Wednesday, December 31, 2008

December 2008 Books and Movies

Good-bye Lenin

Absolutely brilliant movie! D gave this to me for xmas, knowing I liked historical fiction. It centres around a family in East Germany right before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The mother suffers a heart attack and falls into a coma. When she awakes, the family decide it's best to keep her in the dark about the opening to the West, lest it upset her and cause another heart attack. The lengths they go to are very comical and the film is very well written. It's in German with subtitles. Definitely see it!

Don't Be That Girl
Travis Stork, MD with Leah Furman

This was not a very helpful book. It was poorly written (sorry Leah, I don't think it was your writing) and full of cliches. The types of women he describes are true enough, but it really comes off as "I know best, because I was on The Bachelor, but more importantly, because I'm a doctor". The overwhelming tone was, it's not him it's you. Of course I, and everyone else, knows that it takes two to tango and that sometimes it's the guy and sometimes it's the girl. So it seems a bit insulting to read something that insinuates that there are tons and tons of wonderful guys out there, just ready to date, as long as you fix all of your problems first. There are always the token "well it's not always this way" statements thrown in, possibly for legal purposes, :) which I suppose is meant to make one feel better. Give it a miss, there are a gazillion better books out there that deal with this topic.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Really enjoyed this movie. Yes, the excessive CGI was a bit distracting, but the story was pure and engaging. I didn't quite cry, but was misty eyed at parts, which for me, is always a good sign. The story is unique, based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The hero is born old and gets younger over time. Brad Pitt is well cast and Cate Blanchett is wonderful, as usual. I love historical fiction, and the production company certainly used gobs of money to make every detail historically accurate. Good film, go see it!

Irish Girls Are Back in Town

Another great collection of short stories by Irish authors. Of course I didn't love every single one, but found some great authors that I will definitely look into. Particular mention should go to Julie Parsons, Morag Prunty and Cecelia Ahern (the Irish Prime Minister's daughter) who also wrote P.S. I Love You. There's a Scottish version of this collection, so I'm looking forward to discovering more new authors.


In a word, fromage! Wow, that movie was super cheesy! I meant to read the book before going, but now I'm glad I didn't, because I have a feeling I would have been really disappointed. I will still read the series, but the movie definitely fell flat. There was some gorgeous cinematography of Washington State and the fight scene was pretty cool at the end, but the love story was stilted. A human falling in love with a vampire has been done so many times, there's only so much you can do with it. Oh and you could totally see the white powder they used on the vampires. Cheesy!

Chasing Harry Winston
Lauren Weisberger

Hmm. Well, it's no The Devil Wears Prada, or even Everyone Worth Knowing. For a third outing, not really up to par. That being said, I still read through it fairly quickly and enjoyed the characters, if not the plot so much. Two friends make a pact to change their romantic lives, with the marriage seeker having flings and the socialite to look for a man to marry, while the third friend looks on but doesn't join in. Of course, her life ends up changing as well. I did really like the character of Adriana, she was a hoot. I'll still read Weisberger novels, but I'm hoping that the next one is another Prada.

Ensemble, c'est tout (Hunting and Gathering)

Great movie of an even greater novel. I enjoyed reading this novel so much I even got it out in French after finishing it in English. The film stayed fairly true to the book, although there were necessary cuts due to the sheer length of the book. A couple of things I thought were turning points in the developing relationship between Franck and Camille were left out or worse, watered down, such as the first time he cooks for her and the first time she resumes drawing. An important pair of characters, Camille's "guardians" were not a part of the film. I adore Audrey Tautou in her French movies, The Davinci Code, not so much. Guillaume Canet is beautiful, and a wonderful actor. I really liked Laurent Stocker and Francoise Bertin as well. Excellently cast, beautifully shot and a great story, go and see it!

The Next Thing on My List
Jill Smolinski

Great chick lit. Fun, breezy writing style, interesting plot, non cookie cutter herione, a few plot twists and she doesn't end up with the guy you think she will. Although I know it was a deliberate plot device, to lead the reader on, I still suckered me in, so it was well done. The story is about a girl who sets out to complete a to do list made by a girl who suddenly dies and her adventures while doing it. The characters are well drawn, although a couple of introductions were a bit abrupt or even completely out of left field. I found myself searching for one character, paging through the parts I'd already read, because she was introduced with such familiarity. That's small potatoes compared to some of the clunkers I've read. This was a nice easy read.

3 Women

Very interesting. Robert Altman is pretty wacky. Lots of interesting stuff here: role reversal, feminism, accurate portrayal of the mid-70s, great cinematography of California and cool (for the time, 1977) special effects, fantastic, eerie score with lots of flute. It's hard to describe the plot, you just have to watch it. Lots of ideas will swirl around in your mind once you've seen it, they'll drop in days afterwards. Excellent film!

Certain Girls
Jennifer Weiner


Oh Jennifer Weiner, what were you thinking! It was such a great book right up to the end, and then kablooie! Why, why, why did you think that killing off the best character in the novel would make your novel better? I thought it was a bad, bad move. It completely erased all the great writing and made it very difficult to finish. I almost didn't keep reading after that. It was just plain bad writing. The death happened too quick, instead of feeling like an out of nowhere surprise, it just felt like sloppy writing. Not a fitting ending for Cannie, not a good follow up to Good in Bed. A real shame, I was expecting more. Oh well, I enjoyed it 3/4 of the way through.

Torchwood: Season 1 DVD

Absolutely brilliant! Pretty much watched it straight, one episode after another. A bit of science fiction, a bit of fantasy, lots of real life, set in Cardiff (I have to go there, I can't believe I spent nearly 2 years in England and never went to Wales), great case, cool sets, fantastic stories, the list is endless. I watched most of season 2 on the Space Channel, but was quite confused sometimes. I'm less confused now and gagging for more! I know Season 3 is being shown in the UK, but have no idea when it's coming here. Hopefully sooner, rather than later.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wonderful Company

Last night I held a dinner party for D and two friends. I didn't really cook (just bought, heated up and put together stuff) but it was a weeknight, so I simply didn't have the time. The company was fabulous, we ate well, made our way through 2 bottles of red (one of which was an amazing 2006 Chateau Timberlay Bordeaux), had wonderful conversation in three languages and finished the evening with a homemade (not by me) maple sugar pie. The entire evening was a real treat and made me realise I have to do this more often, with more of my friends. Looking forward to the New Year, when they will host!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Wee Big Band at the Old Mill

Tonight I went to see one of my directors of music play in Jim Galloway's Wee Big Band at the Old Mill. I'd never been to that venue before, it's pretty cool. The band is quite slipperish, but the sound was cool. Bob DeAngelis was subbing in, I just love his clarinet sound. There was fair amount of xmas music in the second half (which I complimented by having a gorgeous English date pudding with toffee sauce...mmmm) including a great arrangement of Jingle Bells (in actual fact a Thanksgiving song that was so popular it stuck around until xmas) and The Duke's Nutcracker Suite. I especially liked Arabesque Cookie, what a groove! It was a touch expensive at $35 but worth it to support my peeps. :)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Birthday Party and New Hair

Here's a pic of my new hair:

Unfortunately for me, I had a severe allergic reaction to the dark rinse and have spent the day going to the walk in clinic for help. I've been prescribed a heavy duty anti-histamine and a cortisone lotion for the rash. It's pretty icky. And my head is sooooo itchy!!

Party was fun, although I would have preferred to have held it in my condo party room. Betty's was a great alternative though. There were a lot of people there, but unfortunately a few were missing. I managed to chat to everyone, then the stragglers and I went back to my place to watch an episode of Torchwood. I think I've gotten John addicted to it! :)