Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book (soon-to-be movie) Review: I Am Number Four

Title: I Am Number Four
Pittacus Lore
ISBN: 978-0061969553
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Sci-Fi
Theme: Aliens
Binding: Hardcover
Length: 448 pgs
Published: 3 Agust 2010
My Rating:

Synopsis: Nine of us came here. We look like you. We talk like you. We live among you. But we are not you. We can do things you dream of doing. We have powers you dream of having. We are stronger and faster than anything you have ever seen. We are the superheroes you worship in movies and comic books—but we are real.

Our plan was to grow, and train, and become strong, and become one, and fight them. But they found us and started hunting us first. Now all of us are running. Spending our lives in shadows, in places where no one would look, blending in. we have lived among you without you knowing.

But they know.

They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They killed them all.

I am Number Four.

I am next.

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: I Am Number Four has to be my favorite novel so far this year. I think the last time I was this excited over a book is when I came across Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles 2 years ago. Many of you may think it's weird that I sometimes start my posts with HOW I discovered a book or movie rather than just focusing on the review itself. However, I think it is important for me to remember these little details because I've noticed a pattern. Most of the time I come across books or movies by accident or sometimes coincidence. When this happens, especially when it is young adult literature, I feel like it's put in my path for a reason. I teach and am around teenagers all the time so maybe I'm supposed to use these books as a way to promote reading. And as Eric Draven says in The Crow, "The little things used to mean so much to Shelley-- I used to think they were kind of trivial. Believe me, nothing is trivial." I most definitely agree.

Okay so I was on (Internet Movie Data Base) checking out actor Timothy Olyphant's filmography since I like to keep up on his current projects (another one of my favorite actors!). I noticed that he was playing a character named Henri in the movie I Am Number Four which is in post production. The title of the film intrigued me so I started to do a little research. I soon came to realize that the movie is based on a young adult novel of the same name that was just published in August 2010. What intrigued me even more was the fact that Michael Bay (director of Transformers) and Steven Spielberg are 2 of the producers of the soon-to-be film. After reading the movie blurb and checking out the teaser trailer, I was hooked. I ended up calling Barnes & Noble that day to put the book on hold until I got there.

I finished the book within a week. I had to purposely slow down so that I didn't inhale the novel in one sitting. So why is it so good? Who gives a crap about 9 alien children from the planet Lorien? First of all, the book itself is shrowded in mystery before you even open it. The author says he is Pittacus Lore, a 10,000 year old alien. Hmm what an interesting pseudonym. The story is fresh and original with its own mythology--I'll make a comment about that later.

What I think the author did well and why I think this book will appeal to a wide variety of readers is how it pulls you in. The first 10 chapters or so are short and sweet, ranging from 3 to 4 pages long. This can be very deceptive and I fell into the trap quite easily. I'd read a chapter which would end on a mini cliffhanger and think to myself, eh I will just read the next chapter since it is only a few pages more. Next thing I know it's 1am and I just finished reading 4 more chapters!

When I first started talking to my students about the book, I would bring my copy of I Am Number Four in. I didn't realize I was actually intimidating the reluctant reader! While I had captivated them with the storyline and movie trailer, I intimidated them by waving around this thick 400+ page book! Once I caught on, I tried to reassure them that the first 10-15 chapters are short and addictive. The author has the ability to draw the reader into the story so that it's not only hard to put the book down but by the time you reach towards the end where the chunky chapters are, you're dying to know how it ends. The reader is ready for the big showdown between Number Four and the Mogadorians!

Even though the story is being told in Number Four's perspective, the author does a great job with creating and building on characters that we come to truly care about. One particular character that stuck out through the story was Bernie Koshar. I will say no more and allow you to figure out why for yourselves :)

If I had to find a negative in the story it would be about the showdown at the school. I don't want to give too many details away or ruin the ending but I questioned how realistic the battle scene was. What I mean is, this was not simply a fist fight between Number Four and the enemy. The fight was literally like a battle with alien weapons, etc. My point is, with all the explosions and fire in, around, and near the school, wouldn't the authorities hear or see it? I know that the town is very small, but come on! Someone must hear the noise that is being made!

Back to the mythology of the book. This isn't really a negative thing but the only comment I wish to make is that I want more. Since this is the first book in the series, I am going to assume that the author was just getting started and that he will give us more in future novels.

As I mentioned before, the movie version of this book will be in theaters in Febuary. Even though only a teaser trailer has been released, I have a feeling the movie will follow the book closely since I already recognized several scenes from the clip released.

A Sci-fi thriller mixed in with a little romance, suspense, mythology, teen drama-- I know I am forgetting something. But what more could you ask for?!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Recommendation: Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead

I'll be perfectly honest-- other then assigned books that I HAD to read for high school and college, I rarely pick up biographies or autobiographies at a bookstore.

Three to four years ago I never read a young adult novel until the Twilight Saga. Now I am addicted.

A couple of weeks ago I was trying to track down my mom in Barnes & Noble and found her in the biography section. They are her type of books. As I was trying to help her find a couple of books on the Holocaust (crazy right?) I saw this striking book cover with the title Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead. I read the inside flap and I wanted it. But for some reason I put the book back. I went home and for 4 days my brain, one way or another, could not stop thinking about that book. I finally drove back and bought it. In the days that passed and the book became an extension of my hands, I came to learn things about a movement that I suddenly realized I basically knew nothing about and the things I thought I knew were completely wrong.

Several days ago I never read an autobiography on my own free will. Thanks to Frank Meeink, my mind has opened up to a new genre.

Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead is the story of Frank Meeink's violent childhood filled with abuse and neglect and his descent into America's Nazi underground. The book chronicles his years as a Skinhead in South Philly and his scary rise to leadership of his own group called "Strike Force". He tells us about his years on the streets, his years in prison, his years of trying to turn his life around, and his years of battling drug addiction.

Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead has taught me many thing, such as the true definition of a Skinhead, how one becomes a Skinhead, the difference between a Skinhead, the KKK, and other white supremacist associations. Frank's words have introduced me to all kinds of new terminology, people, and groups, such as SHARPs (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice).

Frank's story has taught me the true meaning of the phrase "there is a thin line between love and hate" and most importantly, the power of self-worth and forgiveness.

I wanted this post to be more of a recommendation than a review because I truly feel that reading this book is an experience one should explore and come to terms with on their own. I don't want to sit here and analyze, dissect, or JUDGE. I just want to make people aware that this book exists and despite how I feel about Frank Meeink himself, it needs to be read.

The book is vulgar, raw, and makes no apologies in its brutal honesty and that is why somehow, some way kids need to be exposed to it. Despite the profanity, the violence, and other sometimes offensive comments, Frank's story will not only benefit the ignorant adult but may save the lives of teens going down a very bad path.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Recommendation: Good

I might as well admit now that one of my favorite actors is Viggo Mortensen and because of this, I try to keep an eye on his current projects. It seems like I spend a lot of my time waiting for movies to become available for viewing. I waited about 8 months for Good to come out on dvd/blu-ray. While waiting gives you something to look forward to, sometimes it can make your expectations a little too high.

Good is one of those movies that left me feeling a little disappointed but I still think it is worth viewing-- perhaps even more than once! If you are expecting an action/drama piece like Defiance then get that right out of your head now. It is more of a character driven, out of sequence film filled with music symbolism (I'll get to that in a minute).

What made Good interesting and worth viewing (even a second time around) is the two lead actors, Viggo Mortensen and Jason Isaacs. Viggo plays John Halder, a passive, stressed out university professor who's latest novel catches the interest of none other then Hitler himself. John's best friend, a Jewish man named Maurice, is the more carefree of the two, more outgoing and always encouraging John to live a little. The more John gets sucked in by the Nazi party, the more his morals don't seem to matter and his hunger for acceptance and prestige puts a toll on his relationship with Maurice who is obviously horrified to see his friend becoming every Jews' worst nightmare.

The script is good, the acting is top notch (although it is weird to see Viggo in such a passive role!) what is it about the movie I didn't like? The music drove me a bit crazy. I wasn't so impressed by the actual soundtrack and from the opening scene I was a bit thrown off by the tempo of the classical music while John sits anxiously in the backseat of a car (that you soon find out is taking him to a member of the Nazi party). I guess what I am trying to say is that during some scenes the music seemed a bit off or didn't quite fit the mood. That being said, I did come to realize that some of the music was symbolic-- I am just not quite sure I understand the meaning. There were parts where John clearly was hallucinating and music usually accompanied those illusions. Upon further reflection, I have my own theories on what it all means but I think a second viewing might help.

What do you think?


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Andy Whitfield:!

Cancer...freakin'! That is the first thing that popped into my mind after the news I just read. As some of you may or may not know, the STARZ cable channel embarked on a new, original, somewhat controversial tv series called Spartacus: Blood and Sand last spring. Headlining the show was a new face to American audiences, Andy Whitfield. He brought something special to the screen; honest, fresh, sexy, fierce. While most Americans may not have known Andy, as SOON as I saw those piercing eyes in the promotional ads and trailer before the show even aired, I knew who he was. He had starred in a little independent flick called Gabriel (2007) and I never forgot about him. When I realized he was taking on the role of Spartacus, I thought wow, great! This is going to be Andy's big break and he is going to go on to do even better things now that America has finally noticed him. After all, he is only 36 years old, at the prime of his life!

Well I couldn't have been more shocked to find out back in March that he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and would be undergoing immediate treatment. But there was hope. The doctors said they caught it early and he would be as good as new. STARZ representantives were fully supportive and decided to halt the production of Season 2 while Andy went through treatment. In the meantime, to keep the sets in use, they created a miniseries called Spartacus: Gods of the Arena which is to be aired sometime next spring in hopes to keep fans satisfied until Season 2 is filmed and aired.

Things were really looking up until today. Today I learned that Andy's cancer has returned with a vengeance and due to doctors orders, he must pull out of the production of Season 2 so that he can focus on treatment and his health. This saddens me so much and is down right scary. It is just a reminder that life is so fragile and precious and you never know what hand you are going to be dealt.

Now in the wake of the tragic news, the representatives at STARZ send their love and support to Andy and his family while not rushing into a decision on what will become of the hit series. How can it go on without Andy Whitfield? How can he be replaced?

This post is dedicated to all those who are suffering and have suffered from this savage disease. I send my love to Andy and his family while he fights this battle. In my opinion, Andy IS Spartacus, so if anyone can beat it, he can!


Friday, August 6, 2010

Book Review: Dark Embers

Title: Dark Embers
Author: Tessa Adams
ISBN: 978-0451230584
Reading Level: Adult
Genre: Romance/Paranormal Romance/Erotica
Theme: Dragon shifters
Binding: softcover
Length: 320 pgs
Published: 6 July 2010
My Rating:

Synopsis: Prince Dylan MacLeod is one of the last pure-blood dragon shape- shifters-and ruler of a dying race, the Dragonstar clan. It falls to him to protect his people and their ancient magic. But he has one important duty: to provide an heir...

Like all dragons, Dylan, who has a dark, rampant sexual appetite, can only procreate with his destined mate-for whom he's searched for the last five hundred years. But his quest is delayed when a disease sweeps through the Dragonstars, and Dylan must venture to the human world to find a cure. He tracks down bio-chemist Phoebe Quillum, never imagining the beautiful scientist would be the mate he's been seeking. But even with the fate of the clan on their shoulders, Phoebe and Dylan are overcome by their sexual desire.

Their passion turns to something truer, but when Phoebe is kidnapped by Dylan's oldest enemy, he must risk everything for his love and his clan...

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: I figured it was about time to go back to my first love-- the romance genre-- and write a review about the latest one I just finished reading. Dark Embers is the start of a new steamy series about dragon shifters. I have read my fair share of shape shifting romance novels, everything from wolves, lions, bears, eagles, hawks-- you name it. In more recent years, I've noticed a trend of dragon shifter books but for some reason none of them really caught my attention. Until Dark Embers that is.

Let's face it, when you are on B& or at a bookstore going up and down the isles, the first thing that catches your eye is the cover artwork of a book. It doesn't matter what section you are in, it is just a known fact that, unless you already had an author picked out ahead of time, your first going to go to the book that is aesthetically pleasing to look at. It doesn't mean you are going to buy it, but the cover will draw you like a moth to a flame. That is exactly what happened to me with Dark Embers. Come on! Look at the hunk on the front cover! Okay, okay, while I reign in my raging hormones, it's more than just the hunk with 6 pack abs that drew my eye. I like the attention to detail everything from his belt buckle (Oh come on! I am not that perverted! I wasn't looking at anything below the belt! >=)~) to the color scheme, to the little desert town in the background. It gives you a lot of info in that one piece of artwork and it definitely makes me wonder what the cover of book 2 will look like!

Okay so here are the things I like about Dark Embers. This may piss off the feminists out there but Dylan, king of the Dragonstar shapeshifter clan and our hero is most definitely an alpha male. I'm not going to lie, I love my romance heroes to be dark and dominant. I know this view may set back the female rights movement back 200 years but hey, I know I am not the only woman who likes their heroes to be alphas. Moving on to Dylan's character, Tessa Adams does a great job developing his story, everything from his insecurities as a leader of his clan to his more personal angst, such as not having found his mate. Besides really good character development, Adams does well on creating this dragonshifter mythology and the mysterious way they live and have survived for ages in the human world. For example, these shifters:

a) They live in hidden caves in the desert (dragons like it hot!)
b) They love gems and precious stones
c) These gems/precious stones have meaning and can be used for different purposes
d) In human form their bodies run hotter than normal humans (makes sense since dragons like the heat)

I know there has to be more which will hopefully be explored in future books of the series.

Now here is what kept me from giving it a perfect 5 star rating and these are truly minor things that may be explained in the future. Okay so we know these dragonshifters live in the desert in hidden caves. Cool. But one thing that sorta bothered me was the flying in the air. Adams describes their dragon form as being pretty damn big. If they are flying around, are you telling me that no one is going to notice a huge dragon? How about airplanes or other aircrafts? I know that some of these dragonshifters can use "glamour" to hide their identity but I am not sure if I read somewhere that they can make themselves completely invisible in the air.

The other thing that bothered me-- and I know this is soooo trivial-- but in the synopsis of the book and throughout the beginning it is mentioned that Dylan not only yearns to find his mate to fill the other half of his soul, but only a true dragon mate will allow him to procreate. Another words, he can't knock up anyone other than his true mate. So I was thinking, cool, Dylan is going to find his woman and he is going to get her pregnant which will give hope to his people since they have lost so many loved ones to this terrible disease. Nope. Doesn't happen. At least not yet. Hopefully in book 2 Adams will develop that a little.

Hot alpha male? Check
Hot sex scenes? Check
Originality? Check

Dark Embers is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for something a little different in the dragon shifter category. Can't wait to read more from Tessa Adams!


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Recommendation: To Save A Life

I have been waiting about 6 months for To Save A Life (2009) to finally come out on dvd. It was finally released this week (Aug. 3rd) and I just got around to watching it last night. The movie is about Jake Taylor, a popular senior high school student that seems to have the perfect life--hot girlfriend, full-ride scholarship to The University of Louisville, (due to being an all star athlete) big house, jock friends, etc. But one day at school, his childhood best friend, Roger, whom he has ignored for years because he is not "cool" enough, open fires and kills himself in front of Jake and other students. Plagued with guilt for not being a better friend or seeing the signs, Jake goes on a spiritual journey and begins to reevaluate his life. More importantly, he tries to find the answer to this one question: what does it take to save a life?

Some of you may or may not know this but I am in the teaching field so I deal with kids (ranging from 12-20 year olds) on a daily basis. I found out about this movie back when school was still in session and couldn't wait until I got my hands on it because I was hoping this would be a good movie to show to teenagers. Teen suicide is such a sensitive topic especially in today's society when we hear about tragedies like Columbine or severe bullying that leads to kids feeling alienated and desperate to be heard (such as teenager Phoebe Prince's sad story).

To Save A Life is a movie that not only covers teen suicide but topics like bullying, peer pressure, teen drinking, cutting (as in teens that cut themselves), the effects on teens in single parent homes, the effects on teens whose parents are going through a divorce, pregnancy, Christianity, spiritualism, and I will even go as far as to include interracial relationships. For a 120 minute movie, it covers alot of issues that teens, parents, AND teachers go through and should look out for in their daily lives.

The only thing that I want to caution viewers about is that this movie does get a little "preachy" so if you are a teacher that is thinking about showing this film to your students you might want to be careful on how you go about it. I myself got a little tired of the constant push towards Christianity. However, I do know that a teenager's life is filled with questions and self exploration so it doesn't surprise me that the topic is brought up. I just wasn't expecting it to be one of the main themes of the movie. So for all you teachers out there, this is definitely a movie students should see but tread carefully.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Book Review: Eva Underground

Title: Eva Underground
Author: Dandi Daley Mackall
ISBN: 978-0152054625
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Theme: Historical Fiction
Binding: Hardcover
Length: 256 pgs
Published: 2006
My Rating:

Synopsis: In 1978, a high school senior is forced by her widowed father to move from their comfortable Chicago suburb to help with an underground education movement in communist Poland.

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: I know the last few posts have been about movies so it's time for me to change things up a bit and review a book that I recently finished reading. Eva Underground is a young adult novel that is quite different from the norm. Or at least in my reality it is. I know the book was published back in 2006 but it seems in recent years that most YA novels are focused on vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and fairies (you get the point). While I love a good paranormal/supernatural story like the next person, I must admit that it's beginning to get hard to weed out the diamonds among all the coal (like that analogy? hehe). Sometimes I just need a break from the monotony. Eva Underground not only provided that but also took me back to the days when all I did was read historical romance and fiction.

The book takes place in communist Poland, 8 years after the Gdansk riots of 1970 (which you find out was the year that Tomek's older brother was tragically killed). Americans Eva and her father, a college professor, are first introduced at a Czech border crossing. While they sit with tension in the unheated car, waiting for the line to move, we get small glimpses of Eva's life back in Chicago and the events that led to her current life change. Right off the bat we know that being uprooted from everything she knows is not her choice, but her father's. She yearns to be back in Chicago with her best friend and boyfriend and close to where her mother is buried (not a big spoiler since you find that out within the first few pages of the book.) Her father, Professor Lott, has an agenda-- to meet up with Father B. (who is in charge of this underground movement) and teach/train oppressed yet eager Polish students so that one day they can make a stand against a government that wants to keep its people uneducated and ignorant. Once they finally do cross the border (not without difficulty) they meet Tomek, a 19 year old Polish teen who reluctantly takes on the job of escort and translator for the American professor. Just like Eva, he does not really want to get involved with the underground movement but does because of the money he could earn so that he can buy books and go to school. When Tomek and Eva first meet, they obviously don't like each other. Tomek thinks Eva is spoiled and rich since her father is a college professor and Eva resents Tomek because, well, he represents everything that is foreign to her.

The first thing I liked about Eva Underground is the third person narrative that switches perspectives between 17 year old Eva and 19 year old Polish Tomek. Up until the Twilight series, I was never a big fan of first person narration, probably because I had my brain trained to reading romance novels, mythology, historical and fantasy epics,-- all of which are mostly written in third person. Okay, and I will admit that I tend to be nosy-- I like to know what's going on in other character's heads and their views throughout a story. Once I started getting into YA literature, I noticed a trend of first person narration and I learned to actually enjoy it. (I'm always up for a challenge and looking for new ways to expand my mind.)

Anyway, the shift back to third person narrative in Eva Underground was a nice change of pace for me. The author, Mackall, did a great job with changing perspectives between the two lead characters as well as giving us as the reader good introductory descriptions into Eva and Tomek's livestyles and backgrounds. By the third chapter I felt emotionally invested in both of their causes and couldn't wait to see how things progressed.

Like I was saying before, I was exposed early to historical romance and fiction novels but will admit that this is the first story I have read about communist Poland in the 70's. The author does a great job at giving just enough details and situations to express the severe opression that these people were experiencing. You don't have to be an expert on the time period or place to get the general mood of the story.

There is one part in particular that I loved in Eva Underground that reminded me of one of my favorite scenes in the movie A Walk in the Clouds (starring Keanu Reeves). In order to get out of doing dish duty (sounds stupid but there are months in Poland where they can't get soap so they kill germs by washing dishes in boiling hot water) Eva convinces Tomek to take her with him to his family's home to help pick plums for the harvest. When they arrive, everyone seems to accept her but Lukasz, Tomek's cousin. They have all gathered to help pick plums from the family orchard before a terribly ice storm hits. With the help of little Stash (Tomek's other cousin) Eva adapts well. She becomes so fast that a competition arises between Eva and Lukasz to see who can get the most plums picked the quickest. This is almost exactly what happens in A Walk in the Clouds only it is Keanu Reeves' character that is the stranger and he must help pick grapes, not plums. Beings that A Walk in the Clouds was released in 1995, I have to wonder if the similarities are purely coincidental or if the author had a little inspiration? Hmm...

Now to the things that bothered me which ultimately is the reason I give this book a 3 out of 5 star rating. The first thing that nagged at my conscience was Eva's father's decision to force his 17 year old daughter to a communist country that is obviously in turmoil. What in the BLEEP was he thinking??? I get that he is still mourning the loss of his wife and living day in and day out in a house full of memories must be like putting salt to a wound. I get that Eva started acting out after her mother's death and perhaps he thought that a change of scenary would do her some good. But to take your daughter out of her last year of high school and drag her to a place where they not only hate their own people but they hate Americans? Don't get me wrong, I am all for helping others. I know sometimes you have to risk your own life for the greater cause. But I just find it either completely negligent or very naive on Professor Lott's part. What solidifies my point even more is the fact that he doesn't even know Polish! I could see if he was fluent in Polish or a similar language, but he actually had to depend on Eva to translate (she can pick of languages quickly) when Tomek was not around.

Another thing that left me with some questions was this supposed hatred between Tomek's father and Josef Krysa, Captain of the militia. The author states a few times in later chapters that Krysa is the "hated enemy" of Tomek's father. I wanted to know why. I had a feeling it was in regards to the death of Tomek's older brother years prior but nothing is really developed. I know not everything in a story has to be spelled out but Captain Krysa obviously has a vendetta against Tomek's family. And when the author stated more then once that both older men are mortal enemies, I had to wonder why or how it started. Mackall kind of leaves you hanging and I found it a little disappointing.

Lastly, I kind of felt that the love story between Eva and Tomek was...underdeveloped. Throughout most of the book you have Eva thinking of her boyfriend back in Chicago and about halfway through the novel she even tries to make a break for it (You'll see what I mean). Tomek, on the other hand, thinks of Eva as being spoiled and selfish. Since he feels this way through most of the book (he thinks it constantly) I was waiting for some big blow up between the two where Tomek finally tells Eva how he feels, but it never comes. Obviously his opinion of her changes, and vice versa, but I guess the whole sudden love thing between the two felt...unreal. Okay maybe unreal is not the best word to describe it, but I think a couple of more chapters to develop their feelings for each other would have satisfied me more.

Eva Underground is a good book if you are reading it for the purpose of educating yourself on this turbulent part of history, whether you are a teenager or adult. I think the author did a great job from a historical perspective as well as giving the reader sufficient description and character backgrounds to reel us in. While the story starts off strong, I think it loses a little steam in the romance department as well as a few underdeveloped story lines such as the bitter feud between Tomek's father and Captain Krysa. Despite my pickiness, I don't regret reading it and would even go so far as to say that if I was teaching history instead of English, I would probably add the book to a mandatory summer reading list.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Movie Review: Green Street Hooligans (2006)

Movie Title: Green Street Hooligans
Alexi Alexander
Actor(s): Elijah Woods, Charlie Hunnam
Language: English
Subtitles (on dvd): English, Spanish, French
Rated: R (violence, language)
Genre: Drama/Indie
Run Time: 109 mins
DVD Release Date: 13 June 2006
My Rating:

Synopsis: A wrongfully expelled Harvard undergrad moves to London, where he is introduced to the violent underworld of soccer hooliganism.

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: Okay so many of you may be wondering why I am reviewing this movie. Green Street Hooligans is one of those rare gems that I have heard other people talking about here and there but never got around to watching it. I was in FYE the other day and saw the dvd sitting on the shelf for $6.99 and figured it was a sign since a few months ago I couldn't get the movie for under $12.99 (hey, I am a collector so I know when to be cheap and when to suck it up and buy a flick, hehe).

That being said, while I am years late in watching the movie, I am at least proud of myself for viewing it within 48 hours of its purchase. Many of you already know that I have a habit of buying a movie or book and then it collects dust on my shelf until the mood strikes. =/ Well the mood was definitely there and I have to admit that the two main lead actors are part of the reason for my quick watch time.

Elijah Wood (of Lord of the Rings fame as well as many older films in which he starred as a child such as The Good Son) plays Matt Muckner, a talented Harvard grad student that is wrongfully expelled two months before he is supposed to receive his diploma. I am not going to get into the reason for his expulsion because that would be giving away too much of the plot. Suffice to say, after this devastating blow he has nothing better to do then to take a trip to London where his sister Shannon resides with her English husband and their toddler son. While his sister is happy to see him, there is definitely a tension between them and it is revealed that the siblings have had a rough childhood together with the loss of their mother and their almost estranged father.

Before the siblings can really get reacquainted, Shannon's husband Steve comes home from work. He doesn't seem to have any issues with Matt's sudden arrival but tells him when they have a moment alone that he had something special planned for him and his wife. And this is when we are introduced to Charlie Hunnam's character, Pete, Steve's younger rebel brother. Pete comes through the back door into the kitchen like a storm, without knocking and without hesitation. He is there to ask his big brother for some money, something that you can tell he does quite often. Steve is obviously annoyed because of the tension Pete creates in Shannon and the dripping sarcasm he uses towards Matt. But Steve gets his little revenge by making Pete "babysit" Matt so that he can spend quality time with his wife. On the way out the door he gives Matt money and tells him no matter what, do NOT give Pete the loot. Within seconds of both young men venturing outside and down the street, Pete tries to intimidate Matt in giving him the cash. Surprisingly, Matt holds his ground even when it turns a little physical.

Pete says, " So I'm guessing you're not much of a fighter?"
Matt's surprised reply: "Fighter? That's probably the first fight I ever had."
"You call that a fight,"
Pete says with amusement.

Although Pete tries to get Matt to stay behind, he allows him to tag along. From that moment on, the Alpha and Omega become nearly inseparable. Pete's close knit friends are not so accepting, however, when Matt seems to be invited to not only their favorite pub but to football (aka soccer in the US) games. It is one particular football game that changes not only the views of Pete's friends but how Matt views Pete. After watching the West Ham United v Birmingham City match, Matt decides to go home instead of hanging with the group after the game. On his way, Matt soon realizes he is being followed and is accosted by some thugs. He is relieved when Pete and the gang appear and a bloody fight ensues. It is during this fight that Matt discovers this is no ordinary skirmish and Pete is no ordinary rebellious punk. He is brutally introduced into the world of 'firms,' football team followers that show their loyalty by finding ways to humiliate the other team's firm and vicious fighting in the streets. And Pete? Leader of the GSE, Green Steet Elite 'firm'.

While most of Pete's 'firm' begin to grudgingly respect Matt after he proves himself in a brutal fight, Bovver, Pete's closest mate seems to seeth with jealousy. He feels that Matt, who is American, cannot be trusted and even goes as far as to accuse Pete and Matt of being gay since they are always seen together. Pete being the bold leader that he is defends Matt and tells Bovver that he is getting tired of his accusations and wasted energy. However, Bovver's animosity proves fatal...

One reason I gave this movie a 5 out of 5 star rating is because of the two lead actors. After Elijah Wood starred in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there is no doubt that he could have continued to do high budget movies with fluffy scripts (not saying LOTR is fluffy). Instead, Wood chose to carve his own path in the acting world by picking scripts that challenged him. I think I read a review from a critic that said Elijah Wood was not a good casting choice for Green Street Hooligans because he seemed out of place. Umm, well, I must disagree because...isn't that the point? The movie is about an American Harvard student that moves to England and gets involved in the violent, mysterious world of football firms. Elijah Wood IS American and in real life would seem out of place if he were to go over to England for a visit. I mean the movie wouldn't have been believable if they had chosen..say, Orlando Bloom to play the part of Matt Muckner. Sometimes I really wonder about about critics...

Who fascinated me more was Charlie Hunnam's performance as the GSE leader Pete. For those of you who have never heard of Charlie Hunnam, you may recognize him as that famous hot biker Jax Teller from the hit FX television show Sons of Anarchy. I guess the reason why I am so blown away by his acting is because I first saw Charlie in a little British television series called Queer As Folk (a very controversal show that later prompted the US to create their own provocative Queer As Folk series). He played Nathan, the young underage virgin who falls for and catches the eye of playboy bachelor Stuart. Yes people, Charlie Hunnam played a very daring role as a gay teenager. Even though this is where I first saw him, I did not recognize him as Jax Teller in Sons of Anarchy for quite awhile. Charlie obviously is older now and sports an American/Californian (where the show takes place) accent in his current role. It wasn't until I had gone onto to check out his filmography that I put the connection together. Charlie Hunnam is a prime example of an actor that has gone "gay" and still maintains a successful career. I hate to even bring that up since I am a big fan of gay cinema but let's face is, while it is a little more common now for big actors to accept gay roles, 10 years ago it was not so common or even accepting. Then again, I have to keep reminding myself that Charlie is from England and people in Europe generally do not have the issues we do when it comes to gay cinema. Anyway, I point is, Charlie Hunnam is an actor that is not afraid to go from one extreme to the next. He blew me away in Queer as Folk and Sons of Anarchy, two completely different shows and characters and I have to admit that he is probably one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to see Green Street Hooligans. While SOA and GSH do share some similarities, it was interesting to see him back in a role where he is in his own country with his own accent (well, sort of his own accent since I know that different parts of England have different dialects). And yes, I do know that Green Street Hooligans was shot a few years before Sons of Anarchy but I have been so imersed in his character Jax Teller that I easily forgot his background. He is that believable as an actor and while SOA Season 3 is on the horizon (September 7th baby! Woohoo!) I can't wait to see the outcome of other projects he is working on. B-)

While the actors are largely responsible for my 5 star rating, the original script and gritty scenes make up the other half. In an era where movies are either remakes, sequels, or book adaptations, I'm sure not the only one who somehow feels jaded going into a film. I'll be the first to admit that I sometimes have that "I've seen em' all" attitude. At times I will sit at the computer for hours, searching for that one movie that sounds different, looks different, feels different. I know some people have compared this movie to Fight Club and I do see the similarities. However, up until this film, I had no idea what the hell a 'firm' was. And if it wasn't for me watching the 2010 World Cup I probably wouldn't have known how serious football (aka soccer) is to the people of England. The way Americans feel about baseball and football is the way they feel about soccer. We just don't have baseball or football firms here...or do we? I can remember quite a few times watching a baseball game and the camera shooting to a fight that broke out in the stands or hearing on the channel 6 news that fans were arrested at a game for getting too out of control. Hmm, I wonder if this is a phenomenon that somehow the American government has covered up >=)~

I could sit here and complain about the low budget but I went into it knowing that GSH is an Indie flick and most if not all Indie flicks are low budget. This may sound strange but sometimes when I know I'm about to watch a movie that struggled to be made because of the lack of funds, it takes some of the pressure off. Instead of me focusing on the visual affects and the special affects, I realize the only thing that is going to hold my interest for the next 90 minutes (or more) is the story that's about to unfold and the acting that brings it to life.

Green Street Hooligans brings something fresh and originial to the screen because of its mysterious and talented main lead actors and ability to keep you interested despite its obvious low budget, Indie feel. Oh and going back to my comment about sometimes feeling jaded while watching movies...this film also has a couple of surprise shockers that I did not see coming. I could blame that on being tired since I did pop the movie in at 2:30am but I'd like to think I was genuinely surprised.

**Note** Just to give you a heads up before I forget, the "Cockney" accents (no offense intended) in this movie may be hard to follow especially if you are tired going into this movie as I was so if you have the dvd you can put the English substitles on.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Movie Recommendation: INCEPTION!

While I know I am an educated, intelligent young woman-- I am also smart enough to know when to just leave things alone. The point I am trying to make is this-- rather then me make an ass out of myself by rambling on about how freakin' amazing this movie is/was, I am just going to tell you all one thing-- GO SEE INCEPTION. Holy BLEEP! Finally a movie worth seeing this summer (I still love you Twilight Saga: Eclipse!) Inception is original, mind-blowing, and constantly has you on the edge of your seat. LITERALLY! Totally not joking, people. I wouldn't be able to give this movie a proper review, so if anyone wants to get an idea what they are getting into, the current Entertainment Weekly magazine has a great break-down of the movie, interview with the Director (Christopher Nolan of Memento and The Dark Knight fame), and even gives you some insight on how the hell they actually did some of the crazy intense action scenes!

Okay, I am done. Go see it. Right now. No not later, I said RIGHT NOW. Oh, and see it at least twice. Yes, it is THAT good!

Peace out!


P.S. Damn, I guess I did still ramble on about how awesome Inception was, huh? >=)~

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Movie Review: The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009)

Movie Title: The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
Director: Rebecca Miller
Actor(s): Robin Wright, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves
Language: English
Subtitles: n/a
Rated: R
Genre: Drama
Run Time: 98 mins
DVD Release Date: 2 March 2010
My Rating:

Synopsis: At fifty, Pippa Lee (Robin Wright) positively glows with female serenity, the devoted wife of a brilliant publisher thirty years her senior, proud mother of successful twins and a lovely and adored friend and neighbor. But, when her husband spontaneously decides that they should leave New York for a retirement home as a "pre-emptive strike against decrepitude," Pippa finds her beatific persona unraveling in alarming ways. The truth is, the gracious woman of the present day has seen more than her fair share of the wild side. She has finally found love and security in a family of her own. And now, that cozy world, too, is in danger.

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: Since this movie has such a long title, I am just going to refer to it as Pippa Lee in this post. I bought the dvd back in March of 2010 after reading about the film and the Oscar Buzz surrounding Robin Wright over her performance. I'm not quite sure why the story intrigued me when I read about it in Entertainment Weekly. Maybe it's because of the many actors that I heard were in it-- Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Alan Arkin, Maria Bello, Robin Weigert, Julianne Moore among the few. Nevertheless, I bought the dvd and it sat on my shelf, collecting dust until last night.

Like the synopsis explains, Pippa is a middle-aged woman married to an established publisher, Herb Lee, that is 30 years older then her. She speaks softly and eloquently, dresses properly, and within the first few minutes of the movie, you get the impression that she is your stereotypical well-to-do "housewife." But there is a sadness in Pippa's eyes as she sits around the elegant dinner table (obviously a housewarming dinner party) among her close friends, grown son, and Herb. Only the movie viewer seems to notice because all of the attention of the dinner guests seem to be focused on Herb. It is this way throughout most of the movie-- people do not come to visit Pippa but her popular husband. No matter how involved she tries to be, whether it is asking a direct question to the couple's company, or having a say in her daughter's dangerous yet interesting career choice (you soon find out that their is a wedge between Pippa and her daughter) it all somehow comes back to Herb. She always seems to be a small speck of dust in her husband's very large shadow and perhaps was content to be that way for years. But not anymore. Something has definitely changed by the time we meet Pippa, and through her first person narrative we get to see glimpses of her previous life-- or should I say the many, "private" lives that this intriguing woman has lived to get her to her current state of mind.

Because they moved from the fast, busy life of the city to the quiet, somewhat sterile retirement home in the country, you can feel Pippa's boredom. Her children are grown and out of the house, her husband is retired, and she no longer has the city lifestyle to keep her distracted. Now in this new environment, her only responsibility is to maybe get involved in a charity, cook, and take care of her husband which requires checking his blood pressure several times a day due to multiple heart attacks (which most likely has forced him to retire). Despite her husband's advancing age and health issues, he is by no means an invalid and even himself is bored. Herb has pride and the viewer gets the sense that he does not like Pippa hovering over him. In Pippa's new liftestyle, she has plenty of time to reflect and I think that is why this movie is so relatable. Most of us know what it is like to have too much time on our hands and how that can lead to productive activities or destructive thinking and behavior.

I gave this movie a 4 out of 5 star rating for a few reasons such as the colorful cast of well-known actors, the neatly woven flashback scenes, and the ability to keep an element of surprise. I have watched countless movies in the past that incorporated flashback scenes. Some worked well while others have left me bored or scratching my head in confusion. In order to find out why Pippa has such sadness in her eyes, or why she married a man 30 years her senior, or why there is such a rift between her and her daughter, seeing glimpses of her past are essential. I actually looked forward to the flashback scenes because they were not only well done but the character portrayals were executed nicely by well known actors. Pippa's mother, Sookie, was played by the talented Maria Bello of Coyote Ugly, History of Violence, and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor fame. I don't want to get into too many details about Pippa's mother since it is their complex relationship that sets off a series of events which eventually brings us to our present day Pippa, but I will say that Maria Bello did an amazing job. It was really nice to see her play such a dramatic role.

Two other actresses that surprised me were Robin Weigert who plays Pippa's Aunt Trish and Julianne Moore as Kat, Trish's lover! I first saw Robin Weigert in the HBO hit television show Deadwood, playing the infamous Calamity Jane. The actress just blew me away in that show (if anyone knows anything about the real life Calamity Jane or has watched Deadwood, you will know exactly what I mean) so to see her in something completely different was a delight even if she did not have much screen time. The beautiful Julianne Moore also surprised me by playing the bold lesbian lover of Trish who sort of gets the teenage Pippa into a little trouble. Why I was shocked that Julianne Moore played a lesbian is beyond me since she has proven over her long successful career that sometimes it is the smallest roles that leave the biggest impressions after the credits roll. (Plus I have recently found out that Julianne Moore has played another lesbian in a recent movie called The Kids Are All Right which has been getting some great reviews. I want to see it but it is currently only playing in select cities. Grrr!)

Another actress worth mentioning is the eccentric Winona Ryder who plays Sandra, the much younger friend of Pippa. Sandra is unhappily married to an older (but not quite as old) friend of Pippa's husband Herb. They come over for dinner often so it is quite obvious how close both couples are. I can't give away too much detail but I do have to comment how dreadfully thin Winona Ryder looks in this film. At first I seriously thought it had something to do with her character Sandra. I kept thinking, okay, by the end of the movie it will be revealed that she is starving herself or she has some sort of eating disorder because of her unhappiness and constant negative responses her husband gives her. None of this happens of course and while it can be left open for interpretation, I still can't get her skinny image out of my head. (Winona has not starred in any big blockbuster movies in recent years, staying in indie flicks and usually playing minor or supporting roles like Pippa Lee. I do have the 2008 movie The Last Word in which she plays the main lead so when I get around to watching it, I will write a review for it.)

Okay, lastly and definitely not least, I must say a few words about Keanu Reeves performance. Keanu plays Chris Nadeau, the enigmatic son of Pippa and Herb's neighbor and friend Dot Nadeau. Before Pippa is ever introduced to Chris, Dot comes by to talk to her about how upset she is with her 35 year old son who must move back home do to his current divorce and lack of job. Dot feels that at his age he should have a career and seems to blame him for his failed marriage. She seeks out Pippa's council since everyone thinks that Pippa is wise and graceful and filled with all the right answers. Pippa finally meets Chris at the Nadeau residence to pay her respects after Dot's husband passes away. She is invited in by a guest or relative and I couldn't help but notice that the walls of the living room were painted a bubblegum shade of pink which I thought was kind of odd. Pippa goes to find Dot in the house and hears arguing coming from one particular room (which you soon find out is Chris' room). When Pippa knocks on the door to announce to Dot that she has arrived, Chris yanks it open and I think her spoke volumes. At the door is a shirtless Keanu Reeves--I mean Chris--with a huge tattoo of Jesus that spands from his collar bone down to his stomach/abdomen. It's so in-your-face that it left Pippa and even myself, speechless for a moment. Then of course I asked myself, when, why, how? It just made Keanu's character even more intriguing. Besides the shirtless, irritated Chris and the obvious argument that he was having with his mother, the other thing that you can't miss is the drastic change in color. Instead of bubblegum pink, Chris' room is a bright green and his bedsheets are yellow. There may be a few people that think I'm crazy for this analysis but within those few minutes--from the time Pippa enters the house to when she comes face to face with Chris--something told me that Chris' issues somehow stems from his childhood. I'm not saying Dot is a bad mother because you can tell she genuinely is concerned for her son,'s just a feeling I got from the extreme color schemes in the house. Like Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves is another one of those actors that you really don't see much of in recent years. Despite this, I really like and enjoy his acting despite critics saying that he has no range.

Okay now for the minor reasons why I didn't give this movie a perfect rating. While I absolutely loved the flashback scenes and the pertinent information that is given to us so we as the viewer can fill in the gaps in Pippa's life, I feel that some things could have been elaborated on. Again, I don't want to give away too many details but one thing that bugged me was Pippa's father and brothers. Her father was a reverand and she had at least 3 or 4 older brothers. I understand that her mother had issues and that it lead to Pippa moving out to seek refuge with her Aunt Trish. But why didn't her father step in? Why didn't any of her brothers, who most likely were out of the house and living on their own offer her a place to stay? Okay now hold that thought and let me go back to Aunt Trish and her lover Kat. Without giving away too much detail, Kat sort of causes a little trouble between Aunt Trish and Pippa. In my personal opinion, a 16 year old Pippa should not have been held accountable and I was shocked when Pippa was dumped on the street to fend for herself. Why didn't Trish reprimand Kat? Why would she be mad at an underage Pippa? And going back to her brothers, why didn't she go live with them? The movie made no mention of a fight with her brothers or even her father. I just could not understand or find it believable that not one brother kept in touch with her, even later in Pippa's life. I wish the script had elaborated a little more on her relationship (or lack there of) with her brothers.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee is one of those movies that may be sitting on your shelf collecting dust or you have passed several times at the video store because you just aren't sure if you are in the mood for a drama about a middle aged woman going through a sort of midlife crisis. But it is much more then that. With a great array of actors and a few surprises here and there that keeps you interested until the very end, this is definitely one of those movies that is worth giving a couple of hours of your time to. (Especially on a rainy day or with a friend or mother!)


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It's Been Awhile...

Hey hey! I know it has been forever. My last post was back in 2009 and that really bugs me because with everything going on in my life right now, I truly need to be writing. I decided to set a small goal for myself. For starters, I plan to post at least once or twice a week, whether it is me reviewing a movie/book, or just to blow off steam. I've been wanting to get back into writing stories-- I have so many ideas swirling around in my head that I finally wrote them down so they are not forgotten. I'm tired of making excuses-- oh I am too tired, damn I have a bad case of writer's block, etc., etc., etc. I figured that if I can start small by keeping up with this blog, then maybe it will inspire me to finally get some of these story ideas out of my head and on paper.

That being said, I have been reading like a demon (okay, I know, totally makes no sense since I'm not sure if demons actually read but hey, it sounded cool lol) and since I have been home due to a serious back issue that has had me basically incapacitated, I've been watching lots of movies and television series. My point is, there is much for me to write about, so many reviews that people are just dying to read-- yeah right! I don't think anyone has been following my blog, and if by some chance someone had checked it out back in 09' I'm sure they have given up on me posting anything new.

Well, I'm back, baby! It's sooo going to happen. Actually, I plan to write a couple of reviews right now!!! Umm, well, actually, I need to pee and take a shower so....right after I get done my nightly ablutions I will work on some reviews.

Peace out!!!

<3 Mia