Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hunger Games - Read the Book, See the Movie

Read the book, people!!! That's all I should say. I gave a review last year. Excellent YA trilogy. So what? Writing and storytelling like this makes kids excited about reading. In turn, parents tune in and soon there's a common ground. There's no downside.

Hunger Games, the movie - big thumbs up. Here's my review that appears in The Little Paper of San Saba (a town without a cinema)

photo courtesy of EW.

Hunger Games, the movie, is awesome. If you weren't part of the $155 million dollar box office opening, then you aren't doing your part for Hollywood. It's a great movie - show 'em some love. Hunger Games, the book, is better so if you plan to wait for DVD then at least read the trilogy. The book just gives that notch more description, that extra sense of desperation, and a deeper insight into the characters. The movie does an excellent job even if you have no clue, but why not enhance your experience?

So, it's the future and America is now segregated into districts. There once was thirteen districts, but number thirteen had an uprising and was obliterated according to the government. Now, to remind folks not to uprise, the Capitol hosts the Hunger Games. Each district must have a reaping - i.e. pick a male and female between age 12 and 18 to attend a fight to the death. Only one winner. As the saying goes - Happy Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen (the superb Jennifer Lawrence) chooses to volunteer in place of her twelve year old sister, Prim. Katniss can hunt with a bow and knife, she's athletic, and determined from District 12. The boy, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), is the baker's son - wiry and stronger than he looks; he's had a thing for Katniss for years. However, she's close to Gale (Liam Hemsworth) who's stuck back home (the book gives us more).

The movie builds tension through the reaping. Then we see the trip to the Capitol for the duo. They meet their drunk mentor, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson). He's supposed to guide them and find sponsors. His cynical attitude works, and he slowly warms to Katniss. He wants District 12 to win. Cinna (Lenny Kravitch) is Katniss's designer confidante. He makes her look great. The whole thing is part pageant, show, and media blitz. It shows how government can spin things - even death.

President Snow (Donald Sutherland) with his silky voice manipulates and sleazes throughout. He's so good, and is Katniss' nemsis. He's not pleased at her talents.

The actual games are brutal. The film does a good job of depicting the challenges, and also the manipulation from the Capitol headquarters. Let's just say it's not all fair. I'm not going to spoil and tell any more. Bring a tissue for a character's final outcome. Root for Katniss - she's a hardcore heroine who doesn't know her powers. After 2-1/2 hours you are going to want more. You'll be pleased with Hunger Games, but there's way more to the story and adventure. It's only just begun.

So - c'mon. Buy your ticket, some popcorn, and be drawn into the world of Panem. Happy Hunger Games, indeed.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Relax and Appreciate

Spring fever this week, and my blog keeps asking for flower pictures. Reflect on the joy and beauty. Cogitate and churn words into a poetry waterfall. Or just sit and dream.

Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure, nor this thing not that, but simply growth - W.B.Yeats

To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual - Oscar Wilde

You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don't know what was in the newspapers that morning ... a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be - Joseph Campbell

Realize deeply that the present moment is all that you have - Eckhart Tolle

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

First Day of Spring

First day of spring and it's flash flood time. Let's harken back to Sunday at the arboretum - cloudy, breezy, and festive. Discovered this little nook, tucked off the DeGolyer home entrance. Quite cozy.

You're worried about how you're going to feel at the end of your life? What about right now? Live. Right this minute. That's where the joy's at - Abigail Thomas, writer.

learn flower names
bask in bountiful purple
snapdragon sway

My happiness is not the means to an end. It is the end. - Ayn Rand, author

To be quite oneself one must first waste a little time - Elizabeth Bowen, author

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Worth Sneezing

Earth laughs in flowers - Ralph Waldo Emerson

That time of year again. Spring at the Dallas Arboretum. Color pops at every corner.

The Amen of Nature is always a flower - Oliver Wendell Holmes.

The new Maple Rill at the arboretum is stunning. Despite the cloudy day, the beauty was in the details.

'Tis my faith that every flower

Enjoys the air it breathes - William Wordsworth

Aachoo! I feel a haiku coming on -

mustard yellow dust
fine icing awakens spring
between loud sneezes

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St.Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I wore the green, didn't get pinched, and no doubt put out my share of blarney today. I'm one quarter Irish on my mother's side of the family. I've been to Shannon Airport, but never stepped foot on the old sod. I do listen to U2.

Being Irish is to know the world was meant to break your heart - Anonymous

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Flash:War Crossed

War Crossed by Joanne Faries

Joseph Kelly III, struck mute from the Gettysburg battle near the farm, communicated with me in varied ways. I milked two cows and he fetched buckets, his limp lessened each day. Slender fingers weaved straw dolls for baby Mary. Her gurgling smile unfurrowed his brow. His blond hair tousled, blue eyes unwaveringly trusting.

Our hug goodnight now included a kiss. The only barrier to welcome him to my bed was my husband's shadow. I assumed Thomas survived. War ended and he should be home soon. Joseph would return to Philadelphia and resume studying law. I knew this from notes he wrote in answer to my questions. Notes nestled near my bible.

City boy. Farm girl. Our paths never to cross save for the war. My young girl heart long ago vowed loyalty to Thomas. Roughhewn, he provided for Mary and me. My womanly heart - alas, time to sever from nursing a soldier to health, new love, and newfound tenderness.

One June morning, I woke with dread. Joseph, dressed in his mended Union garb, bent over Mary's cradle and kissed her forehead. He stood, embraced me, and whispered in my ear, "I'll remember you forever, Kathleen."

I, struck mute, watched this strapping man stride out of my life.

An hour later, a neighbor arrived on horseback with a telegram. Thomas. Long dead, never finished the march to Atlanta. I sobbed. Tears streamed, soaking the telegram in one hand, ribbon bundled notes in the other.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Weekend Reading

All memorable events ... transpire in morning time and in a morning atmosphere - Henry David Thoreau - Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me.

I was eating a half grapefruit for breakfast today, but contemplating life. I thought about mornings as a kid and fighting over cereal boxes to read. It's been a long time since I actually looked at the back of cereal boxes - what are kids reading these days? Cheerios features a message about the USO. Very nice and noble.

Aaah - a favorite and I'll show my age. I remember when it was SUGAR Frosted Flakes. Tony the Tiger is still the star on the front, but they've gone serious on the back with a health message. What? Where's the puzzle or jungle adventure tale?

Kids don't care about nutrition, and c'mon, it's still corn flakes with a sugarfied coating. I was rather disappointed in this box.

Hooray for Cap'n Crunch - still so sweet your teeth will ache. Still leaves a sugary film in your final drops of milk. Best of all a cartoon-like message. The big kid in my house (husband Ray) loves the Crunch and it's a weekend treat. Do any cereals still have little booklets inside, puzzles, or games? My vocabulary was boosted by cereal treasure maps. So much for my weekend reading adventure. Back to the Dallas Morning News.

It's completely usual for me to get up in the morning, take a look around, and laugh out loud - Barbara Kingsolver

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I'll Take a Bad Review, Please

Book reviews - I've been fortunate in that I've had some very complimentary reviews written on Amazon, on Helen Ginger's blog, and in Riverbabble for My Zoo World.

However, an interesting article (Dallas Morning News 3/4/12) caught my eye. Jonah Berger, Harvard Business Review, conducted research and found that "even terrible publicity can bolster the bottom line."

His group studied sales patterns for 250 hardcover fiction books reviewed in the New York Times. They used fancy algorithm classifications and came to this conclusion: Good reviews increased sales 32 to 52% across the board. For books by established authors, negative reviews caused a drop of about 15%. But for books by relatively unknown authors, bad reviews caused sales to rise by an average of 45%. Whoa!

The reason - analysis showed that by making consumers aware of a book they would otherwise not know about, even the harshest review can be a boon.

I can understand the rationale and it's especially true with movies. It's easy to dismiss critics - What do they know? They just want some artsy foreign film. How bad can this flick or book really be? I've had friends even give a half-hearted review on a book and then say, "But you might like it." Then indeed it's on my radar.

So, I've been working the positive promotion angle. Is it time for a mud-slinging nasty campaign? Nah - my feelings would get hurt.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Movie Reviews

Fresh in the Queue -

- Ryan Gosling is a stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver. He lives a very isolated life until he meets his pretty neighbor (Carey Mulligan) and her son. However, her violent husband is released from prison and Ryan's character is drawn into the crime scene. Albert Brooks plays an exceptionally nasty man, and there's some double crossing going on. Ryan's a good actor but very expressionless in this movie. Guess he's going for stoic, reserving his inner strength. Plenty of chase scenes, great stunts, and lots of tension. This is a dark and violent movie. Not suitable for kids. It was good. I was expecting better, but it had some twists and turns, and a rollover or two.

Abduction - Here, Team Jacob (Taylor Lautner) stretches from the Twilight films and stars in his own tween flick. His shirt is off a few times, so as far as this critic is concerned, I give the film a thumbs up. When it came out in the theaters, real critics panned it. Aw c'mon, it wasn't that bad. Basically, here's an only child who's been raised and trained how to fight and think for himself. Well, turns out he was adopted by CIA type parents in a unique program. They are killed and he has to figure out who are the good guys, who does he really belong to, and adapt to his newfound freedom and identity. Sigourney Weaver, who's been his shrink, is on his side and helps him escape. Alfred Molina, for the government, claims to be good but is suspicious. There's plenty of chase scenes, guns, and action. This is brain candy and Taylor is adequate for the job. Good cast and it ties up well in the end, plus the boy does get the cute girl. Fun rental.

In Theaters Now:

This Means War stars Reese Witherspoon- too cute for words, Chris Pine - dreamy blue eyes, and Tom Hardy - British actor and a brute look, but a pussycat heart. Reese doesn't date, but her best friend (foul mouth Chelsea Handler) signs her up on a dating site. Well, Tom checks out the site and meets her on a date. They hit it off. After she leaves the coffeeshop, she meets Chris in the video store. He was just hanging there to keep tabs on his buddy Tom. Well, Chris falls for Reese. Now she has two great guys vying for her attention.

With a gentleman's agreement, they'll allow the best man to win and she has no idea. Plus they both work for the CIA and are trying to catch a notorious Russian terrorist. But that's merely side tension. The main thrust of the film is how they put their spy tactics to use to thwart each other's dates. It escalates and is quite humorous. Meanwhile, Reese is torn. She has a love/hate time with Chris, and Tom's almost too nice.

I know who I rooted for to win her heart. You'll have to see This Means War to make your own choice. This is a good date flick - plenty of blow 'em up action, plenty of luscious flirtation, down and dirty humor courtesty of Ms.Handler, and it's fun. It has Reese and she's so charming and smart and helpless and then heroic. It's been a dry spell for a good version of this kind of movie. It's your obligation to make it a night - dinner and movie, and hold hands, and laugh together. This Means War = Truce.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Book Review: State of Wonder

Dr. Marina Singh is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, Dr.Annick Swenson, who seems to have disappeared into the Amazon. Marina's partner, Dr. Anders Eckman was sent first, but word came back via a short letter - he's dead.

Science, subterfuge, and sacrifice. Ann Patchett weaves a tale complete with poison arrows. There's the business aspect of pharmaceuticals, there's love and death, a possible cure for malaria or is it a fertility drug, and there's the beauty of the jungle and stepping out of a safe world and into one full of wonder.

Smooth writing, intriguing characters, and a slow building tension infuse State of Wonder. I liked this book and found myself caught up in a different world. I marveled along with Dr. Singh as to how someone so practical could be carried along from one bizarre situation to another. It must have been the heat and humidity.

p. 43 Karen Eckman upon hearing of her husband's death: Hope is a horrible thing you know. I don't know who decided to package hope as a virtue because it's not. It's a plague.

p. 75 Marina's view of the Hotel Indira: From the grand exterior, she entered a lobby of palm plants and tired brown sofas that slumped together as if they had come as far as they could and then given up.

p. 218 Dr. Swenson: I keep hoping that you are more than you show yourself to be, Dr. Singh. I am just on the verge of liking you, but you dwell on the most mundane points.

Ann Patchett's State of Wonder is worth the journey to the Amazon. And yes, Dr. Singh, turns out to be more, much more.