Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

My joy for today is Midnight in Paris.

We recently rented Woody Allen’s movie from last year, Midnight in Paris.  I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I am not one of those people that have always longed to visit Paris.  Some movies that I love do feature the City of Light, such as The Devil Wears Prada, Something’s Gotta Give and Ratatouille.  However, they failed to convince me and I often felt that love of Paris was somewhat cliched and something the cool cats like to discuss.

Woody Allen got me.  In this film, Paris is the main character.  The opening is a montage of many picturesque and familiar locations in the city, which continue on much longer than necessary.  But this opening serves to inform the audience that this is a movie that takes place in Paris, and is also about Paris.  It really is a love letter to the city, and to the time that it romanticizes.

The main (human as opposed to city) character, Gil Pender, played by the amazing Owen Wilson, travels back in time, through means unknown, to the 1920’s in Paris.  He meets a whole slew of artists, including Picasso, Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  This movie made me feel shockingly uneducated and uncultured, although not in an annoying or condescending way.  Many of the artists that Pender meets are undoubtedly extremely famous and revered, and Pender is appropriately awestruck.  But the real surprise is that the audience is not left behind if they are not fully aware of the talents of a particular artist.  Although this movie is clearly a “smart” film for the upper echelons of society, us regular folks can also appreciate the beauty of the cinematography, the music, and the simplicity of the plot and the characters.

Besides the love affair with Paris, the movie also explores the notion that a bygone time period is preferable to the present.  Personally, I have never been under this false assumption.  I have always rested in the assurance that all time periods have had their significant problems and challenges.  Like Allen alludes to in the plot, in each time period in history, there are those that would wish for time periods past.  In the movie, Pender longs for Paris in the twenties, but his love interest from the twenties longs for the turn of the century.  Are we ever happy where we actually find ourselves?

I am not a fan of a great deal of Rachel McAdam’s films.  That is not to say that I am not a fan of the actress.  She is one of the great chameleons of our time.  I do not enjoy the sappy, overly romantic version of her in The Notebook and The Vow.  I adore her in Mean Girls, The Family Stone and in this film.  She is best when she is bad.  She is hilarious in Midnight in Paris, as well as her snotty parents and friends in the film.  The film is entirely enjoyable because both the magic and delight of the twenties is as entertaining as the strained, distant relationships of the present.

Maybe one day, about thirty years from now, when our kids are grown and we have managed to save a few pennies in a vacation fund, we will see what all the fuss is about in Paris.  Until then, I will put Midnight in Paris on my birthday wish list, and live vicariously through Woody Allen’s eyes.

Enjoy your joys for today.


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My joy for today is a summer blockbuster with heart.

A few nights ago, my husband and I saw the first movie together in a theater since the last Harry Potter. It was a rare, spur of the moment night out, along with my family.  We went to see the latest installation of the Men in Black series.  When Men in Black II came out, I was a college student, unmarried, and without children.  Fast forward a decade later, a husband, a home, and four children added to my life, and I hoped Men in Black III could deliver the same carefree summer fun of 10 years ago. I was looking forward to seeing Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones together again.

The film did not disappoint, and actually surpassed my expectations.  It is rated PG-13, which is warranted mostly because of disgusting bad guy and typical sci-fi violence.  We had a fleeting thought of taking our 7 year old to see MIB III, but were immensely glad we decided against that.  The opening sequence of the movie is surprisingly disgusting and I would actually turn my head away from the screen many times, along with “ewww-ing” out loud.  After the initial sequence, establishing the conflict, the audience was treated to the return of Agents J and K.  Although I have not seen Will Smith in much lately, I believe he is a classic movie star of our time.  He is handsome, funny in a witty and sarcastic manner, and a smart, capable character in this film.  Tommy Lee Jones reminds me of older men in my family, and his dry humor and straight laced persona are classic.  Josh Brolin is absolutely amazing as a young Tommy Lee Jones.  His mannerisms, humor, and voice are dead on.  It is hard to believe you are not actually watching a younger Tommy Lee in the flesh.  The actor playing the villain, Boris the Animal, is Jemaine Clement.  I was not aware of him before this movie, but he perfectly portrays a bad guy.  There are no torturous feelings about actually caring about him or wondering why he is so evil.  He is an alien, the last of his kind, and he should not be allowed to continue living.  Pure and simple; just as a popcorn flick should be.

There are several inconsistencies in the time travel plot, but it is overall easy to follow and believable.  I will not give away the best aspects of the plot, but there is an unbelievably heartwarming and touching culmination to the film.  I actually had to wipe away tears.  The final scene is musically accompanied by one of my favorite songs, “Empire State of Mind” and with that, a summer blockbuster is complete.    This is a movie that needs to be seen in a theater.  Start your summer off right.

Enjoy your joys for today.

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My joy for today is another date afternoon, with a better movie.

My brother and I had been looking forward to Dark Shadows for a while.  Since neither of us are old enough to have seen the original soap opera from the 70’s, we were just pulled in by the Burton/Depp duo, as well as the entertaining “someone from the past is in the present day and doesn’t know about cars, roads, television, etc.” story line.  I love that from Hocus Pocus and it was enjoyable in this movie as well.  I also adore Michelle Pfeiffer, harkening back from her days as Catwoman in Batman Returns.  That was actually the first movie I ever owned, which I obtained at a silent auction in 7th grade.  Although it scared me a little, Tim Burton’s Gotham City will always be Gotham to me.

Dark Shadows was enjoyable, and despite having 4 kids at home, I never even checked my phone to see how much time was left.  In my opinion, there were several plots and genres happening within this movie, which kept this audience member entertained, yet also confused for a great deal of the movie.  From the previews, I thought it was going to be primarily a comedy, yet while watching it I felt it was somewhat in that category, but was also a romance, somewhat of a horror, and a drama.  One of the most confusing aspects of the movie was the rules on the supernatural.  Let me tell you about just a touch of the confusion:  this movie contains a vampire, a witch, a werewolf, several ghosts, and humans, some of which can see ghosts and some cannot.  But apparently, vampires cannot kill witches, werewolves cannot kill witches, some ghosts can defeat a witch, a witch doesn’t die, a vampire doesn’t die, a witch can set an entire factory on fire by looking at it, but has to kill people one by one.  And that is just the tip of the iceberg.  Throughout so much of the movie, I felt like I needed a flow chart as to who was the most powerful and what special abilities they possessed.

Again, my astute filmmaking brother suggested that since Tim Burton and Johnny Depp wanted to make this movie based on a beloved, yet somewhat obscure soap opera, they/the studio/the Hollywood powers-that-be decided to make it at this moment in time, in order to ride the coattails of the vampire phenomenon.  Personally, I have totally avoided that craze until now.  I have not seen or read any of The Twilight saga, but while watching this movie, I felt that if I knew a little more about the rules of vampires, some of the plots in Dark Shadows would have been easier to understand.

With all that being said, this movie was fun.  In a lot of ways, I felt that it encompassed what we need as moviegoers a great deal of the time, which is a simple escape.  For a little under two hours, I was enthralled by Tim Burton’s Collinsport and Johnny Depp’s Barnabas Collins.  It was a lovely way to start Mother’s Day weekend, and to rejuvenate me to come home to put my precious little ones to bed and appreciate my family.  Like Barnabas says, “Blood is thicker than water.”

Enjoy your joys for today.

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My joy for today is a horrible movie with an awesome date.

My brother and I went to see “The Five-Year Engagement” last night.  It was not good.  We literally warned people coming into the theater to go see something else.  Since this movie was playing against “The Avengers,” my astute, filmmaking, and future Oscar-winning brother, surmised that those involved in the production realized it was horrible, had to release it sometime, and figured they might as well release it around the same time as the first summer blockbuster, at a time when any movie would have a great deal of competition.

I knew it would not be the best movie ever when it was billed as a comedy, but had a running time over 2 hours long.  My general opinion is that no comedy should be longer than about 90 minutes.  There are obvious exceptions, anything by Wes Anderson clearly exempt from this rule.  In order to fill this amount of time, “The Five-Year Engagement” involved a great deal of random scenes, including a foot chase with martial arts, gratuitous awkward crude humor, a frozen toe, hunting, and an arrow in a leg, among many others.  When we were about 90 minutes into the movie, I was sure it would be over any minute.  Spencer informed me that there was at least 30 minutes left.  At this time, we almost totally stopped paying attention and just talked about life.  I really do not know how we would have endured this movie if there was one other person in the theater, for which we would have had to be polite and quiet.

I adored Jason Segel’s “The Muppets.”  I think Emily Blunt’s performance as an overworked assistant in “The Devil Wears Prada” was a brilliant comedic masterpiece.  There were many hilarious people in this movie- Chris Pratt, Molly Shannon, Chris Parnell…  It was sad to see this movie fall apart with so many clearly talented contributors.

It had a few redeeming moments, particularly the ending, which was really adorable.  Interestingly, the ending was very reminiscent of a musical number from “The Muppets.”  This was the shining moment of the movie, which was no coincidence.  It has provided Spencer and I with a world of memories.  We will take away an awesome catch phrase.  I will use it in the last line of this post and do not feel bad about not being a part of our inside joke.  It’s easy enough to understand.  Wait for it…

If you see the movie, which I emphatically do not recommend, you will definitely feel like eating the day old doughnuts.

Enjoy your joys for today.

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My joy for today is music.

I am the furthest thing from a music snob.  If a band or artist is not played on a Top 40 station, I have probably never heard of them, unless my much cooler brother or sister have introduced them to me.  There is an exception in my repertoire for music from movie soundtracks though.  I usually prefer the genres hip-hop or rap, and I do not really pay attention to lyrics of songs, even though I can sing all of the words.  I am not entirely proud of all the things in this paragraph.

When I get in the car, usually to pick-up a child, I scan my three favorite radio stations.  If a good song is on, I turn it up much louder than my eardrums appreciate.  For a few minutes, I am not (only) a mother of four, not (only) a homeschooler, not (only) a wife.  I am awesome.  Do you know the feeling?  The song is blasting, and all is well with the world.  Anxiety, frustration, anger, loneliness; all slip away for a few minutes, and their influence somehow lessens permanently.  My daughter’s preschool is very close to our home, so I may not even have time to hear a whole song.  But for a few minutes, I am dancing and singing in my car like no one’s watching.

Since I am letting out embarrassing secrets, the most recent song that brought this joy was Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie.”  Yes, an oldie but a goodie.  This song is also on my “Run” playlist.  I run quite often, and I do it for two primary reasons:

1. I run so I can eat.

2.  I run so I can dance.

Obviously, I do not get much time to dance and really have only officially been dancing at an establishment for such purposes a handful of times in my life.  But I really love music.  So when I am running, it’s somewhat like dancing.  I try to run in the beat of the song, and for every awesome song that comes on, I get a few more steps out of tired legs.

A lot of my music is not safe for the little ears in my family, so I listen to it primarily when I am alone.  I am not alone often.  I need to remember to keep trying to work music into my day, by incorporating music that I love that is actually kid-friendly.  Sometimes I stumble across a song like this on the radio, and the kids love listening to it loudly and dancing in the car together.

My parents played a big role in instilling my love of music.  We actually had and continue to occasionally have sing-alongs with my mom playing the piano.  My Dad cannot be in a room for much time without turning on music.  I hope I am passing this love onto my children as well.

And just to show that my music tastes have a great deal of variety, Eartha Kitt’s “Je Cherche Un Homme” is currently playing on my computer, which was preceded by T-Pain’s “5 O’Clock” which was preceded by Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me.”  Your guess is as good as mine as to what might be next.

“There is no feeling, except the extremes of fear and grief, that does not find relief in music.” ~ George Eliot.

Enjoy your joys for today.

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My joy for today is free television.

Several years ago, when we lived in a condo in Coconut Grove, we had free cable with our rent.  We had more stations than anywhere I had ever lived before.  Bravo, MTV, VH1, E!, and other venues of high-quality, intellectually stimulating programming called my name.  I was intrigued by the reality of other people’s lives, such as hairdressers, professional stylists, and young people with nothing much to do.  After Noah came into our lives, I started to think that maybe it was not that great to have this type of programming on in the background.  I started wondering if maybe I should begin to view my baby as able to keep me company instead of the television fulfilling that role.  So, a few months after he was born, I had to seriously cut back.

The next home we lived in was a rental, so we decided to just not bother with getting the cable connected.  We bought a small bunny ear antenna, and were happy with the basic networks that broadcast our favorite shows for nighttime viewing.

When we bought our home, there was no question that we would not be purchasing cable.  Since this was a permanent residence, we put the time and effort into researching the best type of antenna, used a compass to point it in the direction of the broadcast towers, and installed it in the attic.  A few hours and  about $100 later, we had a lifetime subscription to absolutely free, high definition television.

Before saving money was so in vogue and before the recession, our friends were aghast that we did not have cable.  But not having cable does not mean we do not have or watch television!  Let me list for you the channels we get with perfect clarity:  NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, CW, about 5 different PBS stations, quite a few Spanish language and religious channels, and then also many more smaller channels that show older television shows and movies.  My kids have never watched any television except for what is shown on PBS.  We have plenty of movies that we can rotate in if they do not want to watch what is offered on PBS for their alloted screen time.

With the advent of Hulu, we can easily catch up on any shows we miss when they are first broadcast.  We have never had a DVR or recording device, although I can see how it could be useful.  However, it  still seems it would have to be a great deal more useful than Hulu or other sources of television on the internet to warrant the cost in our budget.

If you are ever looking for a way to save money, you might want to give our method a shot.  A few months ago, we hosted a big Super Bowl party at our home.  The broadcast was crystal clear, in HD, for free.  There are an embarrassing amount of shows each week that I try my best to keep up with- American Idol, Survivor, Up All Night, Modern Family, New Girl…  We love our television.  We just love it free.

Enjoy your joys for today.

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