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  • 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

    Monday Movie – Emma

    What is it about Jane Austen’s stories that make nearly every girl I know giddy as a schoolgirl? Is it the strong emma-coverheroines? Or the gorgeous dresses? Or the beyond belief heroes?

    My money is on the hero.

    Especially in the brand new PBS Masterpiece Theater production of Jane Austen’s Emma.

    Some might say that Austen’s Emma is her least likeable heroine. A headstrong matchmaker who can’t seem to pull her nose out of everyone else’s lovelives, Emma Woodhouse (masterfully played by Romola Garai) is matched in her wit and poise only by Mr. Knightley (handsome as ever Johnny Lee Miller). Sixteen years Emma’s senior, Knightley is a lifetime friend of the family, whose brother is married to Emma’s sister.

    The worst scene in the 4-hour miniseries is also the most powerful as Knightley chides Emma for her cruel tongue toward a fellow picinic goer, a poor spinster. Though it breaks my heart no matter what rendition of the movie I see, it shows more than anything else that Knightley loves her.

    Oh, to have a man of integrity, character, and humor. Perhaps that’s why Ms. Austen’s heroes are so appealing.

    emma-1Now available on dvd, don’t miss out on the newest addition to the library of Austen classics.

    As for me, Katie, Steph, and Amy, we had a great time watching this on Saturday afternoon. Even though it included dodging the relentless rays of the sun coming through the windows above the television, which turned into finding creative seating in the living room.

    So while the movie was fantastic and the company lovely, the best part of the day was the Pioneer Woman Queso Dip provided by Steph. A-MAZING!

    Wishing you all the Austen you can handle until next time.

    Monday Movie – Why The Hurt Locker is the best movie I saw in 2009

    Okay, so two confessions. I did not see The Hurt Locker in 2009. I saw it last week. But it did come out in 2009 … the-hurt-lockersoooo … that’s something. Second, I was supposed to wait to watch it with Jess and Jess. I didn’t.

    Whew! Now I feel better, getting that off my chest.

    So … moving forward. If you haven’t heard about The Hurt Locker, then you’re probably not watching any of the awards shows this season. Nominated for best picture in almost every big awards show this year (my bet is that it’ll be nominated for an Oscar tomorrow, too!), this film tells the story of a team of soldiers whose job it is to defuse bombs in Iraq. Right away, we meet the three-man team trying to defuse an IED, but the mission ends tragically when the leader is killed by the explosion. 

    Now Sgt. Sanborn and Specialist Eldridge are assigned a new leader–Sgt. James, played by Jeremy Renner (loved him in SWAT and The Unusuals). James is a loose cannon, adrenaline junkie. He doesn’t abide by the rules set up to protect their bomb squad, which drives Sanborn crazy. And Eldridge isn’t sure what to think. He feels responsible for the death of their former leader.

    Strong personalities collide in a city where every turn of the corner could mean the death. Tempers crackle and even in their down-time the men can’t help but let their emotions get involved. Pressure rises as the men count down their last 60 days in Bravo Company, and James risks everything for the rush of excitement.

    So what makes this movie different than other war movies I’ve seen?

    I think it’s hard to say. If I had to give it just one word, I might say heart. Somehow director Kathryn Bigelow has given this film such raw emotion that I couldn’t tear my eyes from the screen. I loved the characters–even when they did really stupid things. Even when I wanted to hate them.

    At the center of this story is a man who wants to earn the respect of his team, even as he refuses to do it their way. He wants to save lives and make bombs harmless. And he cares for the men in his team and the little Iraqi boy who sells him dvds, but that often conflicts with his own innate need for the emotional rush that comes with working with bombs. Defusing bombs is the only thing he really loves, or so James tells himself, but I think it’s really what he thinks gives his life worth. I think he’s wrong, but I see where he’s coming from.

    It’s not a stark story so much as it is a beautiful story of internal conflict told against the stark backdrop of a war-torn country and a war-torn man.

    Renner is absolutely brilliant, and so deserves the Oscar for this role. And the film is totally worth watching–with a couple caveats. The language is pretty foul, as you’d likely expect from a war movie, and there is definitely some violence. But it’s not gratuitous like some war movies. The blood is actually pretty minimal, given the situation. It’s not for kids. But the story is pretty incredible.

    Catch it before the Oscars in March. It’s worth it!

    Monday Movie: The Young Victoria

    the-young-victoriaIn 1838 the king of England’s health was failing, and the only heir to the throne was the 17-year-old niece of the king.


    This gorgeously filmed and acted period piece is the story of how the young Queen Victoria came to power, the political power struggles that ensued, and the love that she discovered. The love story of Victoria and Prince Albert is stunningly beautiful.

    In 2010 Jess Barnes asked me if I wanted to go see The Young Victoria with her. Of course I was interested. What’s not to love about Emily Blunt’s amazing acting in beautiful dresses in literally Victoria’s England?

    And it was AMAZING!

    I was completely enchanted at the end of the two hours. The dresses were lovely and flowy and satin-y. The dancing was graceful and oh, so sweet. Emily Blunt was brilliant and so believable as the uncertain young woman who grew into England’s longest reigning monarch. And the romance between Victoria and Albert made my tummy fill with butterflies.

    I confess that I wasn’t quite sold on Rupert Friend as Albert when I first heard about the movie. If you don’t recognize his name, you might remember him as the awful Mr. Wickham in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice. How could I possibly enjoy him in another performance?

    Well, turns out I could. He’s amazing–strong and gentle at the same time. And even though it looks like his mustache is eating his upper lip on several occasions, I can forgive that because he’s just so lovely.

    According to my friend Rachel (who reads this blog regularly and can be found at A Thinking Girl’s Guide to Christian Fiction), the history in the movie isn’t exactly 100% accurate. But as you might know, I have a terrible habit of researching for my novels and then throwing it out the window for the sake of the story. It’s a bad habit to get into, I know. 🙂 But fiction is just that.

    Anyway, Rachel highly recommended The Young Victoria. I’m glad I took her advice.

    So take mine. Go see it!

    Movie Monday – Leap Year

    As promised last week, this weekend I totally went to see Leap Year, the new chick flick/romantic comedy. I went leap-year-moviewith Amy, Katie, Steph, and Jess Barnes, but before you go thinking that we all just gushed over the movie, let me say that Jess is not a fan of chick flicks. At all. And Steph? She thinks that romantic comedies are too heavy on the romance with not enough comedy.

    But since this blog doesn’t belong to Steph or Jess, I’ll tell you my thoughts.

    I loved it!

    It doesn’t break any molds in the genre, but Amy Adams and Matthew Goode are delightful as Anna and Declan. Anna, an uptight real estate stager from Boston, is forced to ask Declan, a pub owner from small-town Ireland, for a ride to Dublin when the weather prevents her from getting there to propose to her boyfriend on February 29th.

    Jess, who I forced to join us for the movie because she has a little (HUGE) thing for Matthew Goode, was, I think, suitably impressed with his grumpy, once heart-broken Irishman. I certainly had a thing for his scraggly beard, which isn’t usually my cup of tea. 🙂 And Amy Adams couldn’t be any cuter if she tried.

    My sister was looking for a movie to see with her husband on their anniversary, and I suggested Leap Year before realizing it wouldn’t be out in time. But Hannah said she was afraid that it would turn into one of those movies where the girl is with a perfectly wonderful man, but then she meet someone else and just leaves the other guy in her dust. (Hannah’s not a fan of those flicks.) But I’m super-pleased to report that Anna’s boyfriend proves himself a most unworthy match, and I was so happy to see her leave him in the dust.

    Rated PG, this is the first romantic comedy I’ve seen in years with almost no swearing, and no sex. Such a pleasure not to have to deal with those things. It’s true that the comedy isn’t as shocking as say The Proposal, but it’s sweet and oh, so enjoyable. So grab your man–or your girlfriends and catch this one soon.

    Loving the goreous Irish countryside until next time.  -LJ

    Monday Movie – Christmas in Connecticut

    Yesterday Katie, Stephanie, Amy, and I got together for our Christmas celebration. We went to lunch at Mimi’s (which was a bit of a disappointment, as far as lunches go), then came back to our place for a little gift exchanging–my first of the season! 🙂 Amy had a Christmas concert in the evening, so between the gift exhange and the concert, we slipped in a little movie watching. Obviously a Christmas movie was pretty much required … but what to watch? Well, Katie and Steph suggested Christmas in Connecticut, a oldie that I’d never seen before, so we gave it a shot.

    And let me tell you … what a hoot! I mean, it’s so old-school (circa 1945) and in black and white, but if you haven’t seen it, you should watch it at least once.

    christmas-in-connecticutChristmas in Connecticut is the story of Elizabeth Lane, played by Barbara Stanwyck. Elizabeth writes a cooking and homemaking monthly column for Smart Homemaking. In this column she presents herself as a wife, mother, and homemaker who lives on a farm in Connecticut. All lies. She’s a single woman living in New York City. That is until the magazine publisher agrees to let a sailor returning from the war spend Christmas with Elizabeth and her family in Connecticut.

    Reluctantly Elizabeth accepts her ardent suitor’s proposal of marriage, with the understanding that she does not love him. He tells her that she’ll learn to. But when she finds out that she has to host Jefferson Jones, the sailor who spent 18 days adrift in the ocean after his ship was torpedoed, Elizabeth decides to invite Jefferson and her publisher to her fiancee’s farm in the country for the holiday.

    Wildness ensues. Jefferson believes Elizabeth is married, so fights his attraction to her. Elizabeth finds herself falling in love for the first time. Then there’s the babies (yes, that’s plural) and Felix, the chef who actually writes all of the recipes that Elizabeth takes credit for.

    It’s quite a mess, but definitely has some laugh-out-loud moments. Like when Felix asks the judge, who’s there to marry Elizabeth and Mr. Sloan, to leave the house via the window.

    I don’t know that I’d watch it again and again, but it’s definitely a sweet Christmas movie to put you in the mood for a little romance this Christmas.

    Monday Movie – The Blind Side


    It was Friday, November 20, and Amy and our friends Johanna and Tim decided we needed to see The Blind Side on opening night. As evidenced on this very blog, I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release, so I was stoked to get to go.

    We arrived about 35 minutes early with pre-purchased tickets, and it was still hard to find 4 seats together. It sold out really fast, but fortunately we got to sit together about 3 rows from the back, which was interesting because we could hear the projector … umm … projecting the whole movie. Kind of strange.

    Anyway, as previously noted, The Blind Side is the story of Michael Oher, the homeless Memphis teen, and the wealthy Touhy family who took him in, gave him a home, and made him part of their family. I confess that I thought I’d cry the whole movie (I even brought a wad of tissue in my purse), but truthfully I was so engrossed in the story and the acting (you can’t help but believe Sandra Bullock as Momma Touhy) that I didn’t have time to turn on the waterworks.

    A phenomonal story about loving what the New Testament calls “the least of these,” The Blind Side comes with my highest recommendation for anyone. For those who are worried that it’ll be too much about football, I read that there are only 6 minutes of football in the whole movie. It’s not a sports movie. It’s a heart movie. Take your family to see this movie, and see if you aren’t moved to reach out to those in need in your community.

    As a fun side note, the following Sunday I was watching the NFL, and the Colts (my team) were playing the Ravens (the team that Michael Oher plays for). It was so cool to see number 74 Michael Oher on the field. He really is one of the best in his position. And you’ll probably have even more respect for this guy if you watch the movie. Pretty cool story.

    Monday Movie – Flower Girl

    This weekend I caught the brand new Hallmark Channel movie Flower Girl, staring Marla Sokoloff as a young florist who’s unlucky in love. Laurel’s grandmother Rose, played by Marion Ross, just wants to see her granddaughter happy. And she meddles to make sure that happens.

    Rose sets Laurel up with Evan, a doctor who is perfectly fine, but there just aren’t sparks. But then there’s Stephen, a mysterious writer, who refuses to reveal what he actually writes. (I’m sure that it’ll surprise you that I love charaters who are writers.) Laurel and Stephen definitely have a connection. But is there a future for them?

    I have to confess that for the first time in a long time, I wondered who Laurel would end up with. I kept telling myself that she should be with Stephen. Their connection was special, and he was amazing! But then I’d remind myself that he could turn into a jerk (and there were several foreshadows of his not being completely honest) and maybe Laurel’s lesson would be learning that stable and steady doesn’t necessarily mean boring. Maybe I’m losing my touch with story, but I thought the writer did a nice job of telling the story without making it obvious who the girl will end up with–even though I’d figured out Stephen’s real job at least an hour before it was revealed.

    I won’t spoil it for you–his job or who she picks. But I will say that it’s a sweet movie, and I’m glad that Hallmark hasn’t lost its touch. 🙂


    Monday Movie – White Christmas

    I think you’ll notice a little trend going on this week with my posts. See Colorado Springs has seen fit to dump freezing white-christmasrain and ice on our fine city, turning the roads into a mess and me into a hermit. And it’s put me in the mood for Christmas! (See pictures from yesterday’s post.)

    So in honor of an early winter in the Springs, I offer you one of my favorite Christmas movies of all time. White Christmas stars Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as a successful musical duo who team up with a pair of sisters to help save a Vermont ski resort, which is owned by a retired vet of WWII. There’s singing and dancing and some of the most memorable moments in classic musical history.

    How could you forget the scene where Crosby and Kaye fill in for the sisters in their classic “Sisters Sisters” routine?



    Classic laughs and a cute romance. Not to mention a group of army veterans who love their commander so much they come out to support him and save his resort. All set against the backdrop of beautiful Vermont snow (fake though it may be).

    White Christmas airs every year on TV, but don’t wait for it. Enjoy it as soon as the temperatures drop and snow starts coming.

    Walking in a winter wonderland until next time. -LJ

    Monday Movie – Fame

    fameI’m gonna live forever
    I’m gonna learn how to fly

    I feel it coming together
    People will see me and cry

    I’m gonna make it to heaven
    Light up the sky like a flame

    I’m gonna live forever
    Baby remember my name

    So last week Amy sent out an e-mail inviting a bunch of girls to see the new movie Fame. She was super-eager, and her enthusiasm definitely rubbed off on me. We decided to go to the earliest showing on Saturday, but we had some concerns that it might sell out. Anticipating that potential problem, we went to pick up our tickets on Friday night.

    Saturday morning dawned sunny and bright, and we. were. stoked! We zipped over to the theater (thankfully no pedestrians were injured in the drive), and hurried in to make sure we got seats before the show started at 11. We step into the theater, and hunt high and low for three seats together (Katie was joinging us). Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy with all … four other people in the theater. 🙂

    So we sit down to enjoy the show, eventually sharing the theater with about 20 other people. And I was still really excited. The movie was divided up into 5 parts: Audition Day, Freshman Year, Sophomore Year, Junior Year, Senior year. It follows 10 students at Performing Arts High School in NYC through their high school. The problem is that only one of the 10 actually have a character arch and change.

    It was frustrating not being able to invest in any of the characters as none of them had enough screen time for be to begin to really care about them. Loves were found and lost in the span of 4 minutes of screen time. Huh? It just doesn’t make me want to keep watching.

    And the overarching story question … was nonexistant. There wasn’t really a lesson like the importance of staying in school or working hard to acheive goals. It just felt lacking.

    I was so disappointed. So was Amy. Katie had read reviews that it wasn’t very great, so her expectations were low.

    Needless to say, I won’t be running out to buy this one when it comes out. But on the plus side I did see a great preview for The Bright Side, based on a true story and starring Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw. It looks awesome! I’m sure I’ll have more details on it after I see it. 🙂

    Eagerly awaiting another really good movie until next time. -LJ