’s pretty dark, we told them it’s a one-time thing, not for repeated viewing. I mean, Anakin gets various body parts cut off and catches on fire. And then there’s the pouting. Yuck.

Good Faith by Jane Smiley

I think Jane Smiley is a very good writer, but this was just okay.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)

I loved this. I wanted to see it again right after I finished watching it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

At First Sight (1999)

A surprisingly good movie based on a true story about a guy who’s been blind since he was a toddler. His new city girlfriend convinces him to try a revolutionary surgery, he recovers his sight for a while and has to completely relearn how to process visual stimuli, and then he loses his sight again.

Val Kilmer looks almost exactly like my brother-in-law, Matt, which was kind of freaky, since I used to think Val Kilmer was so hot (and smart in Real Genius!).

Catch and Release (2006)

Ivy was right—this was a lame movie. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember what Ivy had written about it when I was at the video rental place that night, only that she had seen it. It was a complete waste of time. Not that I mind wasting my time occasionally, but I’d like to enjoy whatever it is that’s wasting my time. This I did not enjoy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Lake House (2006)

I expected this to be mediocre, just a time-filler, but I quite enjoyed it. Yes, Keanu Reeves is about as wooden as they come (but I’ll always love him in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure), and Sandra Bullock isn’t my favorite, but I thought this movie was refreshingly different. Also refreshingly clean, since they’re separated by time throughout the movie. It’s a remake of a Korean film, and that would be interesting to see sometime.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert

I found this book fascinating. It’s about Eustace Conway, a guy who started living off the land, with a knife and a lot of know-how, at the age of 17. He built a teepee, hunted for meat, made his own buckskin clothes from deerskin, and was otherwise completely self-sufficient. He lived there while he went to college and for many years beyond. That part of his story is amazing and well worth reading, but the book is also about his complicated relationships with family members and friends, his vision of changing America and how he’s going about it, and his relentless pursuit of knowledge and skills that he’s passing on to anyone who’s willing to work their tails off. He's got a place in North Carolina called Turtle Island Preserve. I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man by Fannie Flagg

Ivy has been bugging me to read this forever. As she promised, I did laugh out loud a few times. Daisy Fay narrates her story with gumption and a childlike innocence, in spite of the dubious moral character of those around her, and rises above her surroundings.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Other People's Dirt: A Housecleaner's Curious Adventures by Louise Rafkin

Louise Rafkin likes to clean, so after getting her degree in Comparative Literature, she decided to become a professional house cleaner. In this book, she tells of her own experiences cleaning and interviews others who clean. It’s entertaining and short, which in this case is a good thing, because while it’s a fun read, there’s just enough material for a slightly shorter book.

The Road to Wellville by T.C. Boyle

This is a novel about John Harvey Kellogg, the inventor of cornflakes. The story’s fictional, but there’s a lot of interesting history about the sometimes weird health crazes of the early 1900s, from which came the entire idea of breakfast cereal. Kellogg owned a health spa in Battle Creek, Michigan, where people came to eat vegetarian diets and do bizarre exercises, including “laughing exercises,” where everyone stood around and laughed without anything being funny. He was uncompromising, fanatical, and dictatorial, and Boyle's writing is funny and clever and, as usual, a little disconcerting (or a lot). Definitely an interesting read.