Archive for August, 2010

John Hancock’s Hancock

Through one of my friends, I heard of a show called “Pawn Stars.”  It’s about a family-run pawn shop in Las Vegas.  The interesting thing about the show is some of the wonderful antiques and historical items that people bring in to pawn or sell.

For example, I was watching an older episode last night when a man brought in a framed document that was signed by John Hancock.  I sort of wanted to reach through the screen and touch it!  What can I say?  I like history!

Weekend quote quiz

I’m going to attempt to do this every weekend.  These are quotes from movies and or TV shows.  Try to guess where the quotes came from.  Leave your guesses in the comment section.  I will reveal the answers after a few days.

1.  “On your six, boss!”

2.  “Have you ever fired two guns whilst jumping through the air?”

3.  “Hey, Blinkin!”  “Did you say “Abe Lincoln”?”

4.  “These are not the droids you’re looking for.”

5.  “Now that’s what I call moving some merchandise!”

Please, make her go away

I think if we stopped paying attention to  Ms. Hilton, maybe she’d go away.  Or maybe she needs to go back to jail.  Clearly the last stay didn’t make an impression.

Ah, the passion of the Russians!

A couple nights ago I watched The Last Station, which is based on a novel of the same title, written by Jay Parini.  The movie (and the novel) is about Leo Tolstoy’s last years, and the fight between Tolstoy’s wife and one of Tolstoy’s “apostles.”  Tolstoy seemed to be somewhat embarrassed by his wealth and position in society, especially when there were so many peasants that didn’t have enough food.  Because of parts of Tolstoy’s writings, some of his followers started “Tolstoyan communes.”  Tolstoy’s wife, Sofya felt that Tolstoy should leave his copyrights to his family (he had thirteen children with Sofya), while Tolstoy’s apostle, Vladimir Chertkov, felt that the copyrights should be left to the “Russian people.”

Chertkov sends in a young Tolstoyan follower, Valentin Bulgakov, to be Tolstoy’s secretary and his spy.  Chertkov wants to know all the details about what Sofya says and does.  It’s not long before Bulgakov is torn between his intense admiration for Tolstoy and his growing sympathy for Sofya.

Part of the excellence of this movie, along with the scenery and the costuming, is the casting.  Christopher Plummer is the beleaguered and sometimes confused Tolstoy, Helen Mirren is the volatile and passionate Sofya, Paul Giamatti is the plotter Chertkov, and James McAvoy is the impressionable and devoted Bulgakov.  On a side note, I found that McAvoy looks a little like a young Anton Chekhov.  It’s interesting that a Scot can look like a famous Russian author!

Some people may think this movie is only interesting to people who like Tolstoy’s writing.  I think, however, that it is interesting because it shows how someone’s teaching can be twisted by those who claim to follow his or her words.  In the movie, Tolstoy says about someone else, “He is a better Tolstoyan than I am.” 

The words of a teacher can be twisted to better suit the ideals of an “apostle.”

On a wee bit of an ego trip?

There have been a number of news stories about how James Cameron’s Avatar is going to be re-released to theaters with eight extra minutes added to the movie.  You read that right.  Eight extra minutes.  Really?  Is it just me, or is that a blatant example of trying to milk the cash cow until it dies?

Peter Jackson would have had more reason to re-release the LOTR movies with the extra footage he had.  However, he opted to add the film and release it in a special DVD form.  The Fellowship of the Ring had the least added to it, and I believe that was still about eighteen minutes.  Return of the King had almost an hour added.  I would have loved to see the extra-long version of ROTK in a theater.  But Jackson’s not a money-mad fiend like Cameron, apparently.

How good can those eight extra minutes of Avatar be, anyway?  Chances are they’ll involve bright colors and shiny things and maybe some borderline inappropriate avatar-on-alien action (that’s one rumor).  I don’t get it.

I’m pretty sure that if Peter Jackson had re-released Fellowship of the Ring to the theater with only eight extra minutes, I would have thought that was weird, even though I love the movie.

I do not get Cameron’s ego.  You cannot walk on water, dude.  Try it and find out.

Where would we be without history?

I watched The Young Victoria over the weekend.  Finally.  I’ve been wanting to see it since I first heard about it.  I was not disappointed.

The Young Victoria is about Queen Victoria of England, in the years before she became queen and the first few years of her reign.  I thought Emily Blunt did a wonderful job as Victoria.  She was able to portray her youth and exuberance, as well as her growth into a good and loved monarch.

Much of the movie is devoted to Victoria’s growing romance with Prince Albert, for whom she had a life-long passion, even after he died.  Rupert Friend did an excellent job of portraying what it would be like to love a woman to whom he could not propose, a woman whom he had to obey.  (And people think they have relationship difficulties today!)

Perhaps the most interesting part of the movie was the image of what it would be like to have politicians trying to influence you and direct you.  The two main ones in this movie are Mark Strong as Sir John Conroy and Paul Bettany as Lord Melbourne.  Conroy is the trusted advisor of Victoria’s mother, and they think they can rule her together.  Victoria does not listen to them because Conroy tries to frighten her into submission.  She never forgives him for that, and therefore never listens to him.  She even holds a grudge against her mother.

Lord Melbourne is the exact opposite and, therefore, the more dangerous of the two.  And he does gain too much influence over Victoria.  He does it by telling her what she wants to hear and slowing turning her mind to his way of thinking.  He comes across as much more sinister than Conroy.  Conroy is brusque, rude, and honest.  Melbourne is insinuating, pleasant, and manipulative.

Victoria frees herself from such advisors simply through the passage of time, and because she allows herself to trust Prince Albert to share the burden of her work.  They work together for the good of England and become some of the best-loved monarchs in history.

The Young Victoria is like a breath of fresh air.  It is a movie of understated beauty.  The costumes, set, and scenery are all beautiful.  And yet, the actors are so good that they don’t let the sets dominate.  They move through them as if they really lived there, as if they were who they are pretending to be.  It’s a movie well worth watching.

Eat, Pray, Snooze?

I watched Eat, Pray, Love yesterday.  My first impression was that it was long.

The movie is supposed to be about one woman’s journey to discovery and awakening, and it is based on the memoir of Elizabeth Gilbert, who is played by Julia Roberts.

Gilbert decides that she needs to go on a year-long trip in order to discover herself and free herself of her situation.  She has three destinations: Rome, India, and Bali.  The Rome part of the movie was probably my favorite because of the amazing architecture and the visual beauty of all the food she indulges in.  The scenery in India and Bali was lovely also, but there was nothing like the richness of the Italian food there.

The Texan Gilbert encounters in India is also a nice part of the story.  He is known only as Richard from Texas, and he is played by Richard Jenkins.  There is a scene between Richard and Elizabeth that is by far the most powerful of the movie.  It only solidified in my mind the amazing talents of Jenkins.

In Bali, Elizabeth encounters a Brazilian named Felipe, played by Javier Bardem, who has also been divorced.  Bardem is another bright spot in the story, mostly because of the charm and vulnerability of his character.

I found Eat, Pray, Love to be a bit narcissistic, actually.  Elizabeth Gilbert comes across as extraordinarily selfish at times; so much so, that it made the movie a little flat for me.  However, there are moments of charm and touches of grace in the movie that make it worth watching.  Once, at least.  And bring snacks, because the Italy part will make you hungry.

Making harmony

I recently watched a 2000 movie directed by Bruce Paltrow, Gwyneth Paltrow’s father.  The movie is called Duets and the tagline is “Six lost souls in search of a little harmony.”  It is similar to movies like Love Actually or Valentine’s Day because there are a number of co-stars but not necessarily one main star.  Some of the people in it are Gwyneth Paltrow (a little nepotism, eh?), Huey Lewis, Paul Giamatti, Scott Speedman, and Andre Braugher.

The “lost souls” in the movie all end up involved in karaoke.  The interesting thing is that Gwyneth Paltrow, Huey Lewis, and Paul Giamatti perform songs.  And they do it well.  In fact, it’s worth watching the movie for Paul Giamatti singing “Try a Little Tenderness” alone, in my opinion.

Duets is an interesting movie about how people search for hope, and where they find it (or don’t).  It’s worth watching, even if you don’t like karaoke.

So.  I’ve finally updated my blog page.  However, my profile information was lost in the shuffle, so I haven’t fixed that yet.

Now I should be able to get back to real posts!


Okay, folks.  I’m scoping out the new WordPress layout.  I hope to be able to do a real update soon!