myspace layouts, myspace codes, glitter graphics Totally Biased Book and Movie Review: 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Ghost and The Darkness Movie Review

… and a review of the “New Releases” at Netflix. Thumbs down.

The Ghost and The Darkness


Written by: William Goldman

Starring: Val Kilmer, Michael Douglas

Directed by: Stephen Hopkins

Rated: R for some violence and gore involving animal attacks

109 minutes

For Oldie But Goodie Day…

oh you didn’t know about that one? Well, it’s the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, when you’re eating stale pumpkin pie and sandwiches made of dry, old bird flesh…hehehehe that was gross, if I do say so myself, and I do ….and sitting on your butt in front of the tube, and you watch an Older but Gooder movie. Get it? Got it! I knew you would.

… this year, I chose to watch The Ghost and The Darkness.

Ok, truthfully, I just made up the Oldie But Goodie day this very year, but that’s because there’s nothing good to rent! I’m too lazy and poor to drive to the actual theater unless there’s something playing there that I GOTTA see …Like Borat. I will gotta-see-go-to that one but it’s not here yet. I’m crossing fingers and making mental sacrifices to the Movie Gods because rumors say it won’t come to my eensy-weensy hick neck of the woods, but I believe in the power of mental sacrifice. Seriously, you should see the bleating of the mental sheep being slaughtered on the altar. It’s enough to impress any Movie God. …. Geesh, people, I’m kidding. Ok? Get a sense of humor. I don’t really imagine killing little sheep going “bah-bah” all innocently, with fuzzy white hair and big liquid eyes. These sheep are ugly, and mean. They have sharp horns that they use like wicked knives to slash you when you turn your back. These sheep deserve to be sacrificed. Did I mention their eyes are yellow and all slanty-pupiled? Like satan eyes? There, that ought to satisfy you bleeding mental hearts.

Seriously, my choices among the new releases on Netflix* are the likes of “Nacho Libre (Jack Black in spandex… ewww, no, make that a double ewww…). Or there’s “Monster House”, which truthfully does look like a pretty decent cartoon flick- IF you want to watch a cartoon flick, and I don’t, not without my goddaughter spending the night. I reserve such half-way decent animated flicks for nights like those. And then there’s “Over the Hedge”, another cartoon, and this one maybe not as good. If you’re a rabid, wild-eyed Over the Hedge fan, for god’s sake, don’t spew foam-flecked fury at me. I said “maybe not as good”. I really don’t know and don’t intend to waste the effort of typing to find out what kind of reviews it got. The whole cartoon thing again, you know. Let’s not forget our next choice… Ice Age:The Meltdown. This was indeed, Uhdorabull, but I saw it. (small children in my care+rainyday+local theater was playing it= How I Saw IceAge:TMD.) So, this lineup of New Releases in the Netflick’s hallowed lists leads one naturally to the question of, WTF? Or, to be less vulgar, why are there all of these kid movies being let loose on us right now? Or is it a conspiracy focused upon me and my netflix account alone? Gawd, I hadn’t thought of that until just now, but it’s beginning to all become clear now….

Other boring to mind-numbingly boring choices in New Releases are… The Breakup and um, I’m sorry, but I’ve had all of the breaking up and Jennifer Aniston I can handle this year. Not to mention the photograph on the cover of the DVD shows Vince Vaughn in bed, presumably undressed. EWWWW, I say again! Our wonderous The Lake House… my first movie review, ah the nostalgia…. Tom Cruise (who is nuts) in MI:3 and that is not a movie I would ever watch without it being a condition upon which my hostage-held family member would be released unharmed. Look at all of those words, and they are saying one thing… there’s nothing good, and new, to rent. If you’re going, “NUH-UH, Kaat, there’s THIS movie that’s new and good…” please, do share.

And how I digress…. The point of this review is The Ghost and The Darkness, the Oldie But Goodie Day Movie. I must stress the word “day” in that last sentence, because the first time I saw this movie it was night, and a rather dark and windy-blowy-scary night and, well, quite frankly, it made me pee a little when I had to walk a long distance to my car.

Based, yes, on a True Story, always a hook for me, TGATD takes place in Africa, in 1898. Our hero, Col. John Henry Patterson (played by Kilmer) is in charge of getting a bridge built for the railroad. He succeeds, then his career is made and life is gravy. He fails, and his reputation and his ass can be kissed goodbye. None of this would be a problem if it weren’t for the crazy antics of a couple of local lions. They are called, respectively, “The Ghost” and “ The Darkness”. Cute, huh?

What is so damn freaky about this movie, aside from the normal freakiness of man-eating creatures stalking people through long grass, is that the lions were so unnatural. They didn’t behave like lions were supposed to. They attacked in the usual lion-attacking time, night, but also in broad daylight. They’ll attack someone out alone, or pick out one tender morsel from the middle of a group of people. They don’t seem to want to eat their prey, they don’t seem to be flexing any territorial muscles or anything, no these big kitties are killing folk just for the pure pleasure of it. And nothing, I mean nothing, can kill these beasts, which are quickly taking on mythical proportions and being named as demon-possessed. Here’s where I remind you- True Story.

Patterson watches his railroad workers hightail it to the hills, and desperate to get the cats dead and the bridge finished, he calls in Charles Remington, a big-game dude who aint afraid of no pussycat. Remington is played by a whiskery, leather-faced Douglas, and he does a pretty good job of it too. I’m, for once, not going to spoil anything else because if you haven’t seen this movie, and you choose to, I want to you to experience the nail-biting suspense that you’re supposed to.

After watching this movie, I did a little research. These lions were called the “ famous man-eating lions of Tsavo” and if that isn’t a title a lion can be proud of, I dunno what is. They did, in fact, behave very peculiarly, they killed around 140 people, and there is a book written by Patterson himself, that can be read online, telling the tale. If I ever get around to reading it, you know my review will follow shortly.

I give it 4 &s

&... it really did freak me out, but without a lot of CG gore

&… they used real lions instead of CG lions

&… it’s a true story, c’mon people, that means fascinating and scary

&… the music, the scenes, the low, threatening voices of the natives warning Kilmer of the lions’ eveeel, all of it gives you a big old case of the heebie jeebies and if you don’t jump at least once, then you’ve got steel nerves, baby. Steel ones.

*If you get Netflix, for gosh golly sakes, add me to your FRIENDS list. It’s so easy. My email is I want to see what everyone else is watching, too!

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Kaat Litter Blog Preview

Blog Preview:
Kaat Litter

blog about my boring and completely unexciting life so that I will no longer clutter up this place with personal posts about the above mentioned boring and completely unexciting life.

Alrighty, this is kind of response to what some people have done over the past couple of days, and kind of in response to an email I received, that said: “I love it when you write non-reviewing posts! Well I love your reviews but it’s nice to get to see a little of your life as a real person. I know that you have a personal blog but it’s secret and I wish I knew where it was because I want to know more about you.”

I have had several emails about my “personal” blog, asking for the address, wanting to read it… why the hell people want to read my blah-dee-blah when they can read my personal biases about entertainment instead is beyond me. My personal blog is temporarily out of order, like much in my life, and that's ok. I think I was ready to move onward and upward. I might get it going again some year... but. In the interim, I am going to start putting a few posts here and there over at this new site. This way, I can be my totally dee-dee-dee self for the few of you that want to read it, and leave the other people just wanting reviews in peace.

So here's a PRE View for Blog Sunday.

I expect I will talk about my life, what's going where, and how it doesn't fit and was never meant to be put in there, anyway.

... oh you so have a dirty mind.

I’m going to try to be honest. I’m going to try not to get so depressing and ridiculously self-pitying that every time I open the page my eyeballs light on fire from the sheer hot-hell bullshit of it all. I’m going to try to keep it updated regularly, so that the peeps who are keeping track of me in this unusual manner (you know who you are and yeah, how sensible to read my blog instead of like, emailing me or calling me on the phone- skanks! Hehehe) will know what track I’m on and how tightly the ropes binding me to it actually are. And if I will escape before the train comes. Don't worry, I know better than to wait for the hero. If I did that, I’d be sliced and diced kaat, served with a delicious, subtle, train-wheel-searing.

I will probably talk about my children a lot, not because I’m an aspiring mommy blogger but because that’s what we moms think about 80% of the time- our offspring. My question is, does this ever go away? I mean, seriously, when they grow up and move away, will I finally be able to focus on something other than them? Does my mom think about me all the frickin time, still? I kind of doubt that and I hope not, so that I have a future of peaceful mind to look forward to.

On the mommyblog front, it seems like most of them have young children. If there are mommybloggers with older kids, kids that you know, cause you insanity and to lie awake at night, wondering if their brains have become the equivalent of that frying egg in the pan on the commercial… I wish you’d link to me, or comments, or email, so I can read about someone else’s problems for a change.

I will keep everyone updated on the job thing.

I will probably not say a lot of dark and horrible things about myself, since a lot of “real life” people that know me read this. In the case of secrets and skeletons, I’ll just have to keep posting on the True Wife Confessions blog. HA HA! That really was a joke.

So good or bad, I don’t know. But for those of you who have requested it, here you go. All the Kaat Litter and the unidentifiable lumps that it contains. Check it!

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Hornet's Nest Book Review

Hornet’s Nest

By: Patricia Cornwall

Published By: Putnam Adult, January 13, 1997

337 pages

Happy Thanksgiving to all and to all a good night…. Or something like that. I always get my holiday clichés messed up.

Anyway, with a (rare) day off, at least until I lose my job, I picked up a book I’ve had sitting on my desk for a couple of months. Hornet’s Nest, by Patricia Cornwall, is not a Kay Scarpetta novel. As some of you might recall, I have a weird, fascinated/repulsed relationship with Cornwall’s Scarpetta. I find Cornwall to be a good, maybe sometimes even great, writer, but her characters, Scarpetta in particular, leave me cold. Kay is self-centered, whiney and constantly in a state of personal psychoanalysis as she trots around examining brutally murdered people and solving cases that in real life, would probably be handled by the police. The secondary characters in the Scarpetta books are just as annoying. Still, I find myself reading these books whenever they come out, annoyed and exasperated, but able to follow the storyline with ease and interest. It’s a strange addiction, and I’m not proud of it, but until they come out with Cornwall Anonymous, I’ll probably go on in my crazy way.

Hornet’s Nest doesn’t take place in Scarpetta’s town, Richmond, and the main characters are not medical examiners. Virginia West is the deputy police chief in Charlotte, and the other main character, Alex Brazil, is a journalist and sometimes-volunteer police officer, assigned to cover the cop beat. Yes, it is hard to imagine the police department allowing a journalist, and a rookie one at that, to actually ride around with them while they fight crime, but in Cornwall’s world, this is a perfectly normal thing to do, especially if the rookie is a cute, young guy who looks good in a tshirt and has won many tennis championships… why is any of that important? It’s not, but you’ll read all about it in this book. You’ll also read about how he plans to (when he grows up and is really important) be nice to the little guys because everyone is so meeeen to him, and it’s just not fair at all! Sulk Sulk. Moan Moan.

Yeah, in other words, my hopes that the people in this story would be a little less petty were sadly dashed within the first couple of chapters. If anything, they’re even worse. Cornwall jumps from each one’s perspective, and the entire book is filled with their mixed-up perceptions of the other- motives, thoughts, and actions are constantly misinterpreted and taken offense against. Brazil, twenty-two and full of himself, is supposed to be a sympathetic guy, a young genius who works hard to make a name for himself among the newspapers and police department alike. This is spoiled by his childish personality. The dude is always getting his feelings hurt and dodges quickly between resenting West for being “cold, unfeeling and hateful” and wanting to get in her pants, although she is also old enough to be his mother, eats junkfood and smokes, all cardinal sins in the young, impassioned view of Mr. Brazil.

West isn’t any better. She hates the young reporter, then she likes him. She ignores his existence, and rues the day she ever met him, and then takes him to the shooting range on her day off. These people make no sense!!!! The only admirable character is the chief of police, Hammer, a tough older lady who can kick butt while wearing pearls. But I don’t think I was as impressed with her as I was supposed to be, either.

Cornwall obviously tries to write Real People, folks the reader can relate to and understand on a personal level. Maybe I’m a Pollyanna of the greatest degree, but I don’t spend even a quarter of the time these people do, trying to figure out why life is so unfair to me, and minutely describing in my own mind how evil and just plain mean others are. News flash right here and now- Life is not fair, and no one pretended it was going to be. Someone should tell Cornwall’s characters this little nugget of info.

There is no real plot to speak of. A serial murderer is on the loose, but that plotline seems less important than the relationship between West and Brazil, with all its convoluted misunderstandings and hurt feeweengs. There’s a lot of time devoted to exploring the relationship between Hammer and her husband, fat, angry, of course pathetic, Seth, who resents his powerful wife and thinks killing himself will show her how wrong she’s been in treating him like a fat, angry, pathetic man all of their married life. Alex’s mother, a grossly disgusting alcoholic, watches daytime tv an hates her son while worrying that he might leave her to fend for herself. A pervert makes obscene phone calls to Brazil on a regular basis, for no apparent (plot-related) reason. A gay colleague dreams about him. (And at one point, Alex goes on to dinner with the guy, although I do not know of ANY straight men who would go out to dinner with a gay man who is in love with them, under any circumstances, as a way to “get even” with the woman who has spurned them and made them feel rejected. Yes, that was his reason.) Actually everyone dreams about him, because he’s so good-looking and so strong, and so hot… apparently, in Cornwall’s world, personality has nothing to do with attraction, or the young writer would have fewer admirers. None of this leads anywhere reasonable approaching a climax of the novel. Storylines twist and intersect and leave the reader with nothing truly concrete to follow. It’s just like reading a few people’s personal diaries and alternately pitying and scorning them.

The only redeeming character in the whole thing is actually West’s cat, Niles, a crazy Abyssinian, into whose insane little feline brain we the readers get to peer. He worships the bank building, he treats his owner with all the scorn she deserves, he fishes wet panties out of the washing machine to tell his mistress there’s money laundering going on (The bank building told him this, of course). Still, Niles is more reasonable than the human characters, infinitely more interesting, and a whole less self-centered… and he’s a spoiled cat.

I give it a yucky green on the Reader’s Rainbow.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Review of Looking at Possible (as in Really Soon) Unemployment

The second post in a row that has nothing to do with any kind of entertainment. The second post in a row about the lameness of my incredibly lame and getting lamer life. I will tell you honestly, faithful readers, I haven’t been reading, or watching so much. I’ve been stewing and brewing ideas in my strange little brain. Facing unemployment will do that to a person, I’ve found. So here’s another “personal” post and I’m pretty sure it will be the last one …for at least a few days. Hehehe.

But first. Am I the only one who hasn’t made the switch to blogger beta? Am I so lame? Have I fallen hopelessly behind the times and the chances of me ever catching up are miniscule at best?

Uh huh… I thought so.

Blogger Rightnow can bite my ass… every time I’ve gone to post, there has been some sort of problem. I read that a technician or someone like that has apparently been “notified”, but do I ever hear from a technician? HELL NO. Does anyone ever explain to me what’s going on? I don’t THINK so.

Anyway, I’m pretty afraid of switching to the New and Improved Blogger that has “all the features I’m used to plus new post labels, drag-and-drop template editing, and privacy controls. And, it's a lot more reliable.”

Yeah… well, we’ll just have to see about that.

But I’m going to go ahead and bite the bullet.

Blogger Beta, here I come.

In the meantime, seeing as I’m probably going to be out of a job sooner rather than later… I’m facing the future of unemployment with a great deal less enthusiasm and excitement about the future than I’d anticipated me showing in a situation like this. In other words, I thought that if I was going to lose my job, which was INCONCEIVABLE, let me just tell you, because my employers could not possibly run the business without me, and there's the little fact that I'm a good "Friend" of theirs and I ran the whole kit-n-kaboodle for them for so long that I just knew I would always have "Job Security". ... well I thought I’d be a little excited and really confident.

Turns out, not so much on the excitement or the confidence issue.

Job Security turns out to be much the same as the legendary unicorn or the mythic leprechaun as far as reality is concerned.

Turns out I was correct in the They Can’t Run It department. Problem is, they’re not going to try to, they’re going to sell it instead.

There’s a lot more to the long and incredibly tedious story, none of it showing me or my employers in a very favorable light, so I’ll just skip to the end. It ends like this….

No Job.

Recent rumors are swirling that there has been an offer made on the business, but I haven’t yet been informed of this (possibly) important development. Now, one would have to ask why…. Why wouldn’t I be told, seeing as it’s my life that’s going to be pretty screwed by the whole thing?

Several theories abound.

But none of that matters. What does matter is that dragging out my dusty-ass resume has given me a knife-like pain in my head, right above the left eye. I’m thinking that this resume is pretty ancient, and should have been put out of its misery a long time ago. I’m thinking that I really have no clue how to write a resume any more.

Do people still list it like this:





… nadda yada nadda, and so on and so forth?

Do you still come up with a delightful “Cover Letter” that goes all squishy on how much you love the possible employer and job idea and how you salivate at the thought of them hiring you? Something like… Hire me because I am a kick-ass person and I will make you so happy and I have lots and lots of transferable job skills and you will never, to your dying day, regret it… that sort of stuff? Eek… it’s been so long since I’ve written that kind of letter!

What I really wonder is how many people have found themselves in this rather unenviable position …of looking at an old, dusty-ass resume and then glancing at the want ads and then back at the resume and then at the wantads and saying, really softly, but with enough emphasis to get the point across… “oh shit.”?

You think that’s the norm?

If it is, then I’m still in with the in crowd after all.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Review of My Life As a Mother of a Teenager

For those of you reading this who are the parents of young children, let me give you a spoiler. The news aint good.

What happens to children when they hit puberty? I mean, what strange mixture of hormones and chemicals raging through the bloodstream changes them, seemingly overnight, from your little darling… to your big pain in the ass?

I remember a post I once made on my personal blog, about my thoughts on “teenagers”. I wouldn’t allow my children to become these mythical creatures, I declared with pig-headed, blissful ignorance. Oh no. Not my boys. My sons had been raised to be respectful and loving toward their parents, and I couldn’t possibly see them morphing into these awful people I’d heard about, sullen, uncommunicative, acne-faced and squinty-eyed. We would always have a close, loving relationship. They would talk to me, confide in me, and most importantly, listen to my never-ending wisdom. HA.

Little did I know that I had no say in the matter, one way or another.

When my older son first hit puberty, when his baby fat melted overnight and he shot up to stand towering above me, I was thrilled. All I could do was look at this magnificent young man that had come from me, from me, and be overwhelmed at his vitality, his health, his gorgeousness.

It wasn’t long after the first signs of impending teenagehood that he apparently lost the ability to hear. At first I thought nothing of it, I repeated myself, once, twice, three times. I even considered the possibility that he had an ear infection or something like that, to explain the fact that every time I spoke, I was answered with either silence or, more often, “Huh?” This clever phrase was usually accompanied by a bored glace as he ripped his eyes off the screen of the television or computer. Once or twice, I had a “long talk” with him, brimming over with positively insightful utterances, to which I believed he was listening raptly, only to finish with, “Well? What do you think?” I’d nudge his shoulder.

“Huh?” Blank stare as he lifted the tiny earphones of his I-pod off his head.

His language became peppered with obscenities. I’ve never really cared if my kids said the occasional “bad word”. It wasn’t that big of a deal, and I, proud and idiotic as always, knew enough to “pick my battles.” But now, now it seemed very other word out of my little boy’s mouth was “shit” or “bitch” and even the horror of all naughty words, the king of them all…the cringe-worthy “fuckin’”. When I complained that he had become a regular potty-mouth and could he please clean it up, a little, at least in front of his Grandma, say?… I was met with the now-familiar blank stare. And, “Huh?”

Then he became Mr. MIA. Where once this child begged to go along with me even to grocery store, now I hardly ever saw him at all. From the moment he got up last summer, at the crack-o-dawn hour of one in the afternoon, he was gone. He would arrive home at one second until curfew, stomping in the door and straight past my come-talk-to-me-my-son smile to his bedroom as I sniffed the air swirling in his wake. Was that cigarette smoke I smelled?? Or a different kind of smoke?????

I suddenly didn’t know who his friends were, and the occasional shifty-eyed boy waiting for him in the front yard didn’t look too promising if this was an example of his new crowd. Family trips were tortures we’d devised to spoil his important plans. Invitations to family get-togethers, the same. The last time he ate with us, I thin he was sick and couldn’t leave the house.

His clothing began to morph, too. All of a sudden his jeans and t-shirts seemed to have as much of a growth spurt as he had. All of them grew baggier overnight and as if he didn’t have enough problems with the onset of young adulthood, he now faced the additional trouble of trying to keep his pants from falling off him as he stood. Then there was the hooded sweatshirt that had apparently melded itself to his body. I don’t think he’s taken it off in six weeks at least. To wash the damn thing, I might have to challenge him to pistols at dawn.

My child, as white and middle class as wonder bread, now listens to rap, and I’m sorry, I know I sound old, but damn, have you ever listened to the lyrics???? I’ve puzzled over why he identifies with this music, what parallels he could possibly draw between the rapping, gun-weilding thugs with their hoes and niggas, and his pleasant little small-town life where the biggest excitement happens when the local flock of turkeys invade someone’s yard and won’t back down from a broom. I mean, that’s what da damn pigs deal with in this hood.

I slap bitches in the face and give em Jay-Z lips
Make them sign their life off so they can pay me chips
I cut hoes so much I should sell band aids
Give bitches sandwiches with handmade mayonnaise
I put bitches on the stroll hall
Plus I control hoes like remote control suped remote controlled cars
Code blow hoe on 'em like the internet
Got my dick in her neck and ain't even took her to dinner yet
Fuck that I ain't taken her to dinner
I'll bring her to a diner get behind and go up in her
You fuckin' with losers
I'm a winner I'm gone in summer hot in the winter
Fuck hungry I'm ready for dinner HA!
Bitches don't know the low
'Bout to slap your ass off the endo smoke
I'm in the club straight goin' for broke
Sellin' bitches everything even low key dope

This boy used to tremble in fear when anyone ever said a cross word to him. Lately, though, he’s spending more time in detention than in the classroom and the eye-popping, enraged teachers complaining about him affect him in the manner of annoying, little flies buzzing around his head. So a word to warning for those of you with small children… it’s coming. You can fight it, you can plan against it, but oh yeah, it’s coming, so get prepared.

He’s always been smart, but you’d never guess it to look at him now. He’s always been kindhearted but if I mentioned the word “nice” to him nowadays, I already know the response I’d get.


I’m now dreaming of the day when he steps through the door on the other side of adolescence. I’m curious to see what remains of the original personality he grew in there.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

In America Movie Review

In America


Directed by: Jim Sheridan

Written by: Jim and Naomi Sheridan

Starring: Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Sarah Bolger, Emma Bolger, Djimon Hounsou

Rated: PG-13 for sexuality, drug references, brief violence and language.

105 minutes

The irish family in this movie, In America, is slipping into the United States. As they pull up to the border in their battered old station wagon, the parents remind their two young daughters, “Remember, we’re just on holiday.”

As the border guard leans casually in the window to speak to the father, the youngest daughter, Ariel, shouts out merrily from the back seat. “We’re on holiday!”

Dread clutches the viewer as the guard nods at his partner, closing the gate firmly in front of the car. Oh shit, we’re thinking, she’s ruined it all! And yet within moments, the sunshine-bright personality of this child burns the doubt from the guard’s mind, or perhaps charms him into not giving a crap that they’re illegal immigrants, and the family is let on in with a, “Welcome to America.”. We are immediately in love with Ariel, horribly, hard in love. She is such a representation of everything precious and precocious in children, that not-quite-describable characteristic- that makes you want to kiss them and squish them… that makes us want to protect her from everything, and at the same time, lift her up high to see the world, just to watch her reaction and live a little, through it.

Can you tell that I loved this character?

Her older sister, Christy, is equally beautiful, equally enchanting, but in a quieter manner. Ariel is bubbles bouncing off the surface of the world, popping in loud delight. Christy is a sweet melody winding its way softly, unobtrusively, through experiences, as she records everything on her beloved camcorder. It seems that she spends more time behind the camera than facing the world. It is her odd, modern-day security blanket.

A struggling actor father, Johnny, and a gentle, wise mother, Sarah, are both doing the best they can for their children while not-quite dealing with the recent loss of their son, Frankie, who died of a brain tumor back in Ireland. They seem foolishly optimistic, and yet we are enchanted. They seem gullible and naïve, and yet they survive, no, thrive, in their harsh surroundings. They have come to New York City to escape, to start fresh, and their dreams are equally hopeful and frightening as we the veiwers cringe and expect the worst for this family at every turn.

Yet the fears don’t quite materialize. The ugly old tenement building they move into, which we expect to be filled with dangerous druggies and gun-weilding maniacs, turns out to be a fairly tame place, with other families, and seemingly harmless eccentrics filling the hallways. The transformation of their apartment, from a disgusting, pigeon habitat into a colorfully-painted, lovely home lays the path for the rest of this movie… the underlying theme, that change can happen, that beauty can be found, that there is hope, after all. We gasp as the parents allow the children to run through the building alone on Halloween, again, expecting the worst when they pound on the door (Marked KEEP AWAY) of the angry, mysterious Mateo, an artist who appears nothing other than crazy and furious with the world. Again, we are surprised -or perhaps not… maybe we’ve begun to see that this is a fairytale on screen by now- when Mateo turns out to be a gentle giant, sweetness and insight practically overflowing from him as he spouts little African-accented words of wisdom to the family he quickly falls in love with.

The family struggles, they face overwhelming difficulties, especially when Sarah discovers that she is pregnant, and the doctor advises her not to have it, because, as he implies, her health is shaky and if the baby doesn’t die, she might instead. They are poor, they are trying to adjust to the strangeness of their new home, and yet they are the epitome of what everyone wishes for in a family…close, loving, secure in their identity as a whole, rather than separate individuals. The affection they share is plain to see, and just try to watch this without getting damp-eyed in a few places!

I had no idea what I was in for when I popped this one into the DVD. I knew nothing about it, and I was unprepared for the sweet, simple story that unwound in front of me. As I said, this is a modern day fairytale, the many-times-told American Dream story, with a handful of heroes … bold little Ariel, sweet Christy, struggling Johnny, gentle Sarah, and wise Mateo. I was totally enchanted and I’m not afraid to say so.

If you’re looking for a no-holds-barred look at immigration, a real-life drama with no magic sprinkled on top, this one’s not for you. But if, on the other hand, you’d like to escape for a couple hours, to laugh and cry and let yourself believe in dreams for a little while, then get your popcorn and some Kleenex, and press “play” on this movie.

I give it 4 &s…

& Ariel!

& Christy!

& Mateo!

& I’ve forgotten how nice it is to watch a happy story sprinkled with tears, instead of the other way around

I’m off for the weekend and won’t have a blog Sunday tomorrow, but I promise to be back on track by next week!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Three Book Review Tuesday

I’ve been having bad luck with books lately. Every one I’ve read has either been stupid, or badly written, or… and this is the big one lately, filled with unsympathetic characters. At least, to me, they are unsympathetic.

For instance, I just finished Distant Shores, by Kristin Hannah. I thought it would be a quick, smooth read, nothing dangerous, nothing deep… and in that I was right. What I didn’t figure on was the main character being a woman filled with middle-aged angst who is desperately unhappy, while living a life that other people would KILL to suffer through. Her husband, a former football star, who supports her, by the way, she’s a housewife… has just landed a spectacular job in New York City, the chance of a lifetime, and all she can think about is the house they’ll be leaving, which she redecorated herself.

Example… “Birdie looked around the room, at the wallpaper she had chosen, the french doors she had ordered, the slipcovers on the furniture that she had thought of and then paid someone else to do… this was hers, all of it, and now she’d be forced to leave it, to go somewhere new, like a bigger better house, and start all over with the decorating? How unfair, she thought to her tiny-minded self…” Yes, that is my writing, not the author's, but I'm trying to make a point here.

Her two daughters are in college, fully grown, mind you, but when she leaves her husband (to “find herself”, although finding herself does not include supporting herself, she doesn’t get a job and continues to write checks from her hubby’s big bank balance) the biggest problem she foresees is “how to tell the girls”. They predictably (at least to me, they are, after all, their mother’s daughters) actually cry and throw FITS when they are told their parents are separated, and promptly stop speaking to either of them. Ohmyyyyy….

Birdie (the finder-of-herself) starts painting again (her long-lost passion that we presume she sacrificed on the altar of wife and motherhood) and weeble-wobbles about her marriage. Turns out her painting isn’t even that good! Meanwhile Jack, her husband, is living in New York, going on The Tonight Show, being featured in People’s 50 Most Beautiful issue, and stoically sleeping alone, although gorgeous chicks are hurling themselves at him left and right, while he waits for his poor, confused wife to decide what she wants. If it wasn’t all so unrealistic, I would barf. I was thinking the whole time, “Jack, my friend, you deserve someone who appreciates you, dude”… and somehow, I don’t think that was the author’s intention.

I also just finished Therapy, by David Lodge, a much better book than the above, but there was still the issue of the main character being highly unsympathetic.

“Tubby” is a popular sitcom writer in the UK who is going through- yep, you know it- middle-aged angst. Although he is immensely successful, has more money than he knows what to do with, a lovely wife who likes sex, and two healthy, happy grown children, Tubby is soooo sad. He even gets into a whole bunch of Kierkegaard crap and decides that he is, in fact, the “unhappiest of men”. Oh man, I wish I could have the opportunity to be the unhappiest of women, if this is how good you’ve got it in that position! He drives around in his luxury car, finding things to be upset about, while basically ignoring his friends and family. I’m serious. This is the basis for the story, the first half, anyway. He doesn’t even hear his wife when she tells him their daughter is pregnant. He’s too wrapped up in his own poor-me thoughts to listen to one word coming from the mouth of anyone else. When, mid-way, the wife leaves him, well, he practically has a breakdown, and he's actually shocked. He decides she must be having an affair because she couldn't possibly be leaving him just because she can't stand to live with him anymore. Me, the reader, didn’t even feel a shred of sympathy. I was all cheering the wife on. Yea, you GO girl, and leave that pathetic, self-centered shit! Anyway, like I said, it is a better book. It’s well-written, and very humorous in parts. It was just the scene of it that I couldn’t get into.

I dunno… maybe this means I’m still young, since I have so little sympathy for people going through mid-life crises. I have an equal amount of sympathy for teenagers who think that their lives suck, while they listen to their I-pods and wear fashionably dirty designer clothing. When I read a book like this, I can’t help wondering how the character would cope if they were plopped down in the middle of a real life, you know, the kind with bills, and problems, disease, death and true unhappiness.

Or maybe it’s just that my real life has been filled with a series of unfortunate events lately, such a crapful of crap that I think anyone who can 1. pay their bills 2. claim good health and 3. have a healthy, happy family, are lucky beyond words and should be thankful, not whining about how to “find” themselves, or pathetically trying to sleep with people half their age. I don’t know… I do know that I’ll try on the middle-age angst books later, when I have a better perspective, when things are looking brighter for yours truly, and maybe then I’ll have a bit more sympathy for their “plights”. See? I’m snorting again! I can’t help it!

Needing a change of pace, needing to read about someone who really has something to be upset about I dived into The Deep End Of The Ocean last night. When you need to quit feeling sorry for yourself, grab an Oprah’s Book Club selection… that is one of my rules for living. It never fails. Right from page one, I knew this one was going to grab my guts. Beth has a three year old son, Ben. Ben wanders away from her in a crowded hotel lobby while she’s at the front desk for a few tiny, short minutes. Beth can’t find Ben. Ben is gone. OUCH. In addition to facing a nightmare that makes my own problems look like, um, middle-age angst, this book is really well-written. Identifying with the main character is like slipping on a pair of comfortable shoes. So I am going to immerse myself in it and when I come out the other side, perhaps my perspective will have changed, the world will be brighter, and I’ll give my kids a little bit harder of a hug. I’ll let you guys know how it comes out.

Distant Shores- Blue

Therapy- Orange

Deep End of The Ocean (as of page 119)- RED

Hey you guys- Don't forget to VOTE!!!!!!

Friday, November 03, 2006

District B-13 Movie Review

Banlieue 13 (District B13)

Starring: Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, Dany Verissimo

Directed by: Pierre Morel

Writeen by: Luc Besson and Bibi Naceri

Rated: R for strong violence, some drug content and language

85 min

Last night, I watched District B-13, or Banlieue 13, as it is called in its native France and I guess, from the expensive promo site, that it was some big deal in France. Or I could be making a generalization about a movie in a country that I know nothing about, admittedly and happily. I watched it on the recommendation of one of my brothers.

Now normally, I would explain the entire plot of B-13, with spoilers and all. But I can’t do that this time. Because I really don’t know what was going on. See, it’s not sub-titled, it’s dubbed. And that right there, that causes a problem for me, because I’m so fascinated by watching their mouths move and not match the words that they are saying… or because I am so tickled and again, fascinated, by the particular voice they choose for each character, like the black guy who has a very whiney, white, mid-western voice, or the giant germanic hulk who speaks like he’s straight outta Brooklyn. Then in the midst comes the cop whose cockney dialogues jars with everyone else… it’s hard for me to pay attention to the words. I prefer subtitles and my own imagination for changing up the voices, but hey, whatever.

Honestly, I don’t think the dialogue was very important in this one. The basic plot was interesting... here you go: it is the future, and Paris has put up big walls around their ghettos, called “districts”. One man in District 13, the baddest of all them, is trying to fight back against the rampant crime that has taken over his little hood. His name is… um, I need to look it up, because it’s French, ok? I don’t know how to spell French names. Ok, his name is Leito, and he is a one-man army trying to stop crime in his home district. The opening of the film has him ruining some mobster’s many, many bags of heroines, yet outsmarting, out running and totally outmaneuvering the bad guys coming after him. When my brother said this was a good action movie, he wasn’t exaggerating. There was this kid once I saw on You Tube, who did all of these amazing jumps and leaps and ran up walls and clung to buildings and amazing shit like that… well, throw in some fighting moves and you’ve got Leito, vigilante supreme. Well, we already know how I feel about vigilantes! Problem is, most vigilantes have to go through a painful period of naiveté and getting totally screwed over before they turn into the hard-asses I so enjoy. No exception with Leito. This time, when he actually captures the bad guy and turns him over to the cops, the cops not only let Mr. Evil go…they let him take Lento’s sister along as a snack. Yeah, no kidding. Pretty bad. Leito does get him some justice, (in a pretty sick and brutal manner, for those of you with tender tummies) however, and fade to black….

Now, it’s six months later… if I read the French right… and Damien, a wise-but-bad-ass cop is fighting against those same old bad guys, including the walking mountain that is called K-2, presumably because he has that shaved into the back of his head. Damien has just gotten some freaky news… the gang has stolen a nuke and it’s his unenviable job to get the damn thing back. Undercover, he helps Leito escape, because who better to help him kick butt on the baddies than the brother of the poor girl they still (we think) hold hostage, now probably a zombie-like crack whore? Ok, I think you can see the direction I’m going with this.

Now when I say that I liked this movie, I need it to be understood that I liked it for the action, plain and simple. The dialogue sucked. I dunno, maybe it was better in French, but once translated, it lost all possible appeal. The storyline, although pretty good as far as action movie ideas go, was sadly transparent and the build-up to the big surprise was no surprise at all. Anyone who head to rent this imagining an “american-type” action film might be a tad disappointed.

But if… you like martial arts, and fight scenes galore, car chases and big booms. If you are amazed, like me, to see someone using his body in a way that most people never ever dream of using their bodies, like it’s some kind of liquid steel flowing over the screen in a series of unbelievable and jaw-dropping moves… then hey, you might just like this one. Rumor has it that 90% of the scenes were shot SFX-free, Jackie Chan style.

Hey reading above, it looks like I explained the plot, spoilers and all. Guess movies aren’t so hard to break down, even the foreign jobbies.

I give it 3 ½ &s…..

&… it was no-fall-asleep time from start to finish

&… the slippery-slidery moves I mentioned above…they were boggling.

&… the sister was a tough nut to crack, even under baddest of circumstances

½ &…. It had a good enough storyline, even if the acting was labored.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Review of My Crappy Halloween

Review of Halloween

Note: due to crappiness of blogger, no pictures could be uploaded to this posts for your viewing pleasure. I apologize.

I used to make a half-hearted stab at decorating for Halloween. Christmas is really my forte, but occasionally I’d put up a skull or two, stick a black lightbulb in the overhead porch light and throw around some of that crappy cobweb stuff that you stretch out all over. But there is always someone in town, or someones…who really go ALL OUT for Jack-o-lantern Eve. I wish I had a picture of this woman’s house we were at last night. Every square inch of her (very large) home and yard was decorated with bats, blood, skulls and broomsticks. A lit up, life-sized graveyard filled one side of the front porch and to their horrified delight, kids could go through a dimly lighted maze in her yard, occasionally stumbling over a hand or foot planted in the ground while creepy sounds played from hidden speakers. Seriously, I have to admire dedication like that. And the woman gave out KING sized candy bars. I was wondering how the hell she could afford to do that, especially considering that every damn kid in town makes a beeline for her front door on October 31st. But then again, she lives on Snob Hill… I’ll get to that in a minute.

So, another Halloween is over and done with. Due to the insanity that was my job in the last few days, haven’t watched anything good, and I am still reading the book I’d planned to review. So, for lack of anything better to talk about, let’s talk about last night. I don’t know about yours, but my kids are suffering from sugar hangovers and are still lying sluggishly in bed. I know it’s going to be a battle royal to get their butts on the way to school. My youngest was pissed, as usual, that they dared to have school on such a holy day, and as a fifth grader, declared too old for classroom Halloween parties by the school administrator. Can you imagine? When is a ten year old too old for a Halloween party? I had to agree with him that it sucked big, and it sucked majorly.

Halloween, ahhhh…. a time of breathless running from door-to-door, crisp autumn air, the feeling of your back teeth stuck together with some gummy, taffy substance. Kicking through leaves, breathing in wood smoke, having perfect strangers admire you and then reward you for looking so cute…. It is the perfect childish holiday. Of course, there were the dark sides of Halloween, as well. As Patrick mentioned, we probably all remember the razor blades in apples, how we couldn’t eat anything homemade or unsealed. But still, like Jay reminisced, those were the GOOD FRICKIN’ DAYS.

The planning of the costumes went on for the entire month of October when I was kid. Every detail meticulously planned and then executed at the kitchen table. No one wore store-bought costumes when I was young. If you were extraordinarily lucky, your mom might make you a costume, but store costumes were for an un-seen subgroup (definitely rich kids). When I was four, my mother made me , of course, a cat costume. I wore that damn thing until I was seven, until I had cut off the feet and the legs came down to about my knees, until the sleeves cut off the circulation in my arms, and that tail was just a straggly, sad little nubbin of fabric dragging behind me. But come on. I was a KAAT. That was one damn cool costume. Otherwise I was something like a “Robot” (big box painted silver, with holes cut out for head and arms), or a “Hobo” (grubby old clothes, bandana full of socks tied onto a stick). There was always the old “ghost” stand-by, but who the hell wanted to wear a stifling sheet over your head all night? As I got older, my costumes got more sophisticated, but I think I stopped trick-or-treating when I was twelve or thirteen.

Last night, trick-or-treating, I saw kids that I swear were college students. I was trying to figure out what this one guy was, and I was admiring the realistic fake stubble he had put on his cheeks… until I realized that it wasn’t fake. This dude, who was sprouting facial hair, and thick facial hair at that, was holding out his bag, shoulder to shoulder (or rather hip to shoulder) with my 5 year old goddaughter.

And the store-bought costumes? Well, apparently not just for the rich or unusual anymore. Three-quarters of the tricksters last night were decked out in obviously pre-made and purchased outfits. Lots of Supermans. Lots of ninjas. More fairies and princesses than you cold shake a magic wand at. My son, who had dressed warmly in a hoodie sweatshirt and jeans, and broke a fake blood capsule open in his mouth, was asked again and again, in total confusion… “What are you?”

The answer…“I’m a kid in a sweatshirt with a bloody lip,” made me laugh, I have to admit. He and his friends, a leprechaun and a “maniac with a bullet hole in his forehead”, respectively, went sprinting out as soon as dark fell over the neighborhood. Once they’d made the rounds of our street, already carrying approximately ten pounds of candy, they begged me to drive them up to Snob Hill. I didn’t name the place, no, that’s what everyone calls it. The houses up on this hill are big, they are lit-up with pumpkin-scented yard candles and purple and black rope lights, decorated with artistically-rendered skeletons and frankensteins, and strung with designer cobwebs probably spun in France. Most importantly, they give out Full Size Candy bars up there, none of those snack-size snickers like I’d bought. The maze-and-graveyard palace I mentioned before is up on Snob Hill.

Unfortunately, it became clear quickly that the little niggling thought that I might have a leak in my truck, that I might have been smelling fuel for the last week, in fact turned out to be a definite yes last night. People ran, choking, away from my vehicle as we drove slowly from house to house. I heard one boy yell, “Watch out you guys, it’s that gas truck” when we pulled up to one driveway. It was lovely. Keep the windows up and choke on the heater-driven gas stink? Shut off the heat or roll down the windows and freeze (and still smell the gas stink)? All of us were dizzy from fumes by the time the last house had been hit and I am getting a frickin migraine, courtesy no doubt, of the leaking gas and the stinky air I breathed, all in the name of getting cavities for my kid.

So today I look for a mechanic, and some drugs to combat my head. I envy those of you who, dressed to the nines, went out to crazy Halloween parties and got really, really drunk, without feeling sick today. You’re my heroes. I went out and froze last night, and I’m sick today, from gasoline, not alcohol, but it was worth it to watch my son spread out his amazing pile of crap food with glistening eyes. The things we do for our children. Of course, it helped that he gave me a popcorn ball. I can be bribed. Quite easily.

I want to point out that if my post is dull today, I can claim the Butterfly Teddybear Defense. See, I was innocently working yesterday when this woman, an acquaintance of mine, came in the front. In her arms she was holding a teddybear with what looked suspiciously like a butterfly perched on the end of its nose. Heh, I’m thinking, that’s kind of stupid… I mean, cute. At the same moment, a friend of mine, with her six trillion children, came in the back door. They met in the middle and amid much squealing over the bear it was revealed that the bear was a gift for the woman’s sixteen year old daughter. She was going to take it to the school in a minute. A sixteen year old, ok? Next, to my absolute puking-guts-disgust, it was revealed that this bear, when its paw was squeezed, played, at a VERY high volume, the hideous country and western song known as “Butterfly Kisses”. A very badly recorded, scratchy version of it. And did I mention that there was no volume control on the bear and it was playing very, very loudly? The butterfly on the bears nose waved its wings slowly, in time presumably, to the music squawking from within the bear’s chest. The children were charmed, I was immobilized in confusion and alarm from the loud sound of the song, and the paw was squeezed, over and over, and over… and over… again. I hope to be over the experience soon. Hopefully no tumors were created. I have cat-scans scheduled for tomorrow, and I pray, my friends, that you never face this creature like I had to.

P.S. I found him. Online. His name is Henry…second one down. Oh god, they’re going to be everywhere….

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