Bridge to Terebithia

bridge_to_terabithia_film_trailer.png

I was expecting a predominantly fantasy based film along the lines of the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Especially as it was made by Walden Media. What you get instead is a very intense drama about two children who don’t really fit in at school – so they construct a fantasy sanctuary in the woods in their imaginations. By becoming heroes in their imaginations they are able to find resources to challenge the school bully and actually reach out to her and help her. There is very little Computer Generated Imagery. But some excellent performances from the child actors especially Anna Sophie Robb. There is a very tragic end to the movie – which did feel completely unexpected. I took eight seven year old children to see it for a birthday treat. They were gripped by the movie but it was not really a festive kind of film. (Should have read a review first!)

There are some intense conversations with young children wrestling with the nature of the afterlife. Is there a hell and who goes there? How to cope with death, guilt and bereavement. This is a strong movie and well worth watching. But you need to prepare younger children to watch this.

Next

next.jpg

This film had such a good cast. Peter Falk, Julianne Moore and Nicholas Cage. It is based on a short story by Philip K Dick – the brains behind some of the all time great Science Fiction movies:Blade Runner, Total Recall. But this film is pretty useless. It reminded me of the old joke:

Patient: “Doctor, Doctor everyone keeps ignoring me.”

Doctor: “Next…”

This films deserves to be ignored. But because it was a long flight and i couldn’t sleep I was hoping it would knock me out.

Sad things about the movie:

1. The excellent Julianne Moore choses another dud film to be in. Remember previous mistakes: Jurasic Park 3 and the Forgotten?

2. It has one of the worst endings on record

3. It tries to emulate Ground Hog Day without being funny or nihilistic.

Interesting things about the movie:

1. This movie comes hot on the heels of deja vous – which again had a great cast (Denzel Washington) was about time travel and was useless.

2. I am a sucker for time travel movies – I grew up on back to the future, really liked the Butterfly effect – it is always fun to mess with the laws of physics. I had a strange experience as I watched the movie. The lady sitting next to me on the plane was also watching Next. She was about 3 minutes ahead of me and so if I wanted to know what was going to happen I would glance at her screen! The only downside to this ability to see the future was that the film was pretty predictable anyway.

3. Jennifer Beal’s character makes a good observation. In the movie Nicolas Cage’s character can see into the future (normally 2 minutes into his own future.) So when he tries to chat up the Jennifer Beals character he gets five or six attempts at it. This is very much like the scene in Ground Hog Day when Andy McDowell is wooed by Bill Murray. When he finally gets it right – has he manipulated his way into romance. He has just said whatever needed to be said to get the girl. She is an object to be won rather than a person to be engaged with.

The Waitress

This is the last film to be made by the director/ actress Adrienne Shelly who was tragically murdered in November 2006. It is a sweet movie. It reminded me of the excellent “Amelie.” The film is based around the life of Jenna (Keri Russell) who works in a Diner in a run down Southern town in the USA. Jena lives in an abusive and loveless marriage and finds solace in the friendship of her two fellow waitresses (played by Adrienne Shelly and Cheryl Hines). She is also a master pie maker. Jena pours all of her emotional energy into creating new recipes for pies. However Jenna feels is reflected in the pies she makes, so hence “falling in love pie” or “miserable pregnant loser pie”.

In Jenna’s black and white dreary life, the creativity of pie making brings colour and gives her hope and she is able to touch the lives of others through her culnary gifts. One such person is the owner of the pie shop and many of the other businesses in the town: Old Joe (played by Andy Griffiths).

The film reminds me a number of movies and has a somewhat derirative feel to it.

1. The relationship between Jenna and Old Joe echoes – As Good as it Gets.

2. The food as therapy and blessing idea echoes – Chocolat

3. The unwanted child that ends up transforming the parental figure theme echoes – Three men and a baby; Baby Boom; etc.

4. Affair as liberation theme echoed: Unfaithful,

4. The opening sequence with pies appearing on plates reminded me of Napolean Bonaparte if I remember correctly.

Nevertheless I was hooked by this movie. I enjoyed the banter between Old Joe and Jenna. I enjoyed the friendships between the waitresses and the bumbling stupidity of the local doctor (Nathan Fillion).

I was frustrated by the affair in the movie. It dealt simplisitically with the theme of adultery. No harm was done to anyone through the tryst. In fact it is part of the liberation of Jenna from helpless housewife to succesful mother and business woman. It started being a purely sexual relationship and then turned into a deep friendship. Although Jenna is most certainly a victim in the movie and is severely sinned against by her inexcusably abusive and manipulative husband. Jenna is also guilty of breaking trust, hypocrisy (criticising her friends fling with the boss) but this is not effectively dealt with.

Despite these shortcomings this was a really enjoyable movie.

For an interview with Nathan Fillion click here.

Here are some of the pie recipes featured in the movie:

Falling in Love Chocolate Mousse Pie
Ingredients:
Makes 6 servings.
1 x 20cm cooked sweet pastry case
1 (400g) can condensed milk
170ml water 150g caster sugar
40g cocoa
20g cornflour
30g plain chocolate 570 ml double cream, stiffly whipped, plus extra for decoration

  1. In large saucepan, combine the condensed milk, water, caster sugar, cocoa and cornflour, whisking until smooth.
  2. Over a medium heat, add the chocolate and stir continuously until it melts and the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and beat until smooth. Leave to cool and refrigerate for 15 minutes before folding in the double cream.
  3. Pour the mixture into prepared pastry case and chill for 4 hours or until set. Decorate with whipped cream and serve.

(more…)

Review of Children's movies

hoodwinked_tee_web.jpg

Ok so a combined effect of a rainy August, 25p DVDs at Blockbuster have meant our family has watched a lot of children’s movies this Summer. Here’s some of our views on children’s DVDs. See also my 2008 recommendations. You can see some of the recommendations on my amazon store too:

1. Zathura – total rehash of Jumanji -but my kids had never seen Jumanji. Nicely put together with a take home message of loving your siblings while you can. Suitable for all ages but boys aged 5 and up will probably enjoy it the most.

2. See Spot Run – Great dog based movie involving a FBI dog agent who foils a mafia circle and helps a dysfunctional family get back together again. Watch out for some quality Mafia actors turning up. Suitable for all ages but children aged 4 and up would enjoy it.

3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire– quite scary for younger children – some great Quiditch shots and an exciting finale. Children eight and over would probably enjoy this most. It does carry a 12 certificate.

4. Jump In – it didn’t look promising when the best thing the advertisers could say about the film was that it featured Corbin Bleu from High School Musical (which was a really great kids movie). But this “skipping can be cool” movie is ok. The plotline is basically the same as High School musical – where the son of a Boxing Coach wants to leave boxing to “focus on his skipping” and is willing to take the ribbing from his ex boxing friends. Everyone is eventually won over to the fact that skipping is not only for girls. It did remind me that I always wanted to learn how to double dutch. Suitable for all ages but children 6 and over would enjoy most.

5. Mighty Joe – The tale of a massive gorrilla who befriends Charlize Theron and goes to America before being returned to the wild. Suitable for children 5 and up. Some Gorilla scenes are a little scary.

6. Because of Win Dixie – strangley enough – this film which features AnnaSophia Rob from Bridge to Terebithia shares with Terebithia the same ability to deal with pretty adult themes like divorce, addiction, loneliness in quite a helpful way. It is quite slow moving and for a film which seems to be about a dog there is not a lot of canine action. Great image of a household church gathered by a young girl with a big heart. Most suitable for children seven and over.

7. Arthur and the Invisibles – surprisingly boring film. It features a great vocal cast: Madonna, HarveyKietel and Robert De Niro but it doesn’t really go anywhere quickly. Freddie Highmore did a good job with the opportunities he was given but overall depressingly bland. Suitable for all ages.

8. The Last Mimzy – our kids really enjoyed this movie. It has a the same kind of mysterious beginning as the flight of the navigator – but manages to sustain it through the whole movie. Best for children 6 and over.
9. Open Season – below par animated adventure.

10. Hoodwinked – really enjoyed this quirky movie. The animation looked pretty sub standard but there are enough sight gags including a snowboarding granny and a singing goat that make this a very funny film.

11. Herbie Fully Loaded – this could have been such a good film. I loved Herbie as a kid but they didn’t do anything interesting with this film at all. It is a very basic plot with a pretty boring rendition of herbie.
12. Barnyard – run of the mill animated adventure. Strangest thing is that male cows have udders in this movie. Suitable for all ages. Great movie for adults to catch 40 winks to.

13. Happy Feet – who couldn’t love a movie about penguins. Fun soundtrack. Pretty in your face dig at the Church of Scotland. Suitable for all ages.

14. Flushed Away – actually quite enjoyed this animated adventure. The nice touches from Nick Park of Wallace and Grommit fame really carried the movie. Suitable for all ages.

15. Brother Bear – the amazing story of “a boy who became a bear to become a man.” OK so there is a kind of strange spirituality going on in the movie. But if you can get beyond that there’s quite a fun storyline and some Phil Collins songs that I couldn’t get out of my head for a while. Kids enjoyed it too. Suitable for all ages.

16. The Incredibles & Cars- basically pixar haven’t put a foot wrong in their films so far. Cars probably had the weakest storyline. For young children the incredibles is only really fun in the last 20 minutes. But these are visually fantastic animated adventures.

17. Shrek (1 , 2 & 3) – Personally I think Shrek 3 was the worst of the Shrek films so far. I loved the first film and think it has been going downhill since. The first film is a great way to talk about peer pressure, body image, helping the outsider…

Garfield (1 & 2)
Charlotte’s Web
– if only this film had come about before “Babe.” The cute and polite little pig story has been told already. This was so many people’s favourite childhood book. It might be worth saving the story to read at bedtime.

Favourite Douglas Coupland

lifeaftergod.jpg

OK I am a Douglas Coupland fan.
I haven’t read everything he’s done.
But here is my top ten.

  1. Life After God (1994) – my first exposure to Coupland – loved the open hearted pathos and homage to REM.
  2. Girlfriend in a Coma (1998) – loved the apocalyptic story line – it’s the end of the world as we know it…
  3. Eleanor Rigby (2004) – great to have a female lead character – didn’t see the radioactivity coming…
  4. Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991) – the book that named a generation
  5. Hey Nostradamus! (2003) – very interesting take on Columbine and now virgina tech
  6. Shampoo Planet (1992) -really enjoyed the critique of materialism
  7. Miss Wyoming (2000) – lost people wondering about
  8. JPod (2006) – amoral gaming anarchy
  9. All Families Are Psychotic: A Novel (2001) – yes they are
  10. The Gum Thief(2007) – excellent epistolary novel idea – cross generational intimacy

JPOD Douglas Coupland

jpod.jpg

JPod is Douglas Coupland’s 11th fiction novel. It follows a group of disillusioned game programmers whose names all start with the letter J. It is a very quirky, funny and as usual insightful book.

Quirky

The book includes PI to a 100 000 places (including one deliberate error for you to find).
It also has every valid 3 letter word for the game of scrabble (including one deliberate error for you to find).
Coupland has a field day with text art; quirky email circulars and random messages in large print.
Douglas Coupland turns up in the novel as one of the characters – and characters say things like “this is just what someone in a Douglas Coupland novel would say.”

Funny

There are some great ideas of games to play when you are bored in the office:

Write an ebay sales description of yourself.
Race eachother to google to discover how to make your own cola drink.

Insightful

Once again Coupland captures the spirit of the age with the lost amoral longings of the digital generation.
Coupland deliberately leaves people ethical ambivalent. So Kam Fong is a human trafficker but is received as a friend into the JPod family. He is seen as a man who can get rid of people when they are in the way and bring them back if they are needed again. People and projects are disposable and replaceable. I found the lack of ethical resolution frustrating – people get away with murder in this book! But the amoral universe is probably an appropriate reflection of postmodern times.