I'm a mom of 3 kids, and I love to read and watch movies, and I'm picky about what my kids read and watch.

Friday, February 25, 2011

BOOK: Here, There Be Dragons (The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica)

Here, There Be Dragons
by James A. Owen

My expectations were fairly low for this first "real" novel by a graphic novelist.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  The author is a good story-teller, and though he borrows a lot from myths, legends, and classic literature, it's quite inventive.  Though the title suggests otherwise, I wouldn't classify this as "dragon lit," just a classic adventure story (with a few excellent pen-and-ink illustrations).

There is some violence (battles), but it's not graphic.  No "language" that I recall.  The story is compelling and kept me reading to find out what would happen next.  The heroes are all adults, so I was surprised to discover this is published under Simon & Schuster's children's division (it seems like children or teens are usually the heroes in books for children these days).  It is appropriate for children, and I'm sure my 11-year-old son will love it.  However, even though he is quite well-read for a boy his age, I don't think he will "get" the literary allusions, of which there are many.  Thanks to the internet, he can easily look them up.  (Honestly, I had to look up a few myself.)  I will definitely recommend this book for our school library.  I look forward to reading the next book in the series.  But just in case, I will keep my expectations low.  :)

Age recommendation:  10 and up

Saturday, February 19, 2011

FILM: Megamind (2010)

Megamind (PG)
Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill

My husband and kids really wanted to see this, I didn't.  They had begged me to watch Despicable Me, which they loved and thought was hilarious, and which I thought was pretty weak... mildly entertaining and rarely funny.  It was just OK.  (Actually, I fell asleep for a while, so maybe I missed the really good parts?)

But I digress.

I figured Megamind would be the dumb companion piece of Despicable Me.... another villain-meets-villain-and-turns-good story.  And it was.... sort of.  But I actually enjoyed myself.  I was extremely wary, since Dreamworks animated films tend to be very crude, which I detest.  (I was particularly worried knowing the type of things that typically come from the mouths of Will Ferrell and Jonah Hill.)  Thankfully, aside from one minor phrase referring to one's backside being kicked in defeat, this one was pleasantly free of the typical stuff.  It was rather funny, kind of sweet, fairly entertaining, and very silly. 

FILM: Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker (2006)

Alex Rider:  Operation Stormbreaker (PG)
starring (get ready)....
Alex Pettyfer
Bill Nighy
Micky Rourke
Alicia Silverstone
Sophie Okonedo
Missi Pyle
Andy Serkis
Robbie Coltrane
Stephen Fry

Did I make my point there?  That's a pretty impressive cast list!  The lead is an "unknown" (well, was at the time anyway), but the supporting cast is jam-packed with some amazing actors.  Quite frankly, I was a bit surprised that so many of them would have taken such bit parts in a "little" film that is, well.... fun, but not quite on the same level with their other films.  But, it's all good.

I couldn't resist renting this one after reading the book.  The author wrote the screenplay, so I expected the film to follow the book quite closely.... and it did, until the very end.  An additional ending was tacked on that seemed, well, just that.... tacked on.  It was a bit silly, but my kids didn't seem to mind.

As a mother watching this with my children, I appreciated that even the mean tough-guys said things like, "What the heck are you doing?" though it made my husband and me roll our eyes.  Of course, the kids didn't think a thing of it.  The violence is very toned-down (Disney-style) where you know the bad-guys "got it" but you don't see anything.  The film gets it's PG-rating from the action.  No "language."

Overall, it was entertaining, but the book was much better.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

BOOK: Messenger of Truth (A Maisie Dobbs Novel)

Messenger of Truth
by Jacqueline Winspear

This is the fourth book in the Maisie Dobbs series.  I have loved all of the books so far.  The characters are interesting and well-developed, the stories are fascinating (and you learn a bit of history along the way) and compelling, and the writing is excellent.  AND, they are clean.  Bonus!

Maisie is a great heroine, and I love the character development that continues throughout the series.  She grows as a person, as well as in her profession.  Highly recommended!  You must start with "Maisie Dobbs: A Novel."

FILM: The Movie Hero (2003)

The Movie Hero
starring Jeremy Sisto

Being able to watch movies instantly from Netflix is pretty cool.  We have discovered some good (and bad) films this way.

The other night Jay was flipping around looking for something to watch and found this movie.  I was busy doing something else so I wasn't paying attention, but I could hear it.  After a few minutes of listening to it from the kitchen I couldn't help myself so I sat down and watched it.  It was quite fun.  It's sort of a spoof the "formula movie."  I was a little nervous when I saw there was no rating.  It was surprisingly clean throughout, EXCEPT for one use of the dreaded F-word.  It was totally out-of-the-blue.  Otherwise there was nothing else offensive.  It's a shame that one word was in there.  (It was almost as if they said, "We better throw something in so we don't get a G rating.")  The only other thing that would make it slightly uncomfortable to watch with your kids is a moment where the main character watches some women pass by on their way to the beach wearing bikinis.  But it's nothing worse than they would see at the beach!  (Actually, not even as bad because it doesn't last long.)

Anyway, it was quirky and fun.  I wasn't rolling on the floor laughing, but I found I was smiling for most of the movie, and laughed out loud several times. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

FILM: Tron: Legacy (2010)

Tron:  Legacy (PG)
starring Jeff Bridges (and some other people I've never heard of)

Jay and I went to see this in Pinetop when we were at the cabin after Christmas.  My expectations were pretty low, so I enjoyed myself.  I never saw the original movie, but Jay brought me up to speed.  We were with my youngest brother and his wife, and my 18-year-old nephew.....none of them were even born when the original debuted. Scary.

[Disney made the "Prince of Persia" video game into a movie, but "Tron" is a Disney movie (about a video game) that was made into a video game.  I don't think that means anything, but I just thought you should know.]

Anyway, it probably won't win any awards, but it's clean and entertaining.  I have to say that some of the special effects were pretty cool.... we all really liked the cool light-stick-transforming-cycle-thingy.  It was awesome.  I want one of those.

FILM: Prince of Persia (2010)

Prince of Persia:  The Sands of Time (PG-13)
starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley

My younger siblings used to play the video game on our home computer.... it was incredibly high-tech back then.  I remember watching them play it, but I never played it.... I was in college by then, and much too mature for such things.  (Yes, I was.)

The movie is.... exactly what I expected; light on story line, heavy on video game-style action, predictable, and.... well, pretty entertaining.  There is quite a bit of violence, though it isn't graphic.  There is no language, sex or nudity.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

FILM: The Ghostwriter (2010)

The Ghostwriter (PG-13)
starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams

Jay and I watched this last night, and I quite enjoyed it.  It's not an action flick, but a classic suspense thriller a la Alfred Hitchcock.  It kept me guessing.  Whether or not you find the ending satisfying or not will depend on how you like movies to end.  I won't say more than that.  :)

The film was well-acted and directed (by Roman Polaski, but he freaks me out.... he is creepy).  Ewan McGregor is always fantastic, and Olivia Williams.... well, let me just say, if I were brunette and English....and famous....I would insist that she be cast as the lead in a movie about my life.  Pierce Brosnan was perfectly cast. 

There is one "bedroom" scene in which you briefly see Ewan's naked bum, but that's where it ends.  The rest is implied.  There are also a couple of incidents of "s***" and the f-word, which I detest, and that's the worst thing about the movie.  There is a scene of violence, but nothing is really shown... just implied, which I appreciate.

BOOK: The Billionaire's Cure (The Archer Legacy, Book One)

The Billionaire's Curse
by Richard Newsome

This was a fun and exciting story, but the writing is a bit amateurish.... I was not surprised to discover this is the author's first novel.  It reads like a screenplay, as if the author was hoping a movie studio would buy the rights to make it into a movie.  The plot is pretty silly, but it's suspenseful and a fun read.  Kids won't mind the plot holes. 

I had planned to recommend it to my 11 year old, since there wasn't anything objectionable other than a couple of minor swear words and a lot of action.  But then suddenly in the last few chapters it turned quite violent.... one of the main characters (a teenage "good guy") beats a villain to a pulp and sends him careening into a bon fire where he dies in flames.  He is defending his sister and friend, but it goes a bit too far.  I was horrified.  It's disappointing that it kind of ruined the book for me. 

There are several other incidents of violence, one of which leads to another gruesome "bad guy" death, though it's unintended and not graphic.  The book seems to be aimed at 11 to 13-year-olds, but I would say it's more appropriate for over 13.  (If they made a movie and kept everything from the book, it would certainly be PG-13.) 

This is book one in a trilogy.  The second book is scheduled to be released in the US in May of this year.