Thursday, June 28, 2012

Movie Review: Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages is so much better as a stage show. I loved seeing the live production. It had the decadence of 80s tunes, the energy, the nastiness, the sleaze, and naughty bits. Sadly the Hollywood film version is cleaned up and maybe a tad boring.

Great tunes - I love 80s metal hair bands, the pop, and any Journey. Julianne Hough is so damn cute as our heroine. She's pretty - can sing and can dance. The hero - Diego B. is okay - fairly forgettable. Alex Baldwin and Russell Brand as the bar owner and manager are brilliant - truly they are scene stealers. Russell Brand just looks the part. Truly fab. Mary J.Blige can sing her heart out - she's good as the madame of the Venus Club.

Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx, the super duper rock-wasted star - is very good, yet he's Tom Cruise. To me he looked too buff. The stage show had a great Stacee - a bit too skinny wastedness. Tom was a tad too old for this role. He looked great - maybe too great. He has a pleasant voice and did a decent job, yet I always knew it was Tom Cruise on screen. Trying too hard.

Paul Giamatti is genius as the sleazoid agent. He's just such a creative actor, often overlooked for his genius Catherine Zeta-Jones annoyed me immensely in her role. They changed up a bunch in this area from the stage show, as to who was evil. I liked Catherine in Chicago - she can sing and dance, I'll give her that. Here - she was miscast and really annoying.

The problem with this movie version was the energy level. The stage show kept accelerating. The movie had a lot of lapses - yawn city. I found myself checking my watch - not a good sign.

Rock of Ages - okay for rental and I predict it'll be there soon. Not a screen success. Don't Stop Believing...........that's the key to 80s music. This movie didn't totally deliver. Wait for rental. Enjoy some bad wigs and then sing along.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Review: Angel Sometimes

Angel Sometimes by Helen Ginger is a heart warming, heart rending tale of a young lady from Oklahoma who lived on the streets of Austin at age sixteen. Now at age twenty-two, she has friends, swims as a mermaid in a bar, has a guy, Mac, who's fallen for her (she's not sure if he's in her life plan), and Angel is the go-to gal for other homeless women in trouble.
A brutal beating and murder has Angel and friends on the lookout for a bad guy. Meanwhile, Angel reflects on her life and we learn more about her character, and we're ready to help her face her past. How could her mother have kicked her out? Is Angel's abusive father still alive?

As Helen Ginger writes: It's time to quit planning and go home. To do that she needs three things: a high school diploma, a car, and a gun.

Angel Sometimes is well-written with engaging characters and a heroine with gumption. You will root for Angel, and enjoy the twists and turns of her fate.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Movie Review: Nothing Blows Up in This

Nothing blows up (well, maybe a marriage), and there are no special effects. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel contains great British actors, a plot, dialogue, and a foreign setting. The movie is aimed for folks over fifty, and it's quite good. If you want a low key enjoyable two hours, then Hotel fits the bill. Basically we meet various seniors in transition. Judi Dench's husband has died, he left her in quite a bit of debt, and now she's at a loss as to what to do with her life. Bill Nighy's character and his wife lost money when they invested in a daughter's internet company. Retirement housing looks sad and small, and they aren't really happy after forty years of marriage. Tom Wilkinson's a lawyer who just up and retires one day. He's standing at someone else's retirement party and says, "No more. This is it.". Another woman is lonely and ready to meet someone her age to spend the rest of her life with. Maggie Smith needs a new hip.

So this all sounds grim, but they end up seeing an advertisement for the Exotic Marigold Hotel - a place for "beautiful seniors" and it's in India. Thus,they begin an adventure to a strange land. The hotel, run by Dev Patel, is a work in progress and a good metaphor for these people's lives. They are all a work in progress themselves. Slowly they either embrace India and its customs, food, and hub-bub, or they hide in their rooms complaining. Lots of funny lines and it's fun to see them mix it up. I can't say I'm going to zoom to India - it looks like a crazy country. But, the point of the movie is to step out of your comfort zone and keep living.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel skews old, but it's worth the trip. Book your ticket now to see the movie (if you are over fifty).

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Kick-Ass Wit - Molly Ivins Remembered

 First time visit to  Stage West   theater in Fort Worth, and it won't be my last. This small venue off Vickery Boulevard is large in heart and quality. Pleasant staff, decent dinner at their Ol'Vic Cafe, local artists featured on the walls, and of course a show. Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins was funny, well done, and a tour de force for actress Georgia Clinton. Kudos to the authors - Allison Engel and Margaret Engel.
The show opened with Ms.Ivins sitting with her feet up on her desk, chewing on her glasses, staring at the ceiling, and declaring, "This is writing. I'm writing." Indeed, as a writer, there are plenty of times when the feet are on the desk and words are churning in the head but not on the paper.

The show picked up steam and we were on a whirlwind tour of Molly Ivins' career, her sharp-tongue, her skewing of the political establishment, and her life wisdom. The woman lived hard, drank hard, and found her way in a man's world. Sadly, she died too soon from breast cancer. She wrote what she believed and followed up with facts - hard nosed reporting, fashioned columns of word magic, and kept us laughing.

Red Hot Patriot:The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins. She is sorely missed, but nicely honored in this show.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

 Happy Father's Day to my father, George Crowther. Here he is on his wedding day with my mom.
It was 57 years ago on June 11th.

 Here's Dad visiting me at my first apartment in Texas, circa 1980 or so. The furniture is leftover from PA - stuff Mom couldn't wait to get rid of. Thus Dad feels right at home.
 Back in PA, here's Dad with my brother David in 1981. The point of the picture is actually the kitchen table. Dad still has this table and this is the focal point of Oakland Place. We've logged a lot of hours here - homework, reading the paper, eating, snacking, chatting. When I go to PA to visit, I tell Ray, "Well, you'll know where I'll be." And he says, "Yep, at the kitchen table."
A few years ago, I was in PA at Christmas time and we visited the Pearl Buck home in Bucks County. Dad's still dapper and fit.

I was thinking about Saturdays as a kid around age seven or so. David was two, Lori was a dream in the clouds. Mom slept in, Dad poured cereal and milk and I got to watch cartoons while he read the paper. Then, once Mom was up, and we were getting situated for the day, she'd hand Dad THE LIST. Off we'd go on our errands in a big old Chevy. We'd hit Graves' Esso station for gas (back when worker bees pumped it for you), the library, the bank (I'd get a lollipop and Dad would make a deposit to the Christmas Savings Passbook - lots of hand writing and stamping involved), and then Bennett's grocery store - the deli part. The deli was crucial for a successful lunch.

Once home, there was a huge discussion about the deli. Dad: "Oh, it was the grumpy clerk today."
Mom,"She never slices it thin enough."  Then they opened the cheese, the ham, etc and bemoan the "slab" effect. We wanted paperthin sliced American cheese, and practically shaved ham. Oh well - there was always next week. And that round of errands might include the barbershop - another lollipop for me.

Dad still has his favorite deli or two, and makes the rounds, his own list in hand. Pumps his own gas, and trips to the barber are a bit less frequent. It's nice that for me, I can go home again, and a lot just doesn't change - including the Best Dad in the World.

Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Movie Review: Men in Black 3

Friday, I'm a guest at  Annalisa Crawford's blog  - that's exciting and I'm pleased she invited me for a chat. Please check it out. We have discussed movies before, and she found it funny that I do reviews for a town with no cinema. In keeping with that theme - here's a review I published in The Little Paper of San Saba:

Men in Black 3 is so sharp, so awesome, and so worthy of the full price I paid. Okay - I did bring snacks and a soda. We had to save money somewhere, but this movie is way too much fun. It's PG13 but only for alleged violence - they blow apart aliens with space guns - all totally pretend.

Once again Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) are battling evil alien scum. Unfortunately , Boris (The Animal- he hates that denotation) escapes from his lunar prison and vows to wreak death and destruction on Agent K (who shot off his arm) and the earth. There's a time travel issue, there's love (Agent K and Agent O (Emma Thompson in current day), and there's the salvation of the world at stake.

Who better than Will Smith to save us all and look totally cool while doing it? Men in Black 3 doesn't re-tread old stuff. There are fresh aliens, fresh jokes, and absolutely amazing new technical wizardry. My husband and I loved this movie. It's 100 minutes of sheer magic. During some time travel sequences, Josh Brolin plays the young Agent K. Holy Cow - he has a Tommy Lee Jones impression down pat - it's uncanny, and smart, and funny. I swear I saw Will Smith half-grin during one sequence. Even he knew this was sheer genius film-making.

We won't discuss plot - it's time travel to save the world. 'Nuff said. The acting is great, the effects are superb, and Men in Black 3 makes summer movie going very fun again. GO SEE IT.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book Review: Anne Tyler's The Beginner's Goodbye

Anne Tyler is an author I welcome into my home regularly. I can always count on her smooth writing, well developed characters, and insight into the human condition. Her gentle humor prevails and her books are a treat.

The Beginner's Goodbye explores how a middle-aged man, ripped apart by the death of his wife, is gradually restored by her frequent appearances - in their house, on the roadway, and in the market.  (book blurb)

Aaron never thought he'd get married, but Dorothy, an unassuming doctor, came into his life and made him happy. Her shockingly abrupt death puts Aaron back at square one. However, as he works in his family's vanity publishing business, he learns through some of the self-help titles that there is a way to say goodbye.

This book is not maudlin. I chuckled as Aaron tries to evade his older bossy sister and muster gumption to move on in life.

P. 122 In regards to Dorothy:
Only I knew that underneath her boxy clothes, she was the shape of a little clay urn. Her skin had a burnished olive glow, and there was a kind of calm to her, a lit-from-within calm, that made me feel at rest whenever I was with her.

The Beginner's Goodbye is a quick read guided by the sure hand of a skilled writer.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Meet Annalisa Crawford

 I met Annalisa Crawford through the April 2012 A-Z Blog Challenge. Her blog posts exuded energy and charm. I asked her to be a guest today, and I hope fellow writers/readers check out her blog, book - Cat and the Dreamer and enjoy our meet and greet.
What are your current or upcoming works? I've got a couple of collections I'm working on at the moment. One is a trilogy of novellas set in the same town, and the other is gathering together my previously published short stories. Some of them were published in small press magazines more than 10 years ago - as a result, I'm sure very few people have ever read them!

Who is your favorite character in your books? There's a character called Murray in one of the novellas I mentioned above. He's in a story called The Traveller, and I based him on a couple of lads I had crushes on at school.

Here is an excerpt that introduces Murray:
I watch the stranger enter. As do all the women. We all look up, gazing out from behind the large yellow menus, or peering around the heads of tired, worn-out husbands. We all look up in clumsy unison, so he must have noticed. But he walks solidly towards the bar and faces the wall, pretending otherwise.
The stranger. An odd term to use; all the people in this room are strangers to me. But he is different; he does not belong. He stands out from the other men; not least because the other men are dressed in white shirts and gaudy ties, with heavy jackets slung across the backs of their chairs. They’ve been dressed by girlfriends or wives. And the girlfriends or wives are in pretty maxi-dresses with dainty sandals and too many beaded bracelets.

He – this stranger – is wearing frayed denim cut-offs, heavy black walking boots and a washed out, long-sleeved orange T-shirt. His hair is dark, the curled ends are bleached softly by the sun, his skin is tanned golden. His eyes – should I get that close – will be a smooth rock-grey or deep ocean green. He sweeps both hands through his hair and, for the first time, turns to survey the bar. Female heads swoop conspicuously.
He walks to a table in the middle of the room, drops his rucksack to the floor and slides into the chair in one fluid movement. He lifts his glass, closing his eyes and tilting his head, savouring the taste as though it was his very first. I almost feel the ice-cold lager in my mouth, the fine tingle of white froth on my lips, the droplets clinging to the rim. Women stare, caught up in fantasy, but as his gaze scans the room they lower their eyes and shrink back into their chairs in an inverted Mexican Wave.

I focus on his rucksack, which is large and straining. So he is not a Stranger, after all, but a Traveller

Any chance of a screenplay from your book? Who would you cast as your leading characters? Years ago it would have been Johnny Depp - no question! But he's a bit too old for that part now, so I'll go for Ashton Kutcher

Favorite tunes playing as you write Currently, I'm listening to the radio. But I'm also listening to The Vaccines. The music I listen to changes with each project.

Last movie viewed. HP & The Deathly Hallows, pts 1 and 2 with my kids. I haven't watched the other films, but I love the books. I just really wanted to watch the last installment.

If you could go anywhere on a paid vacation or retreat to write, where would you choose? Probably Canada. Somewhere a little bit cooler which would make me want to be inside, all wrapped up, but with a really good view of a lake.

If you won the lottery, but had to give away half the winnings, where would you spread the joy? As many charities as I could that were involved with children, diabetes and cancer.

Do you encounter writer's block? What do you do to get over it? Yes I do! To get over it, I gather together all my previously published stories and work at making them into a collection!

Thank you Annalisa for being a guest today, and good luck in all writing endeavors. Enjoy your summer.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White & The Huntsman is a mixture of really, really good and then a goodly portion of blah. The previews were dramatic and wow-worthy. They got my hopes up, but alas the movie dashed them during the boring bits.

So, we see how Charlize Theron's Ravenna came to be the Queen, and banished the King's daughter, Snow White, to a tower. Charlize on screen is magic. She is beautiful and cold and evil, and her powers are scary. Here's where the special effects are sha-zaam - shards of black glass flying, crows transforming, black ooze everywhere. To me, these are award winning.

Chris Hemsworth, as the Huntsman, is abworthy with his blue eyes, athletic build, and cool accent. He's hired by the queen to find Snow White after she escapes to the dark forest. He's only out for money to drink, and finds his prey easily. The key to the movie is his transformation from duty to the Queen to allegiance to Snow White. He carries this off with aplomb and good fight skills.

Then there's Snow White. Kristen Stewart does not have that extra glow of inner beauty to make us love Snow White. She always looks pained and her expression goes from bland to oh-no I should maybe furrow my brow, to oh-no this is horrible, to oh-no I'm trying to act. One would think she's grown in her Twilight Bella role, but unfortunately she needs more lessons.

To me, the movie spiked any time the Queen was conjuring more evil. Yeah, you root for Snow White to win, but Kristen doesn't urge us to love her. That's a huge downfall. Plus some of the pacing of the film is slow. They fight, scurry on, fight some more. This film needed to be edited and tightened. The dwarves are good enough but needed more distinctive personalities and again their interaction with Snow White depended on them telling us they felt her wonder and beauty - she did not emote such glory.

Snow White & The Huntsman seemed to appeal to the teens in the audience. They applauded. Some of us grumpy moviegoes wanted to be happy or dopey, but we ended up a tad sleepy during the chase scenes. I'll give this an A for special effects, Charlize/Queen, and Chris/Huntsman and a D for Kristen/Snow White. So on average it was entertaining for matinee price, but keep your expectations lowered, and don't bite into any poison apples.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Author Roundtable

 Saturday evening, I was delighted to be part of an authors' panel at the Bedford library  We were introduced by Amanda Green, author of  Nocturnal Lives, and she let us loose to read excerpts from our books and answer questions from the audience.
The discussion was lively in regards to self publishing (four of us) vs. traditional (one) and why we chose to go our routes, the effort involved, pitfalls, and the satisfaction of being in control of our writing destiny.
 Here are the featured authors of the evening (clockwise from upper left) All are members of  Trinity Writers' Workshop
Arly Pineo: Cheat the Wind  Cheat the Wind
Sharon Owen: Thicker Than Water   Thicker Than Water
Bonnie Pemberton: The Cat Master The Cat Master
Ann Summerville: Gwinnel Gardens (and more) Gwinnel Gardens
Not pictured: Joanne Faries  My Zoo World  My Zoo World
Finally, there is nothing better than a great prop - Arly's husband created this fine clipper ship, ready to set sail for the China Seas, and Cheat the Wind.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Book Review: Bossypants

I'm late to the Bossypants by Tina Fey party. However, I saw this at the library and snatched it up, then proceeded to read it in two days. My husband often had to leave the room, as I was snorting, giggling, and laughing to the point of hysteria. Perhaps it was the bad haircut picture, but I could identify with Tina Fey's childhood, and her clear discussion of dorkiness.

I watched on television when she won the Mark Twain award for humor. Indeed, she basically said, "How can I win this when I had a happy childhood?" She was the youngest child and obviously accustomed to being around adults, being the center of attention, and seeing the world in quirky fashion.

From Chicago's Second City to New York's Saturday Night Live, Tina Fey has brought verve and nuance to the world of sketch humor. She's just so darn clever. And the movie Mean Girls is a gem.

Here's one excerpt from Bossypants that had me rolling: page 104 
My mother knew the importance of getting the right fit for a bra, so she took me to JC Penney and tried one on over my clothes. She tried a bra on me over my clothes in the middle of JC Penney. I thank her for this. This early breast-related humiliation prevented me from ever needing to participate in "Girls Gone Wild" in my twenties.

Absolutely hilarious read from start to finish.