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  • Monday Movie – The Artist

    It’s been quite a while since I’ve done a Monday Movie Review … but after seeing The Artist this weekend, I just had to share. In honor of Good Friday, my office was closed. When I woke up that morning, I was a bit lazy, trying to decide how best to use my day off. After all, there were books to be written and shopping to be done and a million other things clamoring for my time. I know you know the drill.

    But I had a hankerin’ for a good movie, so I flipped through my Fandango app on my phone to see what was playing. Even 12 o’clock matinees are $7.50, so I wasn’t interested in wasting my money on something that might not even be worth a buck at the Redbox. After a little hunting, I found that my local theater had a 12:15 showing of The Artist.

    Maybe you didn’t hear much about this black and white, silent movie before it walked away with the Oscars for Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture at the Academy Awards ceremony back in February. Maybe you still haven’t heard much about it. Maybe the silent picture part of it isn’t your cup of tea. Maybe black and white isn’t your ideal. After all, didn’t Dorothy go all the way to Oz to get out of black and white? I was hovering somewhere in there, but knew this might be last chance to see it in the theaters, so I gave it a shot.

    Here’s the thing, the movie is just how it’s described by the reporters–it’s an homage to the silent movies of the 1920s and the tale of Hollywood’s rocky transition to the “talkies”.

    Except that’s not really what the movie is about at all.

    French actor Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a silent film star at the top of his game and a household name in 1927. He’s Hollywood’s main squeeze and favorite face. And he’s all about seeing his face on the big screen and his name in marquee lights. Mostly he’s all about himself. Sure he puts on a show and is so handsome that it’s easy to forgive his arrogance as he steals the spotlight from his costars. George (and his ridiculously adorable dog) is so likeable, that I was rooting for him to succeed, even when he refuses to try a talking picture–telling the studio owner that he’s the draw. His name will bring in scores of audiences to a silent picture that he’ll write, produce, direct, and star in. So he dumps all of his money into making a movie that was always doomed to fail. And then the stock market crashes.

    In contrast Peppy Miller (played brilliantly by Berenice Bejo–who lit up the screen every time she was on and deserved far more accolades than she received for this role) is an aspiring actress, primed to hit the big time on the cusp of the talking movie revolution. While George descends into his self-made demise, Peppy’s star is rising and rising and rising. And in her, we see not a direct contrast to George’s ego, but rather a version of who George could have been–faults and all. We see her generosity of spirit and genuine concern for a man who often doesn’t deserve it.

    And we see how accepting that generosity changes him.

    The truth is, on the surface this is just a fun movie. The music is amazing, the story interesting for any movie buff (I could draw endless comparisons and contrast to Singin’ in the Rain), the actors handsome and especially skilled, and the dog incredible. What the sound technicians did was incredible. And how the whole story of George’s life can be told through his mustache still makes me smile.

    Maybe these are reasons enough for you to see it. Good. Do.

    If they’re not, I’d challenge you to watch it for the reminder of pride that so easily entangles us. All weekend I have found myself thinking about The Artist as I face struggles in my writing. How easy it would be to refuse to face writing trials head on, instead asking don’t they know who I am? Don’t they realize how special/important/talented/amazing I am? But the truth is that there are those who have generously poured into my writing life, and accepting their gifts changes me and demands more of me. It reminds me that I’m not doing life–or this writing thing–on my own. I owe them better than arrogance. I owe them the humility it takes to make changes to chapters or whole story lines when that’s asked of me. It’s the least I can do … Actually, it’s the best I can do.

    Have you seen The Artist? What did you think?

    Monday Movie – 3 Recents

    Well, it’s been a while since I shared a Monday Movie with you all, but not because I haven’t seen them. Just because I haven’t gotten around to writing reviews on them. But I’ve seen three in the last month that I thought deserved a spot on the blog–at least I had a strong enough reaction to them to write up a snippet on each. Without further ado here are my thoughts on a three flicks I’ve seen recently.


    Several weeks ago, my friend and fellow writer, Kaye Dacus sent me a twitter message: do you want to go see The the-conspirator-james-mcavoyConspirator tonight? It was all too easy to answer, since the move combines 3 of my favorite things. James McAvoy (seen here with a beard that he sadly wore the entire movie). Abraham Lincoln. And the Civil War.

    This (mostly) historically accurate tale, follows the military trial of Mary Surratt, the only woman charged in the conspiracy to murder Lincoln, his Vice President and Secretary of State. Lincoln, of course, was the only one to die at the hand of the conspirators. But this story isn’t really about Lincoln. It’s about Mary and the young lawyer, Frederick Aiken, who defends her against all odds in a heavily prejudiced court of generals. It’s a fascinating tale. Not really an edge of your seat thriller, but more an interesting dive into the characters themselves. I highly recommend this one.


    I was so excited to see Disney’s Prom a few weeks ago in the theater. I haven’t made any secret of my appreciation for all things teeny-bopper-ish. And I really love a good teeny bopper movie, so when I saw a preview for Prom with Aimee Teegarden from Friday Night Lights, I had high hopes. And then one of my favorite authors, Jenny B. Jones, tweeted her endorsement, and I was ready to go!

    So imagine my sadness when I saw it and realized it was only a weak mash up of all of my favorite teen movies from when I was a teen. It’s 3 parts Can’t Hardly Wait, 2 part s 10 Things I Hate About You, and 1.5 parts terrible dialogue. So if you’re looking for a witty, fun film, check out one of the older ones that I’ve mentioned here.


    I have a new roommate, so our first weekend in the new house, we decided to enjoy a little Noodles & Co. for dinner and watch a movie. She has 500 Days of Summer on dvd, so we popped it in. It came highly recommended from my sweet friend Jess Barnes (who has made many an appearance on this very blog). While I give it points for originality (it’s told in a set of achronological scenes), it didn’t grab me. But I think it might have something to do with Zooey Deschnel, who I want to love as an actress, but I just can’t seem to get into her movies. And the attitude and flipancy with which her character in this movie treats her friend and boyfriend does nothing to endear her any more.

    To sum up … see The Conspirator if you have any interest in history … or James McAvoy. The other two? Well, I wouldn’t spend more than a Redbox dollar on either. Happy film watching, friends!

    Monday Movie: Tangled

    There are fewer things sweeter to me than spending time with my favorite three nieces, tangledJulia, Rachel, and Emily. When I was home at Thanksgiving, I invited my nieces, their moms, and grandma to go see the new Disney movie Tangled with me.

    For Rachel and Emily, this was their very first movie in the theater. And I got share it with them!

    We all loved it! It’s such a cute, funny Disney movie for the whole family. This retelling of the Rapunzel tale includes the dashing thief, Flynn Rider, and the wildly funny dog-horse Maximus.


    I’m not sure if my favorite moment was the release of the floating lanterns in the movie or when Emily ate popcorn off the floor, and her mom freaked out! It was such an adventure. The girls loved the movie, and I loved getting to take them. What a great part of my trip home!


    Monday Movie – Victoria & Albert

    First … I’m sorry I’ve been absent, as of late. I’d like to blame it on any number of reasonable excuses, but the truth is … I’ve just been over-extended, and my blog has been neglected. It’s a good thing they don’t have a CPS for blogs, or I’d be in trouble!

    Okay, on with my movie review … A while back, I reviewed The Young Victoria. You may recall that I LOVED that movie. The story of how Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert fell in love and ruled England together for 20 years warmed my heart and made me all swoony. 🙂

    So when I heard that there was a 3-hour mini-series called Victoria & Albert, I was in! I bought it while I was still in Colorado, but it wasn’t until last week that I finally had a chance to watch it with my friend Micah. (We usually stick to Jane Austen flicks, so this was a departure for us.) Through the 3 hours, Micah was riveted.

    I was not.

    I found it to be a slower, weaker version of the story. I kept waiting for the big victoria-and-albertromantic elements–the moments where Victoria and Albert begin to realize that although they don’t want to marry just because their family wants them to but want to marry because they genuinely love each other. Instead, I got nothing from Victoria. No build up. Just I don’t want him. I don’t want him. BAM! I love you! Will you marry me?


    And don’t even get me started on Albert, who didn’t love Victoria at all when they got married. Nine kids later, he still didn’t love her! Seriously? I’ve heard of marriages of convenience and marriages where the love isn’t explosive. (Love Comes Softly anyone?) But according to this flick, Albert didn’t love her until nearly 15 years into their marriage. Until she said some nice things about him at The Great Exhibition of 1851. What kind of love story is that?

    I did make it all the way through the movie, but it couldn’t end soon enough for me. If you want a sweet love story and historical accuracy isn’t the most important thing to you, then I’d recommend The Young Victoria instead.

    Monday Movie – The Switch

    This weekend Amy came out to Nashville for a visit–well, actually she was in town for work and extended her stay so that we could hang out. Our Saturday started with a trip to The Pancake Pantry (we couldn’t pass up the really, really good stuff!) and then we were off to the mall. We hit some great stores and then it was off to the movies! the-switch-movie

    After considering a few options, we landed on seeing The Switch, starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman. A quick overview … Jen’s character Kassie decides she’s not getting any younger and it’s time to have a baby. Except there’s no guy in the picture, except her neurotic best friend Wally (played by Bateman). She turns to Roland, a donor looking to make a little money to support him and his wife. But at an … and this was really weird … pregnancy party, Wally gets drunk and makes a switch. Kassie gets pregnant and moves back to Minnesota to be near her parents. Seven years later, Kassie returns to New York City with her son Sebastian (played by the cutest kid, ever!), a six-year-old version of Wally.

    I confess that I thought this movie had a bit of a rocky start with a few scenes that I could have done without. But the story is set up well, despite a snippet of unnecessary nudity and a couple crude jokes in relation to Kassie’s pregnancy.

    For me, the story really took off when Kassie returned and Wally, begins to become a man who wants to deserve the love of his child–even if he hasn’t been able to tell Kassie that he’s the father. As the bond between Wally and Sebastian grows through surprising circumstances, my heart just melted. And when Sebatsian told Wally that he just wanted Wally to be proud of him, my heart broke and I nearly cried. I loved, loved, LOVED their relationship, and the bond that was there before they even knew Wally was the father.

    Tack on Wally’s friend Leonard, played by the brilliant and oh-so-funny Jeff Goldblum, and the humor in the second half of the movie really shined. I did love it when Wally and Leonard were on the treadmill at the gym, and Wally was running while Leonard was walking … and eating a candy bar. That’s my kind of exercise.

    I really enjoyed this movie. But I walked away thinking about the media buzz going on with Jen Aniston’s comments about single parenthood. She’s been very outspoken about her right and ability to be a single parent, if she chooses. Of course, this media hubbub stems from her character’s single motherhood. And I find it really ironic, because The Switch really is a love story between a father and a son and the importance of that father in his son’s life. Dads are important. So are moms. And I’m thankful for mine. 🙂

    Monday Movie – Julie and Julia

    julie-juliaI discovered something pretty amazing last weekend. I think that my enjoyment of this movie was absolutely a product of the person I watched it with!

    Sure, Julie and Julia is an interesting and unique dual bio-pic, based on the book by Julie Powell, which is actually based on her blog the Julie/Julia project. In a small apartment in Queens, would-be-writer Julie decided that she’d start a blog chronicling a year of cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Childs cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

    The movie jumps back and forth between Julie’s life in post-9/11 New York and Julia’s story of learning to cook in France. Julia’s relationship with her husband, played by the amazing Stanley Tucci, is wonderfully rich and colorful. Julie’s … well … maybe not as much, but it was still interesting.

    So the movie was enjoyable, but sitting next to my sister, my wonderfully rich and colorful sister, made the movie just that much more enjoyable. Every time Julia said said something that tickled my sister, she’d say the line over in her really terrible Julia Child impersonation. We had more fun laughing at my sister than anything else. And then we’d start laughing harder because one or the other of us that had snorted because we were laughing so hard.

    That’s my favorite part about watching a movie with my sister. She’s wickedly funny, and watching amovie with her just makes every movie better. 🙂

    Movie Monday – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

    Have you seen the new trailer for the final Harry Potter movie? When I first saw it, I believe my initial reaction was “SQUEEEEEEE!!!!!!”

    I couldn’t say anything else. I couldn’t do anything but shake violently with anticipation and pure joy! Harry is back! And it would appear, better than ever!

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m miserable over the decision to split the movie into 2 parts. But not enough to keep me from the theater at midnight on opening day. Save a seat for me because this one isn’t to be missed. Check it out!

    Monday Movie – More from our favorite Jane

    emma-kate-beckinsaleAfter my recent move, I was looking for someone to share my affection for Jane Austen. I needed a friend to watch the most romantic movies ever with. So last weekend I invited a new friend over, and she brought her collection of Jane Austen movies. We watched an older version of Emma, staring Kate Beckinsale in the title role. I’d never seen it before, so I was eager to watch it.

    Apparently my enthusiasm was misguided. In this 1996 version of the story that I have enjoyed in every other version I’ve seen it, neither Emma or our hero Mr. Knightley are likable characters. Knightley is played with such intensity, that every time we see him, he’s either brooding or lecturing Emma. We miss all the humor and playfulness of Knightley in the other versions of Emma. And the actor playing Knightley isn’t what I would picture as an Austen hero. He’s got nothing on Jeremy Northam amr-knightleynd Jonny Lee Miller.

    And Emma wasn’t any better. Always so serious, her intentions seemed self-serving, never for the best for her friends.

    Don’t get me started on the creepy lines in the movie either, like at the end when Knightley says to Emma, “I held you when you were 3 weeks old.” And she responds, “Do you like me as well now as you did then?”

    And the continued brother/sister comments. We know that they grew up close, but there’s no need to keep the comments coming. Just plain creepy.

    sense-and-sensibility-2008Oh, and the close of the movie … it just w o u l d n ‘  t  e n d. The scenes just kept coming. And coming.

    If you’re looking for a good version of Emma, check out the one with Gwenyth Paltrow or the new one with Jonny Lee Miller and Romola Garai. Those are both much more enjoyable.

    So then this weekend, I invited my friend over again, this time to watch Sense and Sensibility, a 2008 version I hadn’t seen yet. This one was really excellent. Nearly three hours of beautiful landscapes and coast shots and a very, very handsome Edward. Well-acted and well-filmed, it was fun to watch.

    And while the actresses who played Eleanor and Marianne were really great in the roles, there were moments when I felt like they were playing Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, who stared in those roles in the quintessential Sense and Sensibility directed by Ang Lee. I quite enjoyed this one, and I think you might too.

    Monday Movie – Letters to Juliet

    Okay, so I know … it’s been FOREVER since I posted a Monday Movie. But it’s not my fault. Okay. Okay. It’s completely my fault. But I do have a good reason. I haven’t had time to actually watch a movie in quite a few weeks. Lame. I know. But what’s a girl to do? First there was moving across the country, then the actual moving in thing. Then there’s this whole deadline thingy for my next book, starting a new job, and trying to help out with flood relief.

    Excuses? Totally. But I hope they’re valid enough for you. So … I’m sorry. I’ll try not to let it happen again. For a while.

    On with the review!

    On Sunday afternoon I went to see my first movie since moving to Nashville (unless you count How to Train Your Dragon with my dad several weeks ago, but I didn’t really consider myself officially living here yet). First, let me just say that I was checking out a pretty new theater a few miles from my house. It was a wet and rainy day, so after church I figured it was a great day to be indoors.

    The theater wasn’t very busy, when I got there at noon, and I realized why as soon as I got up to the ticket window. My earliest matinee price? $7.50!!!!!!!!!!! What? The Cinemark Theaters back in Colorado Springs had matinees for $6.75 and the earliest show of the day for most movies was only $5.50 or something wonderful like that. When did tickets become to expensive? I mean, we all know they make their real money at the consession stand, so why not give us a break at ticket window?

    But I digress. I paid all that money and even made a trip to the snack bar for a little popcorn, which I ate for lunch even though it was a tad on the burnt side. And I drank a medium soda … which was a bad idea about 3/4 of the way through the movie.

    Anyway, so I’m in the pretty swanky, nearly empty theater with a rocking seat (no, literally it rocked). The previews were pretty lame, but I was getting really psyched. I’d been waiting for Letters to Juliet to come out since I first saw the preview months ago. It’s very clear from just the preview, that this is a classic chick flick, and it didn’t disappoint.


    Sophie is a fact-checker/would-be writer for the New Yorker magazine who goes on vacation to Italy with her fiance Victor. He’s there to meet with suppliers for his new restaurant. She’s there to sight see and spend time together. So when Victor leaves for a wine auction, Sophie explores the city of Verona, where Romeo and Juliet first met.

    At Juliet’s house there is a wall where women write letters to the heroine asking for advice. And every evening Juliet’s Secretaries pick up all the letters and reply to them. These women befriend Sophie, and she joins them for a short time, one day finding a 50-year-old letter from Claire, who did not meet her beau Lorenzo when they were supposed to run off together. Of course, Sophie takes it upon herself to reply to Claire.

    Less than a week later, Claire’s grandson Charlie arrives at the office of Juliet’s Secretaries and yells at Sophie for replying to his grandmother, who has, of course, insisted on returning to Italy to find her true love Lorenzo Bartolini, which turns out to be a very common name. Claire agrees to let Sophie join them on the hunt for the right Lorenzo, much to Charlie’s dismay, and they begin a beautiful tour through Italian wine country. christopher-egan

    While I anticipated Charlie and Sophie’s initial dislike of each other, I was completely unprepared for Charlie’s (played by relative newcomer and Australian Christopher Egan) funny one-liners and subtle charm. In him we find a character that is a stereotypically cold Brit who is uncommonly passionate about protecting his grandmother, who has lost not only her husband but also her son and daughter-in-law. If you can get past his unusual ambling gate, I think you’ll fall for him, too!

    Charlie and Sophie’s relationship changes from hate to indifference to attraction at the perfect pace. But we can’t forget about Victor, the fiance consumed with his own needs. He throws a wrench into Sophie and Charlie’s lives, but adds the perfect drama for the movie.

    This one doesn’t break any molds, but it certainly made me laugh more than I expected for a drama. And it left me feeling warm and fuzzy. Just what I needed before heading back out into the drizzling rain.

    Monday Movie – How to Train Your Dragon

    I wouldn’t say that dragons are really my thing. I mean, I like them as much as the next girl, but I’m not exactly what you’d call a dragon enthusiast. Which is why it caught me completely off guard when I geeked out over How to Train Your Dragon hitting movie theaters this weekend.


    I mean–sure, I first heard about it because I was looking up what movies Gerard Butler was coming up in. And then I found out that Craig Ferguson voices a character, too, in the animated romp. What’s not to love about 2 of my 3 favorite Scottish guys in the same movie? (I’ll give you 1 guess who the 3rd Scotsman is.)

    I was excited, but it wasn’t until I started watching the Olympics in February and watching the reimagined contests set in the Viking era that I realized the potential of this highly amusing cast of characters.

    how-to-train-your-dragon-bookBased on the book by Cressida Cowell (which I haven’t read but would really, really like to), this is the story of Hiccup, a Viking who just doesn’t fit in with the other dragon-slaying members of his little village. On a regular basis, dragons of various shapes and sizes attack the village, stealing sheep and various human limbs. Hiccup’s father, the chief (and our own Gerry Butler), has raised him to fear all dragons.

    But being a bit smaller and more inclined to inventions than the average Viking, Hiccup tries to bring down the most feared and powerful dragon known to their village–the night fury. And he manages to do just that! But grounding it doesn’t kill the dragon. Going against everything that he knows to be true, Hiccup releases the injured animal and the two form a special, if tenuous, friendship.

    This friendship is just what Hiccup needs to help him through his dragon slaying classes. But ultimately it leads them to the realization that there’s a danger much bigger than the night fury waiting for them all.

    The humor is spot-on with great one-liners. The animation is beautiful. And while I didn’t see it in 3D (the glasses over my glasses thing never works that well), I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. It’s a classic boy and his dragon story–with a touching father/son relationship in there, too.

    I had hoped that I might be able to watch it with my oldes niece at some point, but it’s definitely a bit scary–fire-breathing dragons and all. But it’s great for the older kids and the kids at heart.

    I hope you enjoy it as much as did! And if I can get a copy of the book, I’ll tell you more about that in the near future, too! Until then. -LJ