4 Christmases

Posted in Movies on December 6th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I shouldn’t have liked it.  It’s an 82 minute comedy farce co-starring Reese Witherspoon – what’s to like?  But I actually enjoyed the movie 4 Christmases more than I thought.

So why did I see if I thought I’d hate it?  For one, it was the only thing playing at the matinee price and for two, I had a sort of curiosity about the acting abilities of two country music super-stars:  Dwight Yoakam and Tim McGraw.  Actually, having seen Dwight Yoakam in Sling Blade, I’m well aware of his acting skills.  It was such a great performance in Sling Blade that I thought it was Oscar-worthy.  He’s not given much to work with in this movie however, and his role as one of those Leap of Faith-type preachers is not very well developed.  I don’t think it’s any fault of Yoakam, though, but more a testament to the lazy script.

Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon star as a freewheeling couple who don’t see the need to marry since they’re already happy, and they don’t want kids.  The first scenes of the movie really emphasize how perfect this couple’s lives are, and it’s almost sickeningly sweet how well they get along.  Enter their extended families, and they become miserable people.  It begins when their flight to Fiji is cancelled on Christmas and they are featured on the news.  The couple (their names were not memorable) is now busted in their annual lie about travelling to some exotic location for charity work.  They fib about this every year to their families so they can avoid seeing all 4 families (each set of parents is divorcd) for Christmas.  So now that they can’t go to Fiji, they have to visit 4 sets of crazy relatives on one day and yada, yada, anticipated baby jokes and predictable chaos ensues, you get the picture.

For some reason, a lot of Hollywood stars agreed to be in this movie.  And just as I expected, Vince Vaughn was the same in this movie as the characters he always plays.  He can be funny, but he’s not very versatile.  I was surprised that Reese Witherspoon did not get under my skin because for some reason, she annoys the heck out of me, and it’s distracting when watching her in movies.  As far as the country music super-stars are concerned, I consider this movie a waste of Dwight Yoakam’s acting talent, and Tim McGraw was barely in the movie at all.  I read somewhere that he beefed up for the role, and he was hard to recognize, although I don’t really know why he bothered gaining all the weight for a part that hardly has him on camera and with barely any lines.  Other big name actors making cameos were Mary Steenburgen, Jon Voight, Robert Duvall, and Sissy Spacek – maybe it’s just me, but even though she’s almost 60, I still look at her and see Carrie the fire-starting teen from the famous Stephen King horror movie of the ’70’s.

Overall, there was only one scene where I couldn’t even watch because of its ludicrousness, so instead I turned to my husband and whispered, “This is unbelievably dumb”.  Other than that, I was entertained, and mostly because it was a holiday movie, it was fun to sit, watch, and eat popcorn.  I wonder how Christmas With The Kranks will compare.  I’ve heard that one is just awful, yet I want to see it since I read the John Grisham novel upon which it was based.

Skipping Christmas

Posted in books on September 16th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As a kid, I was a very avid reader – I would always read myself to sleep.  Somewhere in my 20’s though, I lost sight of my reading hobby; I guess that’s when I got too busy and too tired to lie in bed awake at night and read.  During my last pregnancy, however, I started reading before bed again, and it’s something that I really enjoy, even though I often get too tired to make it through more than a few pages per night.

When I recently began reading again, I started by reading mostly non-fiction; it was really fun for me to unwind at night and learn something at the same time.  I read a book about an Afghan girl who stepped on a land mine, lost her leg, and fled the Taliban by coming to America.  I read a book about a family that bicycled across the country – they had kids who were 13, 11, and 3 years old, and they made it from New Jersey to Colorado on their bikes.  There was also the book about the Burnham’s; they were husband and wife missionaries who were held hostage in the Philippines for almost a year.  The wife wrote a book about their daily struggles as hostages – it was fascinating.  Then I switched to a few fiction books by Christopher Pike, an author best known for his young adult horror novels.  I read those as a teen, so as an adult, I decided to try his novels for adults – one I really liked and one wasn’t so good – Falling and The Blind Mirror, respectively.  I then started a book about the plight of Terri Shiavo, a woman who collapsed in the early 90’s and suffered brain damage.  Her case was in the national spotlight because her husband insisted that she would have never wanted to live hooked up to machines while her parents disagreed.  The governor tried to help, and even the President of the United States tried to step in, but ultimately Terri’s right to live became just another case in the courts and her husband won.  Her feeding tube was removed and it took her almost 14 days to slowly starve and dehydrate to death.  The case fascinated me at the time, and I found this book about it written by Mark Fuhrman of the OJ Simpson murder trial fame.  Except that I’m having trouble reading the book since it’s about a rather dark and depressing subject, and that’s not really how I want to unwind before bed.  Though I did learn something interesting from Mark Fuhrman: according to him, a coroner is an elected official who doesn’t even necessarily have to have a medical degree.  Hmmm…

A friend recommended the author John Grisham, and the other day I ran into the library, trying to be very quick since the family was waiting in the car.  His books looked so large and lengthy and intimidating, so I grabbed the smallest one I saw called Skipping Christmas.  I began to read it, and it’s about a family called the Krank’s who decide to skip Christmas one year.  That sounds familiar, I thought, and after a quick trip to imdb.com, I discovered that the awfully panned movie of 2004 called Christmas With The Krank’s is indeed the movie based upon John Grisham’s book, Skipping Christmas.  So far the book is ok, but nothing that keeps me looking forward to reading it or anything.  I have Grisham’s only work of non-fiction on hold at the library, maybe I’ll get up there today to get it because maybe I’m sick of fiction and it’s time to go back to non-fiction…  I hate to admit it, but I really like to read true-crime books before bed, mostly about murder.  True, murder is a dark and depressing subject, but not in the same way as the story of Terri Shiavo; it’s hard to explain.  And it sounds kind of strange, but true-crime books are the ones I seem to be drawn to and I can’t watch true-crime on tv in bed anymore – too many nightmares for my husband and I.  One of the best true-crime books that I ever read was The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule.  If you don’t know, Ann Rule is a famous true-crime writer, and this book was extra-fascinating because it chronicles her relationship with the famous psychopathic serial killer, Ted Bundy.  Ann Rule was actually friends with Ted Bundy – they met working at a suicide hotline together.  The book chronicles their friendship while working at the hotline, while the murders were taking place, and after Ted was caught – very interesting read, and crazy that one of the most famous crime writers had a friendship (unrelated to her ever writing a book about him) with one of the most prolific serial killers of all time.