Archive for December, 2009

My 2009 year-end movie reviews

These movie reviews have been sitting on my computer for quite a while now. I just thought that I’d share them with you before the year ends. Except for the first one, these are movies that I have seen this past summer.

(500) Days of Summer

My oldest son gave me this movie for Christmas. We watched it last night with his two brothers. It’s about this young man, Tom, (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt who was also Tommy in the TV series Third Rock from the Sun) who fell in love with this girl, Summer (Zooey Deschanel), who doesn’t believe in labels and relationships. The movie tells us about the 500 days of their relationship, but not in chronological order. It’s a funny and sweet movie. And I think it was neat to watch it with my three boys. They all like it, even the youngest one, who’s only 11 going on 12.

Ballet Shoes

When I found out that the three primary cast of the Harry Potter movies also filmed other movies, I thought that it’d be nice to watch them play different roles.

The first one I rented was Ballet Shoes starring Emma Watson.

It’s a good family movie. Emma plays the oldest of three orphans raised as sisters, Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil. It is set in the 1930s and is based on a children’s book of the same title. Pauline wants to be an actor, Petrova wants to fly an airplane, Posy wants to be a ballerina because the only thing her real mother left her were a pair of ballet shoes. The film basically tells the viewers that “Dreams do come true.” I think young girls will enjoy watching this movie.

Driving Lessons

It’s nice to see Rupert Grint play a role other than Ron Weasley. In Driving Lessons he plays Ben. He works as a companion to an eccentric ex-actress, Evie, played by Julie Walters who plays her mum in HP. I didn’t recognize Julie Walters in this movie because she’s usually larger as Molly Weasley in the HP movies. Ben is a shy boy and has a strict Catholic upbringing, but after hanging out with Dame Evie that summer, he grew up and learned how to stand up for himself. This is a nice coming of age story.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a copy of December Boys anywhere here in Winnipeg. It’s the one that stars HP himself, Daniel Radcliffe.

Get Smart

I love Steve Carell. I think he’s a classy funny guy. I enjoyed watching this movie. The boys loved it too. In this movie, he works for a U.S. spy agency as an analyst but has wanted to and has been training to become one of the agents. An opportunity came for him and he got promoted as an agent and he was partnered with the famous Agent 99 who he didn’t know was this gorgeous agent played by Anne Hathaway. Cool spy agent devices. Kind of like James Bond, only funny.

Push

This Dakota Fanning starrer is an interesting sci-fi action thriller based on the writers’ assumptions that there are people working for the government that can see the future, as in psychics. Like how else would somebody know that some person is smuggling drugs at this place on that date? The characters in this movie have paranormal abilities, like telekinesis, psychic abilities, and even the ability to change the future. The scariest ones are the Bleeders. They have the ability to emit high-pitched sounds that cause anybody who can hear to burst blood vessels and eventually die.

Thirteen

Thirteen is co-written by Twilight’s Nikki Reed (Rosalie) and Catherine Hardwicke (director). Hardwicke also directed Thirteen, so please don’t judge her just based on the first Twilight movie. Thirteen is about Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) who was a sweet innocent 13-year old with pigtails at the start of the movie. But on her first day of junior high, she noticed how Evie (Nikki Reed), the hottest girl in school, is getting all the attention and she did all she could to be her friend. But Evie was a bad influence on sweet Tracy. Evie encourages Tracy to steal, have body piercings, tattoos, sex and drugs. Great performances from the actors, especially from Holly Hunter who plays Tracy’s mom. It was also interesting to see a very young and cute Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical) as one of Tracy’s nicer friends.

Across the Universe

This musical film is a feast for the ears and eyes, especially if you like Beatles song. The main characters are named Jude (Jim Sturgess) and Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood, she’s all grown up). You must have already guessed why those names – Jude as in Hey Jude and Lucy as in Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. It was set in the turbulent 60’s amidst the riots and the Vietnam war. The most memorable scene for me was when they sang Let It Be. I’ve heard for the first time some of the Beatles songs that I have never heard before. And I just fell in love with them.

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December 28, 2009 at 3:49 pm 5 comments

Gift receipt? Yes or no?

Last week, I went to a housewares store to pick up a housewarming present for a friend. It was my last purchase of the night because I had also been doing my Christmas shopping for the previous two hours. My feet were already sore from walking around the mall and my arms were also getting tired from carrying my shopping bags.

I was third in line at the cash register when I heard the cashier asked the pretty young lady at the front, “Do you want a gift receipt?” Miss Pretty Young Lady looked at her tall handsome partner who was standing beside her, and then she turned to the cashier, “No, if they don’t like it, they just have to suck it up.” My eyes grew wide and my mouth hung agape. I don’t know if both the other lady in front of me and the cashier were as surprised as I was, but the cashier said, “Well, that’s the spirit of Christmas.”

Well, I sort of agree with Miss Pretty Young Lady there. I was surprised because you don’t often hear people say what she said out loud. But I have also thought about what she said a few times when buying presents for people. I spend time and energy trying to find for that person something that I think they will like. And whether they like it or not, you just want your efforts to be appreciated, at least. And because I’m sort of a people pleaser, I also ask for a gift receipt, only sometimes, not all the time. Less than half of the gifts that I wrapped this Christmas have gift receipts included in the box or bag.

I know sometimes it can be a hit and sometimes it can be a miss. If it’s a hit, good, everybody’s happy. If it’s a miss, well I guess that must have been the reason why they thought of the gift receipt. So the receiver can exchange the item with something that they like better. Just to be clear to anyone who’s lost, a gift receipt is a copy of the sales receipt that doesn’t show the price or the amount paid for the item. It has a barcode, though, that matches up with the item.

I, myself, haven’t used a gift receipt to exchange something I have received. Not that I have received that many presents. Actually I remember only once or maybe twice getting a gift receipt that came with the present. It was a present for one of my sons. The clothes he received weren’t actually his style of clothing. But we didn’t bother exchanging it. And no, he never wore the clothes.

And I think this is the perfect example where a gift receipt can serve its purpose – when buying or receiving gifts for children. If it’s a toy that’s in question, a giver might not be sure if the child receiving the gift already has that particular kind of toy. We don’t want the child ending up with a duplicate toy. The gift receipt can be used to exchange the toy with something that the child doesn’t already have. If the gift in question is an article of clothing, sometimes it can be hard to figure out what size the child wears. Then if you have a gift receipt, the clothes can be easily exchanged if the size is wrong.

But other than that, would you really exchange a gift because you didn’t like it? Or do you just suck it up? After all it’s the thought that counts, right?

December 20, 2009 at 4:41 pm 1 comment

A Wolf at the Table

A few years ago, I watched the movie Running With Scissors. It was based on the book, a memoir, by Augusten Burroughs. It is about the time he spent with his mother’s psychiatrist, a dysfunctional family. I thought it was funny.

So when I saw Augusten Burroughs’ A Wolf at the Table at McNally Robinson, I got interested in buying and reading it. A Wolf at the Table is Augusten’s memoir about his father, mostly about his life before Running With Scissors, when he was still little.

He wrote about how he couldn’t remember his father at all before he was six years old. He remembers being two years old and living at the farmhouse with his mother and brother and crawling under the neighbor’s bushes, but he couldn’t remember his father. He must have felt his presence on the stairs leading to the basement, but he couldn’t remember his face, him being there.

His first memory of his father was when he and his mother came back home from Mexico. They went away because his mother said that his father was dangerous. Now that they’re reunited, Augusten describes how it was at home. His parents hated each other and they were always fighting. He describes his relationship with his father – how he pushed him away when he wanted to sit on his lap; how he gave him a baseball mitt but wouldn’t play with him and show him how to catch a ball with it; how he terrified him with his tempers and “mind games.” He also tells about his fear of turning out like his father.

I think it was a very honest account of his life as a young boy. This is the first book by Augusten that I’ve read. I haven’t read any of his books yet at that time. But I found out on the internet that he’s known for writing his memoirs with humor, except for this one. Even if this one isn’t funny, I already started to like him as an author. Although he wrote about his sad life, it doesn’t drag you down. But it tugs at your heart. You read sad stories where you feel sympathy for the author or the main character, but it’s not what I felt for Augusten. Rather I felt empathy for him. Maybe it’s just me. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s just a very honest story that anybody who has longed for a parent’s attention, especially a father’s attention could very well relate too.

In one of the final chapters of the book, Augusten wrote, ”I used to believe I couldn’t grow up right without a father, that I would ever be ‘normal’ without one. But maybe a father is really a luxury after all. Maybe you could grow up without one.

Father – a luxury? So sad but it’s true. And yes, there are lots of kids who grew up without fathers and they turned out alright. (Myself included) But I also want to point out that I think this is changing. I’m seeing a new trend in our current generation of fathers. I think they are now more involved in their children’s lives, even with the higher rates of divorce nowadays, we see ex-couples with joint custody of their children or the fathers regularly visiting their children.

Spoilers:

I just want to say that I loved the ending of the book. It is so touching. Augusten ended it with an epilogue. It’s about how he felt this other father’s pride and love for his son who was graduating from Medical School. Augusten has never felt it from his own father and he thought that he would never ever feel it. But this man’s love for his son was so strong and it overpowered him and it leaked into him. And he felt it. He felt that love. And I was like, Wow!

December 1, 2009 at 11:22 pm 1 comment

NaNoWriMo Update

This is just a quick update to those who have been following me on this blog.

No, I didn’t win NaNoWriMo 2009. I didn’t finish 50,000 words by midnight on November 30, 2009. Even on the first day, I doubted if I could do it. Then I received words of encouragement not only from people who believe in me, but also from the pep talks from the MLs (Municipal Liaisons) of NaNoWrimo. There was a moment when I thought that I could actually do this. I was motivated. But something came up – WORK.

I thought, so what? I could still try to do this even with a busy schedule. I planned to drink lots of coffee and stay up til late at night. But I soon realized that my mind and body could not do what younger writers could. So I didn’t bother anymore.

I do have the material. I believe I have at least 50,000 words up here on my head. I just don’t have the time right now to put them into paper or type them on the keyboard. I know I want to write, finish what I have started. So it doesn’t stop here. I’m going to continue writing a little bit every now and then and eventually I’ll have that 50,000 words on paper, or a Word document.

December 1, 2009 at 9:31 pm 4 comments