Friday, March 30, 2012

Mirror Mirror (PG)

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I love Julia Roberts. Love her! Inasmuch as anyone who’s never actually met a person can. I’ve liked nearly every movie she’s ever been in. I didn’t care much for Closer and I haven’t seen EVERY movie she’s ever made but you get my point. She seems so down to earth. And that laugh! Having been blessed (or cursed, depending on who you’re talking to) with a similar belly laugh I love that it’s almost become her trademark. She does NOT disappoint in Mirror Mirror. I love her in this movie too. Love to hate her. Oh. Does that seem a tad strong? You’ve got to know that’s what the producers wanted. They took America’s Sweetheart and made her Public Enemy Number One. Mwahahahahahahaha! Oh the drama!!!

I’m hoping that everyone who’s reading this knows the basic story of Snow White. If you don’t, you’ll have to Google it to get the 411. So there. I do have to say that this is officially my favorite version of the story. Do they stick to the basic plot? Sometimes. Do I like the changes? Oh yes. Yes, I do. And the other 11 or 12 people in the theater seemed to like them also. I don’t know why more people didn’t show up for this. I started to think that only midnight showings of action movies get the big crowds but Wrath of the Titans was showing at the same time and there was hardly anyone lined up for it either. I guess everyone just wanted to stay tucked in tonight. Let me warn you, guys, that you might not be thrilled with some of the changes. The guys who were at the theater tonight…er…this morning didn’t seem to mind them. Parents, this is definitely one to which you should take your daughters. It’s a girl-power movie that shows that it’s okay to be sweet and strong but that it’s also okay to have help sometimes.

Thinking this was going to be the same, basic story I was pleasantly surprised by the afore-mentioned changes, i.e. the mirror. It was so not what I was expecting. I love how they revamped it. There is also a beast in this telling. I don’t think there’s been one in any of the other stories. Kudos to the art department on that one. I kinda liked the look of him. Having mentioned changes in the story you may be wondering if two things were left in. The kiss and the apple. They are most definitely included but not in the way you think. These are just two of many reasons I like this version. And I dug the Queen’s bedroom. It reminded me of the movie Aladdin (the animated version).

Lily Collins plays the part of Snow White. Some of you may remember her from The Blind Side, Priest or Abduction. I can’t imagine anyone else in this role. I just read some background on the film and found out that she replaced Saoirse Ronan. I wonder why and also why she wasn’t the first choice. I also found out that she was beat out for the part of Snow White in Snow White and the Huntsman. Having seen the previews for that, I definitely can NOT picture her as that Snow White. Sorry, Lily. You’ve got some chutzpah in this film but Kristen Stewart has the rough edges to portray a more hard core Snow. Wow! I think I just insulted both of them. Oh well. Carrying on…

Armie Hammer plays the part of Prince Alcott. He’s so stinkin’ tall! He looked like a giant next to Lily and the dwarves. Not that that is of major import to the movie. I just read that his mother and his grandparents are Okies! Wahoo! The only other movie I’ve ever seen him in is The Social Network. He portrayed the Winklevoss twins. So, having only seen him in two films I can’t even begin to guess as to how good an actor he’ll become. He was constantly irate in The Social Network and he was sickeningly sweet in Mirror Mirror. Not that I didn’t like him. No actor, playing this part, was going to get glowing accolades. He really was just silly. The kids will love him, though. There was one part in which the silliness stopped and I really did feel for him. It’s the part at the door. You’ll know it when you see it.

Julia Roberts plays The Queen. I didn’t want to dislike her but I couldn’t help it. She is evil. She is cruel. She is vain. She is greedy. The list goes on and on. Even her better half is lacking but only because she’s controlled by the evil half. I would say more but I don’t want to give much away. I did love her costumes, though. They were so over the top. I wouldn’t mind playing dress-up if I got to wear stuff like that.

Speaking of costumes, good job wardrobe department! If this movie had a chance at any awards this would be it. From the Queen to the dwarves to the villagers. They went all out for this film. I think my two favorites were Snow’s pants outfit and her wedding dress. The wedding dress especially. She was anime come to life.

The casting director(s) did a very good job regarding their choices and I especially liked the supporting cast. Each of the dwarfs was fun to get to know. Sadly, a couple of them were relegated to the background most of the time. We heard from them every once in a while but only Butcher, Half Pint and Grimm stood out. Well, and maybe Napoleon. The others were in the same scenes. I don’t really know why they weren’t as noticeable. I think my favorite was Butcher, played by Martin Klebba. He’s all kinds of cute. He’s one of those teddy bears with a gruff exterior. The other supporting characters I liked were Nathan Lane as Brighton, the Queen’s lackey, and Mare Winningham, a baker in the castle and Snow White’s confidant. Nathan didn’t get to be as funny as he usually is but I liked him all the same. I’ve never really made up my mind about whether or not I like Mare but my heart broke for her in the scene in which Snow White’s death was announced. What? You know the story. Or you should, anyway. Sean Bean makes an appearance also. I like him. I like him a lot.

Let’s jump to the break-down, shall we?

Sex/Nudity – we see the prince without his shirt a couple times but that’s the extent of the nudity. There is absolutely no sex. I read the parents’ guide regarding the rating on IMDB and had to laugh at what was written under Sex & Nudity. “Prince Charming Kisses Snow White in The Lips.” Oh no! I don’t mean to belittle what someone saw as a warning but it’s one of the tamest kisses I’ve seen in any movie in years.

Cursing – I think someone said “hell” once but that’s all I noted. And I did listen for bad language.

Drinking/Drugs – Yes to drinking. No to drugs. We see several people drinking wine and Half Pint shows up at the table a tad tipsy.

Violence – Yes but it wasn’t very scary violence. No blood at all. There were a couple of different sword fights and a fight against the beast but other than that…not so much.

Intense scenes – I thought that the worst scene for children would be the puppet scene. I would hope that it would bother them. Let me rephrase, I don’t want them to be bothered. I want them to be innocent enough that they would find it creepy. Not just the puppets but Julia Roberts in that scene also. Gave me shivers. The beast was a tad scary too but not as much as I thought he’d be.

If you think your child would be all-right to watch the first couple Harry Potter movies then they should be more than fine watching this. I can’t think of anything else to compare it to right this minute. I think kids’ll like the robbery scenes and the dwarves. I didn’t believe that those were the actual dwarves in the masks, though. You’ll have to watch and see if you agree. I would have absolutely no reservations with recommending this movie to PT and Armat. Or to my friend Daner for her kids. This is a fun, curse/sex/gore-free movie and I hope it does a LOT better this weekend than it did opening night. Go see it then spread the word.

P.S. After Lily sings (yes, that’s really her) at the end of the movie there’s no reason to stay unless you just like credits.
P.P.S. If you guessed the surprise before it was revealed during the climactic fight scene, well done, you. I did and was so happy I was right.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Scrambled Eggs with Turkey and Veggies

What’s this? Three recipes within 10 days? What is the world coming to? Okay, so. I was exhausted all day yesterday having not slept well the night before so I came home and was asleep before 6:30…I think. I have no recollection. Usually when I’m that tired I sleep right through until the alarm clock wakes me and even then it’s a battle royale with the snooze button. Not so this morning. I woke up around a quarter to 4 and have been wide awake since. Yea, me. What did I do with all this time? Well, first I watched last night’s recorded episode of Whitney. Love that show. Then! I decided to actually cook breakfast. Yeah. You heard me. I didn’t just grab fruit and yogurt as has become my norm since starting this diet. Not today. I kinda don’t mind being awake this early if it gives me time for real food.

Today’s line-up:
2 eggs
Ground turkey – however much you want. I like me some turkey so I used quite a bit comparatively speaking.
Broccoli
Red onion (though why they call it that when it’s actually purple is beyond me)
Red pepper
1 t. Salsa

I didn’t use a recipe for this but decided to just throw stuff together. It’s pretty basic. I browned the turkey first and then set aside in a small bowl. Next came the broccoli and, as mentioned in the Stir Fry recipe, it needs to cook a little longer than all the other veggies. I let it cook for about 5 minutes and then added the onion and pepper.

Once that had softened up a bit I threw the turkey back in and cracked two eggs over it all stirring until they were done.

I put all this on a plate so I could take a picture and then realized that I had forgotten the salsa and I really REALLY wanted salsa in this. What’s funny about that (well, not funny ha ha) is I’m not usually that in to salsa but for some reason this morning I just had to have it. So! Back in to the skillet went the eggs. I added the salsa and stirred it just enough to heat it and get a nice coating on everything. Then back on the plate it went.

I’m eating this as I type and it is SO good. This waking up with more than just enough time to scramble in to clothes and get out the door is not a bad deal. Maybe I’ll try it again in another couple months. Probably not.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rice and Turkey Stuffed Peppers

Yes. You read that correctly. I AM posting a recipe within days of another. Crazy, right? Mom and I are on the same diet and she found this on Prevention.com and forwarded it on to me as I’m running out of my own healthy meal ideas. Especially since I’m craving loads and loads of bread. This looked really good so I tried it. I LOVED it! Go here if you'd like to skip my long, drawn out version of the process. Because I just can't be expected to sum up.

So, without further ado, Rice and Turkey Stuffed Peppers. Starring:
½ C. brown rice
8 large bell peppers (any color) – I just cooked 4 because I’m not sure how well they’ll reheat.
1 pound ground turkey breast
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 t. ea. seasoning salt, black pepper, dried thyme, dried basil, dried oregano (Spike assured me that he would have every spice I would probably need. I did NOT find oregano so I went without. I forgot he had fresh in the garden. Whoops!)
1/8 t. ground red pepper
1 t. parsley
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 C. salsa
2 T. worcestershire sauce
1 can (11 oz.) corn niblets, drained
1 C. (4 oz.) shredded low-fat or fat-free mozzarella cheese

Prepare the rice according to the package directions. I strongly recommend not waiting until later in the cooking process to do this as this takes a while to cook. While that’s cooking, cut the tops off the peppers and remove the insides then chop up the tops in to little bitty pieces.

Okay, at least small to medium pieces.

If you haven’t already, chop up the onion and garlic. I’m discovering more and more each time I cook that I actually like cooked onion. I do NOT, however, like chopping onion. I know there’s supposed to be a trick to keep from crying but I haven’t found it yet. And since Spike let me come over and start cooking before he got off work I had no one to push this job off on. And yet, somehow, I survived.

Preheat oven to 400°. The on-line recipe put this as step 5 but since Spike’s oven takes longer to heat up then they’re allowing I did it earlier. Cook the turkey over medium heat until it’s no longer pink. Add the veggies and spices and cook for around 7 minutes or until the veggies are soft. Put in a large bowl.

Mix the tomato sauce, salsa and Worcestershire sauce in a separate bowl but set aside ½ C. Add the majority of the sauce to the turkey mixture along with the rice, corn and ½ C. of the cheese. Mix up all the ingredients. This smells so good! Spoon the mixture in to the pepper bottoms and top with the remaining sauce. Place in two 13” x 9” baking dishes. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Add remaining cheese and bake 10 minutes more or until the cheese is melted. That fat little green boy is mine. Mine, I tell ya!

The entire process takes about an hour-and-a-half but it’s well worth the wait. I cooked 4 of the peppers thinking that we could each eat two. One was plenty for me even with no side items and Spike ate just one and then some apple sauce. These were big peppers, folks!

Not knowing how these will reheat I made a full recipe and just cooked half the peppers. I put the rest of the stuffing in a storage container in the fridge so I’ll have plenty for a couple meals next week and a couple to share with a co-worker. Enjoy! I certainly did.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hunger Games (PG-13)

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If you’ve neither read the book, The Hunger Games, nor seen the movie do not, I repeat, DO NOT read the book first. It totally ruined the movie. For me anyway. I’m not saying the movie was bad by any means but I would have enjoyed it so much more if I hadn’t known what they left out. As it was, it left me kind of disappointed. Oh! And the camera work really stunk in some parts. True story.

For those of you who have somehow managed not to hear anything about the book or movie let me try to explain. I get to use my favorite words to do so. Are you ready? In a post-apocalyptic (Oh! There they are!) North America, tributes – one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 – are chosen to participate in the Hunger Games in the Capitol. They are selected from each district in what is now known as Panem because years and years ago the districts defied the Capitol and tried to overthrow it. The Hunger Games are a yearly reminder of the revolution and a caution against ever attempting another again. The residents of the districts are forced to watch as the tributes “compete”. What decides who the victor is? The last child alive…wins.

After finishing the first book I was disgusted with the entire story. I spent hours reading about the deaths of these kids. The author was so good at spinning a tale, though, that I could not put the book down. I’m an insomniac anyway and this definitely did not help things. Why then, if I hated, loathed and despised the book so much did I want to see the movie? I was enthralled. I had to see how they would portray Katniss and Peeta. I had to see Rue. And I had to see if it could come anywhere close to what I conjured up in my imagination. In some aspects it did. In others, not so much.

The boy and girl we’re supposed to cheer for are Katniss and Peeta from District 12. Jennifer Lawrence was most definitely Katniss. I can’t imagine anyone else in that role. She was strong. She was defiant. She was smart. She was compassionate. I’m ready to see how she fares in the sequels. Her costume for the chariot ride was nearly spot on from the book. I thought there'd be more fire but what was there was pretty cool. When I first saw Josh Hutcherson as Peeta I thought the casting director(s) completely missed the mark. The further Katniss and Peeta got from District 12 the more I saw of my imagination Peeta.

I’ve loved Stanley Tucci for years. I want to be his BFF so he can entertain me all the time. What? I’d reciprocate. I’d cook him dinner every once in a while. Cuz that’s just the kind of gal (ooo I hate that word) I am. He’s not in the movie much at all but he still made an impression. I wonder if the memory of his book character helped that along. Stanley plays the part of the interviewer, Caesar Flickerman. According to the book he’s so good at what he does it helps bring out the best in the people he’s talking with. It’s not so obvious in the movie. But I liked him all the same.

Since not everyone decided to go to the midnight showing and ruin their ability to work through the day like a LOT of us did, I’ll try not to give too much away but I wanted to chat just a minute about some of the glaring differences between the book and the movie. Many little things were left out of the movie. The chariot scene was changed and I definitely preferred the written version. Cinna and his crew don't get the screen time I thought they deserved. Peeta doesn’t get all of the injuries in the movie that he does in the book. He does get some; I’m just not going to tell you which ones. No, I didn’t want Peeta to get hurt at all but stay true to the written word, man! And while some parts were left out, others were added. Not going into detail on those. Cato and Clove were both a lot smaller than I pictured them. Cato should have been more buff (not nekkid…muscular) and Clove should have been taller and, truth be told, prettier. I really don’t like that I typed that last part but she just wasn’t what I pictured. Where we got to learn about a lot of the different characters in the book they are just glimmed over in the movie. Every scene sort of speeds by leaving a little something missing.

I said I wasn’t going to give anything away but apparently I lied. So, here’s your warning. Skip to the next paragraph to avoid an outright movie detail. Remember the aircraft in the book that picked up the dead? Does NOT happen! So incredibly disappointed. And the Peacekeepers? Don’t even get me started. They looked like storm trooper rejects. Not much thought at all went in to their wardrobe. Oh! And the cornucopia? Wasn’t it gold in the book? That’s what I remember. And Thresh? He was robbed! And the Avoxes? Who are they?

What was my favorite and least favorite part of the movie? The Rue scene. this is the one scene in the movie in which things actually slowed down. They took the time to capture a poignant moment from the book. If you read the book you know what I’m talking about. If you didn’t, just wait. The talkers and the fidgeters shut up and sat still during that scene. One of the guys sitting next to me actually leaned forward in his seat (okay, and THEN he sat still). And he so did not look like someone this would affect. Not during a movie anyway. This little girl (Amandla Stenberg) who played Rue needs to be in something else so we can see if she can really act. Yes, I know that sounds harsh but we don’t get to see her very much in THG. I just looked her up on IMDB. I have seen her before. She plays the main character when she was a child in the movie Colombiana. As you might remember from that review I really liked her. So there.

As I need to be up for work in about 3 ½ hours I’m going to break it down now.

Sex/Nudity – Not at all. No partials, no teases, no implied. Nada.

Cussing – Yup. A little bit. Not the big ones, though.

Drinking/Drugs – Again, if you’ve read the book, you know the answer. One character in particular loves him some alcohol.

Violence – Well, yeah. You know there’s going to be. Even if you hadn’t read the book.

Intense scenes – Not as many as there should have been. There is one jump-out-at-you scene and I about fell off my chair when it happened. I’m sure the people around me felt the seats shake. I’m hoping they jumped too. I’m not going to tell you what happened but I am going to clue you in on when it will happen. Granted, this’ll probably make it worse for you because you’ll be expecting it. It’s after you see the peeps in control create an animal and when Peeta and Katniss are walking through the woods and she has lowered her bow. That’s all I’m saying about that.

I mentioned the camera work in the very first paragraph. The final scene at the cornucopia? I’ve watched lots of action movies so I know people can fight on film and the viewer still be able to clearly see the characters and what exactly is happening. Not so here. Or maybe it was just me. Boy, I hope not. I just read a few other reviews and they also commented on the poor camera work. Yea for me!

Now, to whom would I recommend this? Tough question. While talking to my mom on the phone before I left for the theater I found out that one of PT’s friends wasn’t going to see it. From the way mom talked both she and PT thought that was a pretty good idea. Why? The main reason being that she’s got a tender soul. She can’t stand to see any of God’s creatures hurt. Imagine what this movie would do to her. I love that there are still people like that in the world. I cry when I see animals hurt and I was very upset with the premise of The Hunger Games but I went anyway. Was I able to just blow off the deaths as not real? Nope. It bothered me. I was not very happy with myself, though, regarding my reaction to the bad kids dying. It just didn’t bug me as much. I wonder if the writer did that to keep the book from being completely disturbing. Who knows? The deaths at the beginning of the Games and a few of the others who died affected me strongly. I was almost glad the bad kids died because it meant the good kids wouldn’t have to worry about them anymore.

Despite all the grumbling above I thought it was an okay movie. It just didn’t live up to all the publicity. I would have been fine with a three hour movie if it meant we didn't have to be rushed through everything. There is blood and you do see the kids killing each other including one snapped neck. I had a LOT of trouble with that. Killing someone that close is just too personal. But that’s a topic for another day. You know what you and your children can handle. At least I hope you do regarding the latter anyway. So, whatever you decide to do, “may the odds be ever in your favor!”

P.S. The only reason to stick around during the credits is for the song. I really liked it. Nothing happens after. Drag.

P.P.S. Mom, dad and PT saw The Hunger Games this past Saturday. Dad hadn't read the book yet and, according to mom, was confused about some of the things that happened in the movie but were only explained in detail in the book. So, I guess watch/read The Hunger Games in whatever order you prefer. Not that I could stop you, whatever you choose.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Stir Fry Chicken and Vegetables

Spike and I went to see Stomp this past Saturday evening. Super cool, by the way. You should go see them if you get the chance. We had planned to eat ahead of time and since we both like to cook I suggested we whip something up before the show. I wanted something simple and somewhat healthy so I suggested Stir Fry. He was amenable so the menu was set.

The evening meal starred:
1 Chicken breast (cubed)
Bell peppers (red, yellow, orange)
Broccoli
Snow peas
Carrots
Baby Portobello mushrooms
Stir Fry sauce
Basmati rice (Follow the directions on the bag. This is definitely NOT Minute Rice.)

The reason the carrots and mushrooms aren't included in the picture is because Spike decided to add those after it was taken.

I apologize for not including measurements but we were making this up as we went along and knew by looking if it was going to be enough for both of us. We ended up with enough for one bowl each and no leftovers. Good guess, huh?

We cooked everything in a covered wok. Unfortunately, it was not non-stick so there was some burning. Very frustrating but we carried on. I heated approximately 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and then added the chicken. (There are no pictures of said poultry because none of them turned out right.) This cooked until it was no longer pink in the middle and was just starting to brown on the outside. Oh! I forgot to mention the tarragon. Spike had accidentally pulled his tarragon plant along with some weeds when he was working in his garden earlier in the day so he decided to add it to the mix instead of throwing it all away. I don’t think I’ve ever taken the time to stop and smell the tarragon. Omigosh! It’s amazing! I want to cook everything with tarragon now. Why have I never paid attention to this herb before? I must grow my own this year. Again, add as much as you’d like. And don’t forget that you have to finish the meal so don’t just stand there savoring the aroma. Trust me on this.

When the chicken was finished we moved it to a bowl and stuck it in the nukerowave to keep it warm. Next we added a little more oil and once it heated we threw in the carrots and broccoli. You’ll want to cook these before your other veggies because they’ll still taste raw by the time the others are finished. They weren’t cooking as quickly as we wanted so Spike had me add some water to steam them. I think I cooked/steamed them for about 10 minutes total. This part is a matter of taste. I don’t like mushy broccoli so after I burned my tongue trying to taste test a piece I was happy that it was still crispy but no longer raw. Spike had to test the carrots because I’ve decided I’m allergic. Or I don’t like them. Whatever.

Once those were the almost desired consistency we added the other veggies. Well, everything except the mushrooms. Spike waited until after all the other veggies were cooked and then heated the ‘shrooms all by their lonesome. Why? I’m allergic to those too. Or I can’t stand the texture. This is exactly why I could never be a chef. When the peppers and snow peas are as cooked as you want them the broccoli and carrots should be just right.

We brought the chicken back to the party and poured in a little Stir Fry sauce. I think I used about 2 tablespoons. Once everything was thoroughly coated it all went in to a bowl and then I added the rice.

This was when Spike cooked the mushrooms.

You’ll note that my bowl contains the evil carrots. No problem. While Spike was busy cooking the fungi I was busy separating out the sinister orange veggies. Then, as soon as Spike put his bowl on the table I ever-so-kindly transferred them over. I know. I’m cool like that. And just so you know, I do try things that I don’t like every few years just in case my tastes have changed. Apparently I’m just never going to like carrots. I do, however, know that I like the taste of mushrooms. If they’re chopped up teensy tinesy or added to gravies or what-not I will definitely eat them. I say that to let you know that you should never decide that you will never like something. Wait. Does that count as a double negative? You get what I mean, though, right? Right? Anyway, this is super easy to cook. Just don’t do it only an hour before you need to leave for a show or something else equally important. We were cutting it close.


I’m betting it wouldn’t take normal people that long to cook Stir Fry but Spike and I have discovered that we can’t cook anything in under an hour. It’s just not possible.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sixty Acres and a Bride (Book Review)


I know I don’t often review books on my blog. What? I never review books on my blog? Well, I’m about to. I am friends with many people on Facebook from high school and I try to keep up with the goings on in their little corners of the world but, as people tend to do, I get busy and I miss a lot. One day during my perusing I stumbled upon a wall post by Regina Jennings. I’ve known Regina since either 5th or 6th grade. I can’t remember which. A while though. Why do you care about Regina’s wall post? Because she announced to the world that she is….drum roll please…an AUTHOR!!! If you don’t read much then this is probably less than thrilling for you. If you read almost anything you can get your hands on as I do, this is uber-cool! Someone I know. Someone I went to school with. Someone whose dad went out of his way to scare the daylights out of us during slumber parties. Someone I could belt out Gilbert & Sullivan tunes with at the drop of a hat…are you getting the picture here? This someone wrote a book. And it was published! And it’s so so so so good!!!

Following is the synopsis as shown on the back cover:
“With nothing to their names, young widow Rosa Garner and her mother-in-law return to their Texas family ranch. Only now the county is demanding back taxes and the women have just three months to pay.

Though facing eviction, Rosa falls in love with the countryside and the wonderful extended family who want only her best. They welcome her vivacious spirit and try to help her navigate puzzling American customs. She can’t help but stand out, though, and her beauty captures attention. Where some offer help with dangerous strings attached, only one man seems honorable. But when Weston Garner, still grieving his own lost love, is unprepared to give his heart, Rosa must decide to what lengths she will go to save her future.”


You may think I’m gushing about this tome because I know Regina but you couldn’t be more wrong. Wronger? Just kidding, English teachers. First of all, I hadn’t actually seen/spoken with Regina in years. I moved away and I stink at communication. And, if anything, I was prepared to be more critical than I would of a stranger’s book. Why? Because you’re always more judgmental of those you know. Sad but true. I had gone, just a couple nights ago, to hear Regina give a talk about how to go about being published. I bought two copies of her book while I was there – one for me and one for mama. I also talked the entire time she tried to autograph them. There’s nothing like trying to write something poignant for a friend’s mother when said friend won’t be quiet. Sorry, Gina. I went straight home after and thought I’d read just a chapter or two. Ha!

I opened the book and thought, “Okay, here goes.” Have you ever read a book and not really ever been able to get in to it. You read all the words but that’s all you do. You don’t take them in and absorb them. I had no such problem with Sixty Acres and a Bride. I was instantly transported to Lockhart, Texas, August 1878 (after a brief prologue, that is). There was no time for critiquing. I was in the back of a wagon alongside a woman named Rosa and we were on our way to our new home. In no time at all I was welcomed in to the Garner family. They are all so nice. Unfortunately, no sooner had we gotten settled in then we had to start trying to save the ranch. Very stressful, to say the least. I also had a front row seat as two very different men tried to claim Rosa as their own. One for nefarious purposes and the other for love. No need to ask who I was rooting for.

My heart was with Rosa and Weston as soon as I read the back cover of the book but Regina made me love and hurt for (and wish many curses on) several other characters in the story. I loved being an observer, if only for a brief glimpse here and there, of the marriage between Eliza, Weston’s sister, and Jake. I also enjoyed the courtship of a certain other family member. I hurt, and was embarrassed for, Molly. I loathed and despised Mr. Tillerton and was ashamed of George. Every character lived and breathed at the tip of her pen, or the touch of her keyboard, as the case may be. Not one person was inconsequential. Some of them may have felt that way a time or two but no. And Regina, thank you for Rico and Willie. Everyone needs a champion or two like them in their life.

I stayed up too late the other night finishing up the last book of the Hunger Games trilogy and after reading them I desperately needed a balm for my wounded soul. I tried to think of some of my tried and true books but none seemed to fit the bill. I purchased Sixty Acres and a Bride that very next night and it was just what I needed. This is, by no means, a sugar-coated depiction of life in post Civil War Texas. It’s a story of struggle, heartbreak and love. It’s also a story about the power of prayer. This spoke to me directly as someone who always seems to be lacking in my communication with God. This will go on my “read again and again” shelf just as soon as I get my bookshelves finished.

I definitely recommend this for those of you who typically enjoy Christian Historical Romance (say that five times fast) but I also ask those of you who don’t to give Sixty Acres and a Bride a chance. It is very well written and obviously comes from the heart. Regina signed on to write three books and right now I’m wishing I was an editor at Bethany House so I could’ve already read the second installment. Any chance for a sneak preview? No? Okay then.

P.S. Regina, thank you also for making music yet another character in your story. It doesn’t surprise me at all that you used its presence to soothe and its absence to hurt. My heart broke just a little when it was temporarily silenced.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Gone (PG-13)

This movie is definitely a rental if you even watch it at all. It’s not that it was bad, it just wasn’t good. Gone is about a woman, Jill, who was kidnapped 2 years ago but escaped. No one really believes it happened since neither the kidnapper nor where Jill was held has ever been found. Her sister disappears one day but since the police think Jill is crazy, they think she’s making more of the situation than she should. So! Jill is left to find her sister on her own while highly irritating the police along the way.

Sounds like a pretty good story, right? I thought so too but it never really seemed to pick up at any point. It got a little intense when Jill finally gets close to finding the kidnapper but the climactic scene was short and less than thrilling. Granted, if I were in this situation for real I wouldn’t be feeling so “meh” about it. And it doesn’t help that they went out of their way to make you think a couple of guys did it when they really didn’t. Had to take soup to his sick mom? Really?

Amanda Seyfried played the part of Jill. I am more than happy that she’s trying to not be type-cast as one particular character but I just really didn’t believe her as the protagonist. I liked her in Mamma Mia! in which everyone seemed to be over-acting a bit but it didn’t really work for me here. And, I love my sister but I’m sorry Armat, if you were the missing sister in this movie I would have found someone to help me. I may be crazy (read “stupid”) enough to walk around the outside of my house to discover the source of a strange noise but I will NOT drive in to the middle of the woods by myself to hunt down a psycho for you. At least I don’t think I would. Let’s not find out, okay?

The rest of the cast was so incidental as to not need comments. The police were frustrating. The co-workers were annoying. And the people who did help her out along the way were idiots. Really? You’re going to trust that she’ll bring your truck back? Really?

This film was rated PG-13 mainly for the “intense” situations and language. There’s really not much else to it. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone really. I like Amanda but even I seem to have type-cast her in my mind as the cutesy romantic lead. I can’t help it. I don’t seem to be the only one who felt this way about Gone. It only lasted a couple weeks at the theater close to my house so if you want to see it you’re gonna have to either rent it or find one of the theaters still showing it.

Act of Valor (R)

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“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

If you haven’t seen Act of Valor yet, you should. I don’t care what your preferred genre is. Do it for no other reason than to show support of our Armed Forces. But! I wouldn’t take your kids. I think they should know about the sacrifices of the men and women serving our country but the violence and language are probably a tad much for them right now.

The following summary from IMDB pretty well sums it up:
“An unprecedented blend of real-life heroism and original filmmaking, Act of Valor stars a group of active-duty Navy SEALs in a powerful story of contemporary global anti-terrorism. Inspired by true events, the film combines stunning combat sequences, up-to-the minute battlefield technology and heart-pumping emotion for the ultimate action adventure. Act of Valor takes audiences deep into the secretive world of the most elite, highly trained group of warriors in the modern world. When the rescue of a kidnapped CIA operative leads to the discovery of a deadly terrorist plot against the U.S., a team of SEALs is dispatched on a worldwide manhunt. As the valiant men of Bandito Platoon race to stop a coordinated attack that could kill and wound thousands of American civilians, they must balance their commitment to country, team and their families back home. Each time they accomplish their mission, a new piece of intelligence reveals another shocking twist to the deadly terror plot, which stretches from Chechnya to the Philippines and from Ukraine to Somalia. The widening operation sends the SEALs across the globe as they track the terrorist ring to the U.S.-Mexico border, where they engage in an epic firefight with an outcome that has potentially unimaginable consequences for the future of America. Written by Relativity Media”

The acting isn’t the greatest in the world but if you take in to account that a good portion of the actors aren’t actors at all but Navy SEALS you let it go and just enjoy the movie. Enjoy is probably the wrong word but it’s the best I’ve got right now. There is a lot of action in this movie but it also shows some of their home life too. It’s a reminder of some of the things we take for granted. Things like having your husband beside you when you have your baby or having your spouse at home every evening after work. Not having to constantly worry about the danger your loved one is in and whether they will be coming home alive and in one piece at the end of their tour. I witnessed first-hand one of my co-workers getting the news that her son had been shot while on duty overseas. How helpless and scared she must have felt. And then what must the soldiers be going through? They are put in life-threatening situations. Do they complete their missions while worrying about making it back to their families or do they have to put these thoughts from their minds entirely in order to do what must be done?

I’m not going to break this movie down. I gave my opinion earlier regarding children watching this and I’ll let you take it from there. Act of Valor made me proud to be a US citizen while at the same time ashamed that my “service” wasn’t longer. I would go back in now if I could.

As mentioned at the very beginning, I think all adults and older teenagers should see this movie. Having said that, I am positive my mom wouldn’t make it through. I love that any kind of violence upsets her and that she hasn’t become numb to it. I know too that she has the utmost respect for our soldiers and would support them by going to the movie if she could. If you truly cannot stomach violence of any sort, don’t go see this. But! I do encourage you to find another way to support our Armed Forces. Check out organizations such as Blue Star Mothers of America. They were there for my co-worker when she went to visit her son in the hospital when he came back stateside and they sound like an amazing group. Care packages are always welcomed too. Just find a way. If these men and women can set aside years of their lives to protect us, would it really hurt us to set aside a few hours/days for them? I don’t think so.

Following are a few links that I know of that support our troops. You’ll also notice, in my sidebar, a picture link that directs you to a baking site. Operation Baking Gals is a group of women who encourage others to join in monthly mailings of cookies and treats to our men and women serving overseas. Every month. Not just once in a while. One group even sends the treats to soldiers who are stateside but are in a Veterans Hospital. It may seem like so little but imagine being the soldier who gets those boxes to share with the members of his or her platoon/company. It’s got to be nice knowing that you’re being thought of by more than your family and friends. That you’re not just another blurb on the nightly news, if even that.

Blue Star Mothers of America
Operation Baking Gals
Troops Support This is a list of different volunteer organizations that support our troops.
Adopt a Platoon
Military.com: Spouse Another list of organizations.

Finally, I want to send out my appreciation to these men and women making daily sacrifices so that I have the freedoms I enjoy each day. I also want to mention the families of these soldiers. I know their loved ones are fighting for this country but it’s their faces and memories and encouragement the soldiers take with them. “Thank you” just isn’t enough.

P.S. If you know of any other volunteer organizations that should be listed above please let me know so they can be added.

This Means War (PG-13)

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I am about two weeks behind on my reviews so the chances are pretty good that anyone who reads my posts on This Means War, Act of Valor and Gone has already seen them. Oopsy. This Means War, I found, was very entertaining. Will it win any awards? Nope. Did they expect to? I certainly hope not. It’s the story of two CIA agents who fall for the same girl then make a competition out of who will win her. Ah…romance at its finest.

Reese Witherspoon plays Lauren, the object of their affection. I don’t think I’ve seen a Reese movie I didn’t like. I did find it hard to believe that she had trouble finding men [in this film]. Seriously? If Reese can’t find one what chance do I have? The one thing that really bothered me about her character was when she accused the men of lying to her. Ummmm…what had she been doing all that time?

The agents, FDR Foster and Tuck, played by Chris Pine and Tom Hardy respectively, were fun to watch. In so many ways. I couldn’t quite figure out their relationship to each other. Are they best friends? Are they cousins? I think it’s just friends but the grandmother seemed to be talking to both of them when she said she wants great-grandkids. Maybe it was all aimed at FDR and I missed that. Anyway, I highly enjoyed watching how the two men interact with each other. They seemed to truly love each other but obviously enjoyed having fun at the other’s expense. I especially liked their reactions while they listened in on Lauren and her best friend’s conversations.

When the guys figure out that they’re both dating the same woman and decide to let her choose the better man the fun really begins. They begin to sabotage each other’s dates. If you’ve seen any of the trailers, this isn’t really a spoiler. If you haven’t seen the trailers or the movie, sorry. I began to wonder if their friendship was going to survive. I got sucked in. I couldn’t help it. I was really worried for them. And then it dawned on me that during all the shenanigans neither one of them seemed to be working on their real case for the CIA. Seems their priorities were a bit skewed.

The date scenes were funny. The actions scenes got a tad intense but really not for someone who lives on action films only. If you only watch date movies, then yeah, maybe. I liked that something from Lauren’s job saves the day. Was I happy with the choice Lauren finally makes? Not really but it all works out in the end. Sorta.

And now for the breakdown. I do think the subject matter is a bit mature for young children but other than that…

Sex/Nudity – Implied sex and Reese in her unders and Chris Pine in a sheet.

Drinking/Drugs – Drinking. Yes. Drugs. I don’t think so. Yeah, I know. You’d think I’d pay more attention.

Cussing – Chelsea Handler is in the film. Enough said.

Violence – Yes but no gore.

I would recommend this as a good movie to watch on a date. If you’re looking for a good action film, skip this one. If you like movies starring Chris, Tom or Reese you’ll like this. It was definitely a nice escape for a couple hours. I will own this. Oh yes, I will.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

John Carter (PG-13)

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Will someone please explain to me why almost every foreigner in American-made movies speaks British? If they’re German? British. French? British. Martian? Yup, you guessed it. British. This holds true in the story of John Carter, a Civil War soldier who has lost his reason to fight. He ends up on Mars and once the language boundaries are overcome, he is one of the few people who speaks American. How odd.

This is another “just because” post. My dad took P.T. to see the movie this morning so any warnings I’d have for her would be for naught. Fortunately, there wouldn’t have been many warnings so all is good and right in the world. Well, my little world anyway. I know P.T. liked it but haven’t heard yet what dad thought. I kinda liked it too. Okay, more than “kinda”. I would say that it resembled Star Wars in some ways but that would be backwards seeing as the book about John Carter was written in the early 1900s. Quite a while before Star Wars came out.

So, John escapes the US Civil War just to land smack dab in the middle of Civil War on Mars. How convenient. His “talents” are needed and, fortunately for one side, he discovers a new reason to fight. Yea! John is played by Taylor Kitsch. Who? You know. The guy in Friday Night Lights. And the guy who, disappointingly, played the part of Remy LeBeau in Wolverine. Why disappointingly? Remy/Gambit is probably my favorite X-Man. Well, he was when I watched it on Saturday mornings long, long ago. Taylor did not do Remy justice. I don’t think John, in the hands of Taylor, saw his full potential either. He wasn’t bad but he could’ve been so much better. No, I don’t know who would have been more convincing. I just know that he fell short. Sorry Taylor.

Now on to John’s new reason for fighting. Her name is Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium (tee hee), played by Lynn Collins. I would like to announce that I have found the person who should play Wonder Woman. Just in case anyone ever gets that movie to the big screen. As long as they can discover some way to keep it from being as cheesy as it seems destined to be. Lynn is the Amazon Princess personified. Anyone want to take a stab at what another of my favorite shows was when I was but a child? Mom made cuffs out of paper towel rolls for me and my sister. We could stop fake bullets with the best of them. Once we overcame the dizziness from spinning in circles, that is. Boy, I sure am taking a lot of detours in this post. Back to Dejah. She’s beautiful. She’s smart. And she will cut you, man! She does play the damsel in distress but not to the fragile and completely helpless extent. She knows her limits and isn’t too proud to admit it. And, by the way, if she does play Wonder Woman I will have broken my rule of not liking when the same person plays two different super heroes. Some of you may remember her as Kayla Silverfox in Wolverine. Yup. That’s two Wolverine characters in another movie together. If we’re picking and choosing from that film, I wanna know where Hugh was? Huh?

I liked so many of the supporting actors that to comment on them all would take time that you probably don’t want to spend on a review. I’ll just quickly list a few of my favorites with a comment here and there. CiarĂ¡n Hinds. Why is he always just a supporting actor? Willem Dafoe. Thomas Haden Church. I still have a hard time thinking of him as anyone other than Lowell from Wings. Dominic West. Mark Strong. Anyone remember him from Green Lantern? And finally James Purefoy. Why aren’t there any women on this list? Well, there weren’t that many in the movie and the only one I’d seen before was Lynn. That’s why.

It didn’t seem as if much of the budget was spent on scenery. I guess they decided to use it all on costumes, a moving city, “aliens” and light ships. Someone who attempted to sum up this film said that John Carter found himself on a lush planet. Ummm…nope. The place was desolate. Well, except for the yellow stuff we see when John first lands on Mars. As far as costuming goes they went full-out Amazon with most of the human-type women. The men were dressed similarly but, of course, were a bit more covered. This film was made by men after all. The only being other than the Tharks (the alien-looking characters) who was shirtless through most of the movie was John himself and, sorry Taylor, but have you considered sitting out every once in a while under that bright warm ball of light in the daytime sky?

This movie doesn’t really require a break-down. There was no sex or nudity. Not much cussing. Maybe three or four words. A couple of H’s and D’s. No drinking or drugs (unless you count the beverage given to the baby Martians and John). The violence is the reason for the PG-13 rating and I was a bit surprised they added the 13 on the end. There is a LOT of killing during the battle scenes but it didn’t hit me quite as hard as other movies probably due to the fact that the blood is blue. People were completely covered in the stuff but it wasn’t really gross because it wasn’t red. Weird, I know.

If you like movies like Star Wars or Avatar or even Pocahontas (Lynn reminded me of her too) then you’ll probably like John Carter. Despite how I felt about Taylor, I really liked the movie. I will watch this again. And again and again. No need to stay through the credits unless you want to see the small dedication to Steve Jobs. I thought that was nice of them. And, during the film, pay attention to the length of the chains in the Martian prison and again in the arena. So funny.

I didn’t want to end this with a negative but I’m gonna. I don’t much care for the fact that in some of the movie descriptions John is touted as a savior and that the posters and some of the trailers include the initials JC instead of spelling out his full name. I’m just sayin’.

And, to end on a lighter note, I love the “dog”. Do we have those on Earth? No? Shame.

P.S. I just talked to mom. She also went with dad and P.T. to the movie and said that they both loved it. She still had to cover her eyes during the worst of the violence but otherwise was good to go. And she liked the dog too.