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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

FILM (TV): Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin (2010)
rated PG, starring Claire Danes, Julia Ormond, Catherine O'Hara

Wow.  This fantastic HBO film about the life of Temple Grandin made me think, and made me cry, and I loved it.  There isn't much else I need to say except, "Go watch it!"  But if you still need convincing, I will continue....

Temple Grandin is autistic.... AND a doctor of animal science, livestock handling genius, university professor, author, and autism advocate.  Truly an amazing person.  Her story touched me, as it has done millions of people.  Her influence is wide-spread among many fields of study.  I would be impressed by her work even if she were not autistic... the fact that she is makes it all the more amazing (sorry, I can't help using that word repeatedly). 

Claire Danes does an excellent job portraying Grandin, and together with a fabulous cast of supporting actors, makes this award-winning film what it is.  The film-makers used Grandin's books as the basis for the script and brilliant techniques to show us how this highly intelligent woman "thinks in pictures."  This powerful, inspiring and emotional film is worth watching with your whole family (the only thing that might be offensive is some mild gore from the slaughter of cattle, but it's pretty minor).

[As a side note, Temple Grandin's 2010 TED speech is fascinating and informative, and should be required viewing for teachers!  I think I'm becoming slightly obsessed, wanting to watch every YouTube video I can find of her.]

Saturday, November 19, 2011

BOOK SERIES: The Sisters Grimm

"The Sisters Grimm" Series
by Michael Buckley

I read the first book in this series to review for our school library.  What fun!  (I read the other books in the series for fun.)  A cute and exciting story brings together classic fairy tale characters, sets them in present day, and thrusts the two young heroines into their world as Fairy-tale Detectives (also the name of the first book in the series).  There is plenty of action and adventure, some mild violence, and no offensive language.  Both boys and girls will find these book appealing.

Age recommendation:  8 - 12 years

Friday, November 18, 2011

BOOK: These Old Shades (Georgette Heyer)

These Old Shades
by Georgette Heyer

OK, one more Heyer book and then I'm taking a break from "Regency Romance" for a while.  But I had to write about this one because it's quite different from the other books of this genre I have read by the author.   Actually, that's not completely true... each one has been surprisingly different from the others, even though they are all "similar" over all.

This one was different in, well, different ways.  First of all, the story takes place mostly in France, rather than England, so many of the characters are French... that's enough difference right there.  (Stereotypically French rather than stately English.)  Secondly, the hero is more the center of the story rather than the heroine, and it's told more frequently from a male point of view, and in quite a different voice.  (Besides, I hated the hero at first.... until I got to know him.)  Lastly, although there is a romance, the.... "Intrigue" is more central to the story.  Yes, that's just the word for it... intrigue. 

Because of these marked differences it took me a while to "get into" this book.  But once I did I was hooked... yet again.

Other good words to describe this book:  clever, witty, and shocking.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

FILM: Strictly Ballroom (1992)

Strictly Ballroom (1992)
rated PG

I first saw this delightfully quirky Australian film many, many years ago... and several times since.  I watched it again recently first the time in years and enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time.  It's a charming and funny story with hilarious characters, touching moments of truth, and a lovely "Cinderella" twist.  There is a bit of mild language*, the ballroom costumes show quite a bit of skin and some of the dancing is a bit on the sensual side, but it's fairly tame.

And should you think that your tough-guy hubby or boyfriend won't like it, think again.   If he has a sense of humor, he will.

[I give out 5 stars only very infrequently, and only after careful deliberation.  Before I gave it much thought I was going to give this film 4 stars, but after thinking about it a moment longer I realized there is really nothing wrong with it, and MUCH that is excellent... a story filled with great characters, touching moments, and timeless themes of romantic love, family love, friendship, loyalty, perseverance and hard work... plus lots of humor.  There is something for everyone, and it deserves 5 stars.]

* Apparently, but I didn't catch any, possibly because there are a few un-subtitled phrases blurted out in Spanish, or, more likely because of the heavy Aussie accents. 

BOOK: The Nonesuch (Georgette Heyer)

The Nonesuch
by Georgette Heyer

I know, I know; I'm sort of obsessed with Georgette Heyer right now, but I just can't help myself.  I had some fairly major surgery last week and I'm required to "take it easy" for a while.  This kind of book is perfect for saving me from boredom... the characters are interesting, the story is entertaining, and it's quite funny and witty too.  What can I say?  I'm a sucker, and I get sucked in.

A word of warning:  Heyer's "Regency Romances" are of a distinct genre and style, and they certainly don't suit everyone.  If you aren't used to the language you might perhaps be utterly bored and confused, but if you persevere you just might find yourself enchanted and supremely entertained.  (Now read that again, out loud, in your best British accent.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

BOOK: Matched (Ally Condie)

by Ally Condie

This young adult novel was quite interesting.  I would put it in the same category as Twilight and The Hunger Games, though it's far superior to both (and their sequels), in a number of ways. 

1)  There is more depth to the characters and relationships, making this book much preferable for teen readers (or any reader, for that matter).

2)  There is nothing offensive, which is more than I can say about most books for this audience... Twilight, The Hunger Games, et al.  Not even one swear word that I can recall.  Refreshing.

3)  There is plenty of tension and action, but this intriguing story has more depth and causes the reader to really think.

It's not a perfect book by any means, but it is quite good.  In fact, unlike T & THG, I would be fine with my own teenage children read it.  That's saying something.

The sequel, Crossed, was just released this week.  I hope the author doesn't let me down.

Age recommendation:  13 and up

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

BOOK: Everything on a Waffle (Polly Horvath)

Everything on a Waffle
by Polly Horvath

I didn't love this book, but I didn't hate it.  I DO love the title (and the reason behind it) and the cover illustration.  The story was a little erratic, but fairly entertaining.  A lot happens, so it should keep most kids interested.  The recipe inclusions are kind of fun.  I wonder if any of them are good?  Hm....

Age recommendation:  8-11 years