Sunday, December 31, 2006

December 2006 Books and Movies

Blood Diamond

Very powerful, similar to Hotel Rawanda. Leonardo DiCaprio is amazing, after a bunch of ok movies, I remembered what I first liked about him when I saw him in Basketball Diaries and What's Eating Gilbert Grape. Set in Sierra Leone during the worst of the conflict diamond crisis, the film tells its story from a first hand perspective of the different people involved. Definitely Hollywoodized, it still has an impact, and I'm hoping that at least a few people consider how to make their diamond purchases more ethical. I had already decided that I would never buy or wear anything but Canadian mined diamonds (supporting my countries economy and minimising the chance of buying a conflict diamond) and hope that others do the same. It is really sad, but I found I didn't cry until I read the last caption reiterating the fact that there are still so many children being brainwashed into child soldiers. Really good, moving and worth seeing.

Night at the Museum

Very cute! I thought it would be a bit dumb, and only appeal to kids but I keep forgetting that the movie makers are just as interested in entertaining the parents who are shelling out the big bucks. I'm not usually a big fan of Ben Stiller, but he was really funny. In the vein of Jumangi, the special effects were really good. It's the sort of movie that would be a renter just because I don't usually see kids movies at the theatre, but was worth seeing on the big screen. Really fun!

The Good Shepherd

This movie was good, although I think I would need to see it a couple more times to really understand what is going on. It tells the story of the formation of the CIA after WWII and is similar to a spy movie. I haven't read too many spy novels, so I'm afraid my powers of deductive reasoning were not up to snuff. Mike is a big fan, so he got a lot more out of it. I thought Matt Damon was very good, but Angelina Jolie was woefully miscast as his long suffering wife. I wasn't sure what to expect from Robert DeNiro's direction, but it was really well done with a lot of interesting shots. Even the superimposed history shots were fairly seamless. Good show!

The Goddess Rules
Clare Naylor

A much better outing from Clare Naylor. Written much more recently, I liked the main character Kate and her foil, Mirri. I really liked the message of confidence and that one is beautiful when you project that you think you are beautiful. The character of Mirabelle Moncour (Mirri) is extremely well developed, she lept off the page for me. Kate is smitten by a man who is not good enough for her, so much so that she doesn't see the man who has been in love with her for 10 years. She makes some bad decisions (this is what I like most of all about the imperfect heroine) but figures it out in the end. A good read!

The Pursuit of Happyness

Really good movie. A little depressing for a holiday film, but has a really good message about perseverance and achieving your goals. Will Smith is fantastic and his real life son plays his character's son. Bring a box of tissues if you are a cryer (like I am) you'll definitely need it.

Catching Alice
Clare Naylor

I really wanted to like this book. Clare Naylor is one of the co-authors of The Second Assistant which I thought was really fun. There were times when I was really excited about finding out the next turn in the storyline. Ah if only the telling of the tale matched that expectation. Naylor is heavy handed, too liberal with the euphemisms and far too scattered to tell a good story. The plot is fine, bad breakup sends heroine from London to L.A. where she starts a new life, gets a new job, meets a new man etc. But everything is a little pat, senarios are sometimes downright impossible and supporting characters are annoying. I did make it all the way through the book, so obviously, for me, it had some redeeming qualities, but I knew within the first few pages that I didn't like her style of writing. I do have another book by her, but we'll see if I get through that one.

The Holiday

Starring Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Eli Wallach and Jack Black. This movie was funny in parts, but seemed somewhat forced especially by Jude Law. I have never been completely sold on Cameron Diaz and she was kind of annoying here. Jack Black's character felt like a re-run, as if the director wasn't able to reign him in. I enjoyed Kate Winslet, as I usually do. It was nice to see her performing with her natural accent in a modern setting. Eli Wallach was fabulous and nice to see an octogenarian in a lead role. The story has potential, two women, one in the U.K. and the other in the U.S. trade houses after bad break-ups. Sometimes I think I'm missing the girl gene that likes predictable romantic comedies. I didn't even suggest it, Mike did! I did laugh, and got misty at one part, so it wasn't a total bomb, but more of a renter.

Little White Lies
Gemma Townley

This book came with a cover recommendation from Sophie Kinsella, so right away I had to have a look. Very entertaining! Set in London (which makes me miss living there a bit) and loosely based on Vanity Fair, it's about a zany girl named Natalie Raglan who has recently moved to London from Bath. She is bored out of her tree and decides to open a letter sent to the girl who lived in the flat before her. She pretends to be Cressida and one little lie turns into another and another and of course eventually everything comes out. Fast paced, more or less believable with a nice happy ending. Great bus and subway read. In fact I almost missed my stop one day, I was so in to it! I really wanted to find out how it ended, so actually took some time to just read. I think I'll read Vanity Fair again, it's been a while.

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