A Smurfin’ Good Time

Posted in Movies on August 1st, 2011 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I was so pleasantly surprised by how much my family liked the new Smurf movie that I was inspired to write a short review.  Going in, I thought I would hate the movie because it didn’t look funny.  And I was a fan of the Smurfs as a kid, so not only did the movie look stupid, but I couldn’t figure out why it took place in our realm rather than the Smurf’s realm – wouldn’t fans of the little blue mystical creatures, kids, and everyone else want to see Smurf village on the big screen?

Don’t worry, we get to see Smurf village, and it’s pretty cool.  Especially the scene where Gargamel breaks in!!  Ok, so I guess that’s kind of a spoiler, sorry about that…  but this is a kid’s movie we’re talking about.  And kid’s movie it is – my kids all really liked it (ages 11, 7, 4 and 3).  The Smurfs have screen time for pretty much 100% of the movie, and there aren’t any boring scenes with a lot of dialogue – these tend to lose the attention of kids.  There are some Smurfy jokes – in this case I’m using “Smurfy” to describe inside jokes written for fans of the Smurfs from decades ago.  Much like the Brady Bunch movies are actually enjoyable parodies of the hit tv show and poke fun at it,  The Smurfs movie has gags about such shout-outs to the 80s cartoon as their names reflecting their personalities (a hilarious joke in the movie that I’m still chuckling about), cracks about how Smurfette always wears the same dress (although more than one joke about this was overdoing it and took the humor away), and multiple references to creator Peyo.

(the Smurfs as I knew and loved them)

From the previews, I thought Gargamel was going to be a bumbling bafoon, one of these over-the-top characters who might be ruined by the actor portraying him as he flailed around aimlessly in a ridiculous looking costume.  But Gargamel as a live person in today’s New York City was actually quite entertaining and even hilarious at times (If you grew up watching the Smurf cartoon like I did, watch for the way Hank Azaria runs as he portrays Gargamel – he imitates the cartoon character so well that it made me laugh out loud!).  I especially liked the inclusion of the little details from the cartoon – like seeing the Smurf cages that Gargamel always had lying in wait for when he finally caught the little guys.  There was backstory explained; everyone knows by now that Smurfette was actually created by Gargamel as Smurf bait, right?  The story line was cheesy but not unbearable even while it made several futile attempts at teaching positive life lessons to kids in the audience.  I could have done without the Katy Perry song reference (is “I Kissed a Girl really a song for kids?  I’ve never heard the song and don’t want to know), and Katy Perry as Smurfette’s voice didn’t really give any personality to the character anyhow – she was just a girl Smurf and nothing like her character in the cartoon.  Clumsy Smurf on the other hand, was a perfect 3d replica of his cartoon counterpart – both in voice and graphics.  I did stop watching the Smurfs sometime after the Smurf cousins (Smurflings) came in, so I have no idea where Gutsy Smurf came from (seems to be a brave Scottish Smurf complete with red sideburns and a kilt?).  I would have liked to see my personal favorite Smurf, Jokey, get more screen time in the movie.  On that subject, I don’t understand why the group of 6 Smurfs with the most screen time (the ones who get to go to NY) did not include such series regulars as Jokey, Greedy, Handy, Vanity or Hefty.  Actually, I didn’t see those Smurfs at all, but then again, we arrived late to the movie so maybe I missed their appearances.  The production staff also did an excellent job of utilizing aspects of modern technology to make funny jokes involving the Smurfs.  Case in point: see the wikipedia reference.

(My favorite Smurf, Jokey)

Overall, Smurfs was an entertaining film for the entire family – and there was a huge gap between my low expectations and my high level of enjoyment of this cute movie!  A must-see for anyone who has kids to take to a movie – bonus if you are a Smurf fan!

One more note – here is a list of characters I would like to see in the sequel:
Hogatha, Johan and Peewit, Clockwork Smurf, and Baby Smurf.  But please, NO SMURFLINGS!!

And oh yeah…   I did a search on my own blog to see if I had written about the I’m a Pink Toothbrush song from the Smurf’s 1979 album.  Turns out, I did include it in a blog post that I had written in March 2010, and my kids (and me still!) are big fans of this adorable tune.  It was really fun to read about my speculations on the Smurf movie in this blog post given the limited info I had that time on this “in production” project!  (if you read it, you should know that Quentin Tarentino was oringally cast as Brainy Smurf, but both actor and studio are quiet on why the pairing did not work out…)  So apparently I HAD heard of Gutsy Smurf – and wrote about it in my own blog a year and a half ago!

(modern Smurfs from the 2011 movie)

Parental Pickle

Posted in books, Current Events on June 10th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Have you heard about the controversy of Lenore Skenazy?  She is the New York mom who is under fire for letting her 10-year-old son ride the subway alone.  I would not put my kids on a subway alone, but us here (taking on a sudden  hickish accent…) are country folk, after all, and even I didn’t ride the subway when I was in New York three months ago.  But I trust that Ms. Skenazy made the right decision for her child…  why?  Because I think that parents these days NEED to be trusted to make the right decisions for their children!  I believe that we are in the midst of an age where we are much too over-protective of our young-uns.  And those parents who aren’t utterly over-protective are left to a cruel and unusual punishment of media scrutiny…  If you follow and/or agree with what I’m saying, you will enjoy the writing of Lenore Skenazy:

The last word: Advice from ‘America’s worst mom’

A year ago, journalist Lenore Skenazy caused a media sensation when she let her 9-year-old ride New York City’s subway by himself. In a new book, she explains why she has no regrets.

About a year ago, I let my 9-year-old ride the New York subway alone for the first time. I didn’t do it because I was brave or reckless or seeking a book contract. I did it because I know my son the way you know your kids. I knew he was ready, so I let him go. Then I wrote a column about it for The New York Sun. Big deal, right?

Well, the night the column ran, someone from the Today show called me at home to ask, Did I really let my son take the subway by himself?

Yes.

Just abandoned him in the middle of the city and told him to find his way home?

Well, abandoned is kind of a strong word, but … yes, I did leave him at Bloomingdale’s.

In this day and age?

No, in Ladies’ Handbags.

Oh, she loved that. Would I be willing to come on the air and talk about it?

Sure, why not?

I had no idea what was about to hit me.

A day later, there across from me was Ann Curry looking outrageously pretty and slightly alarmed, because her next guest (the one right before George Clooney) just might be criminally insane. By way of introduction, she turned to the camera and asked, “Is she an enlightened mom or a really bad one?”

The shot widened to reveal … me. And my son Izzy. And some “parenting expert” perched on that famous couch right next to us, who, I soon learned, was there to Teach Us a Lesson.

I quickly told the story about how Izzy, the 9-year-old, had been begging me to let him try to find his way home on his own from someplace, anyplace, by subway.

I know that may sound a little scary, but it’s not. Here in New York, families are on the subway all the time. It’s extremely, even statistically, safe. Whatever subterranean terror you see Will Smith battling in the movies goes home when the filming stops—probably to New Jersey. Our city’s murder rate is back to where it was in 1963. And, by the way, it’s probably down wherever you live, too.

That’s why letting Izzy find his way home alone seemed like a fine idea. Not dangerous. Not crazy. Not even very hard. My husband and I talked about it and agreed that our boy was ready. So on that sunny Sunday when I took him to that big, bright store, I said those words we don’t say much anymore.

“Bye-bye! Have fun!”

I didn’t leave him defenseless, of course. I gave him a subway map, a transit card, $20 in case of emergencies, and some quarters to make a call. But, no, I did not give him a cell phone. Because although I very much trusted him to get himself home, I was a lot less sure he’d get the phone there.

And remember: He had quarters.

Anyway, it all turned out fine. One subway ride, one bus ride, and one hour or so later, my son was back home, proud as a peacock (who happens to take public transportation). I only wrote about his little adventure because when I told the other fourth-grade moms at the schoolyard about it, they all said the same thing.

You let him WHAT?

The more polite said things like, “Well that’s fine, and I’ll let my son do that, too … when he’s in college.”

So—back to the Today show. After Izzy tells Ann how easy the whole thing was, she turns to the Parenting Expert—a breed that seems to exist only to tell us parents what we’re doing wrong and why this will warp our kids forever.

This one is appalled at what I’ve done. She looks like I just asked her to smell my socks. She says that I could have given my son the exact same experience of independence, but in a much “safer” way—if only I had followed him or insisted he ride with a group of friends.

“Well, how is that the ‘exact same experience’ if it’s different?” I demanded. “Besides, he was safe! That’s why I let him go, you fear-mongering hypocrite, preaching independence while warning against it!”

Well, I didn’t get all of that out, exactly, but I did get out a very cogent, “Gee, um … ” Anyway, it didn’t even matter, because as soon as we left the set, my phone rang. It was MSNBC. Could I be there in an hour?

Then Fox News called. Could I be there with Izzy that afternoon? MSNBC called back: If I did the show today, would I still promise to come back with Izzy to do it again over the weekend, same place, same story?

And suddenly, weirdly, I found myself in that place you always hear about: the center of a media storm. It was kind of fun, but also kind of terrifying—because everyone was weighing in on my parenting skills. Reporters queried from China, Israel, Australia, Malta. The English wanted to know, “Are we wrapping our children in cotton wool?” To which I boldly replied, “What the heck is cotton wool?” (Turns out to be the kind of cotton in cotton balls.)

The media dubbed me “America’s Worst Mom.” (Go ahead—Google it.) But that’s not what I am.

I really think I’m a parent who is afraid of some things (bears, cars) and less afraid of others (subways, strangers). But mostly I’m afraid that I, too, have been swept up in the impossible obsession of our era: total safety for our children every second of every day. The idea that we should provide it and actually could provide it. It’s as if we don’t believe in fate anymore, or good luck or bad luck. No, it’s all up to us.

Childhood really has changed since today’s parents were kids, and not just in the United States. Australian children get stared at when they ride the bus alone. Canadian kids stay inside playing video­games. After I started a blog called Free Range Kids, I heard from a dad in Ireland who lets his 11-year-old play in the local park, unsupervised, and now a mom down the street won’t let her son go to their house. She thinks the dad is reckless.

What has changed in the English-speaking world that has made childhood independence taboo? The ground has not gradually gotten harder under the jungle gym. The bus stops have not crept farther from home. Crime is actually lower than it was when most of us were growing up. So there is no reality-based reason that children today should be treated as more helpless and vulnerable than we were when we were young.

If parents all around us are clutching their children close, it’s easy to understand why: It’s what pop culture is telling us to do. Stories of kidnappings swamp the news. Go online, and you can find a map of local sex offenders as easily as the local Victoria’s Secret (possibly in the same place). Meantime, if you do summon the courage to put your kids on a bus or a bench or a bike, other parents keep butting in: An unwatched child is a tragedy waiting to happen.

Here’s a typical letter addressed to me at Free Range Kids:

“I understand that you probably don’t want your children to grow up afraid and not able to survive as independent adults,” she wrote. “On the other hand, I think you’re also teaching them that there is nothing to fear, and that isn’t correct. It’s survival of the fittest, and if they don’t know who/what the enemy is, how will they avoid it? There are many, many dangers to protect them from, and it does take work—that’s what parenting is. If you want them to run wild and stay out of your hair, you shouldn’t have had them.”

I agree that it makes sense to teach your kids about danger and how best to avoid it. Just like you want to teach them to stop, drop, and roll if they’re ever in a fire. But then? Then you have to let them out again, because the writer is wrong when she says, “There are many, many dangers to protect them from.”

There are not. Mostly, the world is safe. Mostly, people are good. To emphasize the opposite is to live in the world of tabloid TV. A world filled with worst-case scenarios, not the world we actually live in, which is factually, statistically, and, luckily for us, one of the safest periods for children in the history of the world.

Like the housewives of the 1950s, today’s children need to be liberated. Unlike the housewives of the ’50s, the children can’t do it themselves. Though I’d love to see hordes of kids gathering for meetings, staging protests, and burning their baby kneepads—and maybe they will—it is really up to us parents to start re-normalizing childhood. That begins with us realizing how scared we’ve gotten, even of ridiculously remote dangers.

We have to be less afraid of nature and more willing to embrace the idea that some rashes and bites are a fair price to pay in exchange for appreciating the wonder of a cool-looking rock or an unforgettable fern.

When we watch TV, we have to remind ourselves that its job is to terrify and disgust us so that we’ll keep watching in horror. It is doing an excellent job on both fronts.

We have to learn to remind the other parents who think we’re being careless when we loosen our grip that we are actually trying to teach our children how to get along in the world, and that we believe this is our job. A child who can fend for himself is a lot safer than one forever coddled, because the coddled child will not have Mom or Dad around all the time. Adults once knew what we have forgotten today. Kids are competent. Kids are capable. Kids deserve freedom, responsibility, and a chance to be part of the world.

I have to be honest, though: I write all this in a kind of shaky mood because I just got a call from the police. This morning, I put Izzy, now 10, on a half-hour train ride out to his friend’s house. It sounds like I’m a recidivist, but really: His friend’s family was waiting at the other end to pick him up, and he’s done this a dozen times already. It is a straight shot on a commuter railroad. This particular time, however, the conductor found it outrageous that a 10-year-old should be traveling alone, and summoned the police, who arrived as my son disembarked.

When the officer phoned me at home, I told him the truth (while my heart stood still): We had actually inquired of the railroad what age a child can travel alone and were told there was no specific regulation about this.

Later I looked up the official rules: A child only has to be 8 to ride alone on the railroad or subway. Good rule.

(From the book Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy. © 2009 by Lenore Skenazy. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.)

Not For The Faint Of Heart

Posted in History on April 19th, 2009 and tagged , , , , ,

After we got back from our trip to New York City a month ago, I did a bunch of research about September 11, 2001.  I guess seeing the World Trade Center site in person piqued my curiosity about some of the details of that dreadful day.  Some of the websites I found with information about the disaster were intriguing, and I’d like to share them – they are the stories of survivors of the World Trade Center.  But I warn you, the following depictions are very graphic, very disturbing, and most of all, very tragic.

John Schroeder of Engine 10

Witness Accounts from inside the north tower

New York Trip Diary Volume 3

Posted in Travel on March 26th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NEW YORK TRIP – MARCH 20-23, 2009 – TAYLOR: 9 yrs, SAMMIE: 4 yrs, DISNEY: 2½ yrs, CHRISTOPHER: 8 mos

(continued from previous posts)

Saturday, March 21 – We awoke about 8:30, which seemed early since we had arrived at our hotel late the night before and the kids stayed up for a little bit even after we arrived.  So we went down to the hotel’s restaurant to get breakfast, which was a mistake.  I had thought it’d be cheaper to eat in the restaurant rather than get room service, and I had also thought we’d be cramped trying to eat in the room.  But down at the restaurant, our kids went nuts, and continued to do so while it took about an hour for the food to come.  And this was a nice restaurant – not a friendly mom n pop place where they actually like and tolerate kids like we’re used to back home.  They did have pretty good hollandaise sauce for their eggs benedict, but my enjoyment of it was severely compromised due to the stress of the kids.  Our server kept walking by and mumbling things, and I’ll admit that our 8 month old son does make a mess when he eats, but don’t they all?  We cleaned up the best we could, but that didn’t stop the server from “stealing” our change.  That’s right, when we paid the bill, the included 14% gratuity apparently wasn’t enough for him because he failed to bring the change back.  Rather than try to track down Mr. Rude (we are SO not in Kansas anymore!), my husband took up the issue with the front desk.

Next it was time for the business meeting (the reason we came, I guess), and so Manny Jamy took the kids down to the pool while hubby and I met with the clients.  Except they were late, and while we were waiting, I began to have doubts about the baby and I being disruptive to the meeting, so I took him back to our room to put on his bathing suit so he could join his sisters in  the pool.  Just as I arrived, so did Manny Jamy with the rest of the kids, and we decided to take them for a walk outside instead.  Our hotel was on the New Jersey side, and offered a postcard view of the New York skyline:

ny-trip-march-20-23-2009-042

Even though I had never been there before, it seemed to me that there was indeed a gaping hole where the twin towers used to stand, and Jamy who had been there before confirmed this.  We watched many a garbage barge sail by, and I was surprised to find that the sea gulls in New York are quite bashful – I guess I’m used to the ones at Sea World and Marineland Canada where they’ll just swoop down and swipe the fish you buy to feed the dolphins and whales.  But it was a nice day, and our hotel offered a nice little pocket of solstice tucked away from the frenzied traffic of the city.  I wanted to kill as much time down there as possible since we were short on room in the car and my packing of toys for the hotel room had to be limited.  But my oldest was tired – she fell asleep on a bench outside – and her little brother started losing it because he also needed a nap so badly.  So we went back up to the room to wait for my husband’s meeting to be over.  Manny Jamy was nice enough to watch  the two middle girls so  that I could catch a nap with my oldest and the baby, and it was MUCH needed and MUCH appreciated.  Our 2 year old fell asleep as well, which was a good thing, but I was disappointed I couldn’t take her to be shown off to the clients when my husband called – she is awfully cute!  So anyway, I went down to meet the clients, and they were extremely nice.    They have a baby who was born just 9 days before my son, and she was really adorable!  I was disappointed – if I had known they had brought the baby, I would have stayed at the meeting and let the babies play together!  Oh, well, at this point, I was just glad to be done with work and ecstatic to be well-rested so that we could go to the city and have SOME FUN!

Because we were on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, every time we wanted to go into the city, we had to wait for our hotel shuttle to take us to the ferry station, then wait for the ferry to take us across the river, and then board a Waterway bus (different from a city bus, as we later learned) to take us to our destination in the city.  Not a big deal, but by the end of the trip, it had gotten a little tiresome to add that much traveling time to get where we wanted to go.  So anyway, Saturday night, we ventured into the city to take a bus tour on one of those double-decker, open-topped buses.  On the way to the tour bus stop, we weaved our way through the massive crowd that is the Manhattan theater district on a Saturday night.  We did have a few celebrity sightings; including the actor Morgan Freeman:

ny-trip-march-20-23-2009-046

though Mr. Freeman did have the personality of a candle, as Jamy pointed out.  We also saw multiple Statues of Liberty walking around, but a few of them were getting into trouble with the police.  Now that’s something you don’t see everyday – a Statue of Liberty getting arrested – too bad I didn’t get my camera ready in time to take a picture, that would have been one for the scrapbook!  We also saw Bugs Bunny, Elmo, 2 Cookie Monsters, a walking sandwich, a naked cowboy (don’t ask), and Batman.  Except I don’t think it was the real Batman unless he’s always been African American – besides, the real Batman would have been fighting crime in Gotham City, not posing for pictures on the streets of New York.  Here is one of the Cookie Monsters – look carefully and you can see Elmo to the right:

ny-trip-march-20-23-2009-049

We got suckered by some street vendors and sampled their wares of smoked meat, hot dogs, and art.  My husband bought a caricature of our oldest daughter and a sign with our youngest daughter’s name in caligraphy, but walking around with those souvenirs was like writing “suckers” on our foreheads – we got hit up for everything after that, from purses to sunglasses to comedy show tickets.  Actually, we kind of got “had” again- when my husband bought the $5 sign for our daughter, the artist started putting a frame on it, which would have upped the price to $20.  My husband kept saying, “no frame, no frame!” but all of a sudden, the artist no longer spoke English, so he went ahead and framed it and charged us $20.  My husband did not pay him the full $20, but I know it was still more than the $5 it was supposed to have cost – oh well, you only visit New York once, at least in our case – I won’t go back, at least not with little kids!

So then we boarded our tour bus, and that was really neat, informative, and offered gorgeous views of the city at night.

ny-trip-march-20-23-2009-059

Ok, the picture obviously doesn’t do it justice, but here is my 2-year-old daughter seeing her first skyscraper:

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It was kind of chilly, and we tried moving down to the first floor of the bus, but the view did not compare with what we could see on the top, so we ended up moving upstairs again.  The city was gorgeous at night, but when we went over the Manhattan Bridge, it was so high up, it was kind of freaky!  Being on the top of the bus and looking down, you couldn’t even see the road, just the water below, and I couldn’t help but think how easy it would be to just leap over the side…  not that I would do that of course, I’m just saying.

After the bus tour, we tried to find the Waterways bus – the one that would go back to the ferry station, but we had some trouble.  We ended up sitting on  a street corner for about two hours.  We stopped a passing taxi, figuring we’d just pay the expense just to get us and the kids off the streets of New York, but we couldn’t even all fit in one taxi.  I was strongly against the idea of splitting up in any way, shape or form, so our next idea was to stop a passing horse and carriage.  While asking the very friendly Irish driver directions to the ferry bus, his horse took a gi-normous leak right there on the street, but at least the girls were momentarily entertained.  We declined the $70 horse and buggy ride, and finally the Waterways bus arrived – my husband practically jumped in front of it to stop it since the previous one had passed us by, but it worked – the bus actually picked us up!

Overall, an interesting night in New York.  And it’s not like I expected people to be overly nice.  I certainly didn’t expect it to be like my hometown, where you can’t walk down the street without strangers saying hi and you can’t walk around with kids at night without people offering you a lift.  But it was still an adjustment – every time we’d ask how to get to the Waterways bus, people would just point off in a general direction and grunt, even police.  And it was amazing to me how a family with 4 small children could set up camp on a street corner for 2 hours without one soul taking notice – I swear, we could have moved there and no one would have known nor cared.  By the end of it all, I can’t believe how sick of Times Square I was…  Oh, and I forgot to mention, while we were searching for the Waterways bus, we came across a small deli that was actually recommended  to us by our tour bus driver – Z Deli.  The place had amazing falafel and gyro sandwiches!  And their prices were reasonable, especially for New York City – no, reasonable is not even the word for them.  I’m talking $.99 slices of pizza, and the huge gyro sandwich was only $3.99!  Its only shortcoming was the lack of places to sit, but the guys who run the place went out of their way to accommodate us (in anti-New York style, it seems), letting us dine at their “internet cafe” area.

So after the “miracle bus” picked us up, took us to the ferry station, and we rode the ferry and picked up the hotel shuttle, it was very late and we were exhausted.  It exhausts me just to type out the story, as it probably exhausts the reader to absorb my excruciating details, so now’s a good time to cut this volume short – more later…

I am Legend

Posted in Movies on April 5th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I betcha you’re thinking, wow, she thinks highly of herself…  I am Legend, geez…  but no, I was just realizing how it’s been a REALLY long time since I’ve reviewed a movie!  Part of it is because we aren’t watching nearly as many, just been pretty busy lately.  With the time change, it stays light out until 8, so we like to take family walks after dinner.  By the time the kids get settled after that though, there hasn’t been any time for movies, so we’ve been watching old episodes of The Office instead…  not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s been fun, but I just haven’t seen many movies lately.  The other night, we did manage to pop in “I am Legend“, an end-of-the-world movie starring Will Smith.  It chronicles the story of the very last man on Earth (well, kinda) as he strives to find a cure for the virus that is responsible for exterminating mankind.  I said he’s kinda the last man on Earth because he co-exists with these creatures who used to be humans, until the virus turned them into creepy, maniacal, flesh-devouring beasts.  Luckily for Smith, they can only come out at night because light proves fatal to them, so he spends his days collecting samples and information to study and do experiments in his lab at night, hoping to find a cure for the virus, a virus that interestingly mutated from what humans originally believed was a cure for cancer.

The movie was entertaining, though I have to admit when I first starting watching it, I had a bit of “Doomsday” dread – see my previous post of the same name about one horrible movie – if you dare.  However, “I am Legend” ended up only sharing generic end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it characteristics with the movie “Doomsday”, thank goodness for that.  Speaking of end-of-the-world movies, the creatures in “I am Legend” also reminded me a bit of the ravaging monsters in “28 Weeks Later“, but in a genre like this, I guess it’s difficult to be entirely unique.

It might seem lonely being the last man on Earth, but Will Smith’s character does have a faithful companion, a dog named Sam.  I’m going to risk a minor spoiler here so I can tell you what I really liked about their relationship.  In a moment of weakness, Will Smith is cradling his strong dog buddy Sam, and we learn that the dog’s name is actually Samantha.  The symbolism here is very well done and notably appreciated – you’ll have to see the movie to get it, even though I probably just spoiled that part for you – oops.

Overall, as I said, it was entertaining to watch, and pretty creepy at times.  The overuse of computer animation was annoying to say the least.  There were lots of animals in the film – beasts roam the deserted shell of what’s left of New York City – but they were all computer animated.  I agree with the person who reviewed the movie on imdb.com, I can live with the animals being computer generated, but the virus-addled humanesque beasts, now THAT was BEYOND annoying!  They could be pretty scary at times, but it was probably due to the snarling noises more than the way they looked.  During most of the action scenes involving the creatures, the computer animation was horribly fake-looking and even laughable, which of course takes away from the mood of a film such as this.

If you like the mankind-is-extinct type of movies or are a Will Smith fan, I think you should see this movie.  The best parts were the scenes of him roaming a deserted New York City – those were pretty cool to see.  But if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like the hopelessness or loneliness one might feel when imagining the end of the world, not to mention watching frightening creatures unleash terror and violence, skip “I am Legend” and go for “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” instead – classic Will Smith the whole family can enjoy!

SPLASH! It’s Mr. Woodcock in Real Life

Posted in Movies on March 10th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We went kinda crazy with the movies this weekend…  We watched the 1984 classic Splash with the kids, and we also took in Mr. Woodcock and Dan in Real Life (for the adults).  Splash is a Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah movie about a mermaid who leaves the ocean to come to New York city and fall in love with Tom Hanks.  It sounds dumb, but it’s actually pretty well done and a movie with substance and heart.  The special effects of her fins aren’t bad either, considering they’re over 20 years old and most likely made without computer assistence.  Since I haven’t seen the movie since I was a kid, I was wondering this time around about how many takes it took to film the underwater scenes…  mainly the one where Daryl Hannah’s character looks on a map in a sunken ship to find where Tom Hanks lives.  Also, there’s a scene in the movie where they are trying to choose a name for the mermaid, since her name is unpronouncable in English.  They’re walking down a New York street, and Tom Hanks mutters, “where are we, Madison…” to which Daryl Hannah replies, “Madison, I like Madison.”  That was a joke in the movie at the time, that the mermaid was named after a street in New York, but nowadays, the name Madison is almost TOO popular.  We had about 4 Madisons or Maddies in a play we directed last year out of 21 kids!  Anyway, I would recommend this as a good family movie, especially for little girls.  There is actually some nudity (female rear end), and I could have done without a few of the kissing scenes, but overall, it is good family entertainment.  I wonder if it would have gotten a PG13 rating if it had come out a few years later?  I know there is a Splash Too, but judging by the lack of returning actors, I haven’t bothered to check it out.  After a quick lookup on imdb.com, I found that it got a whopping 3.0 rating with only 170 votes.  Also interesting is that Madison the mermaid in Splash Too is played by Amy Yasbeck, who is nowadays best known for being John Ritter’s widow.  She was good in her bit part in Pretty Woman, but still…  I wonder if I should bother getting it from the library for the kids?  Also in the original Splash is Eugene Levy, who plays the bad guy trying to expose the mermaid  – literally, by throwing water on her in public.  This must be one of his first movies; I think he was a relatively unknown actor back then…  Also, the late, great John Candy is hilarious as Tom Hanks’ party animal brother, and those two have great chemistry in the movie…  but on to the adult movies…  ahem, I’m talking about the movies we watched without the kids…

Mr. Woodcock is a comedy starring Billy Bob Thornton, who came no where near to reminding me of his character in Sling Blade – that’s probably why he was nominated for an Oscar for that performance.  I wasn’t expecting much from this movie, but it was actually worse than I thought.  It wasn’t horrible, and I didn’t feel like I wasted my time watching it, but it wasn’t very funny, and there wasn’t much to get from it.  For one thing, I thought they would make the Mr. Woodcock character a little more nasty.  As it turned out, he was really only nasty to little kids, which is still pretty bad, but I thought we’d catch him being nasty behind his girlfriend’s back.  Let me back up for a minute and give a plot synopsis – Mr. Woodcock is a horribly nasty gym teacher who terrorized kids so badly that a former student uses his experiences as fodder for an inspiring self-help book he wrote.  This former student returns to his hometown in Nebraska to receive the “corn key to the city” only to find that his mom is happily dating Mr. Woodcock – his childhood nemisis!  The successful author is played by Seann William Scott, whose acting I wasn’t thrilled with.  His mother was played by Susan Sarandon, and she was pretty good in the movie, given the character she had to play, who didn’t have much depth.  Like I said, I didn’t feel like I wasted my time on this movie, but I don’t know that I’d watch it again either.  It definitely wasn’t one of my favorite comedies.

Dan in Real Life is a touching comedy (just falls short of a dra-medy, I would say, not quite sad enough, thank goodness) about a columnist widower named Dan (the ever-awesome Steve Carell) who is raising 3 daughters alone.  The girls seem to be about 16, 14, and 9.  For starters, let’s just say that this movie had me dreading my life in about 10 years – the movie depicted teenage girls as frightening challenges for parents!  Anyway, Dan takes his girls to visit their extended family for a few days, and when he first arrives, he really falls for the ‘perfect woman’.  He gets to his mom and dad’s house, and wouldn’t you know it, the ‘perfect woman’ turns out to be his brother’s girlfriend.  After a few days of torture…  well, I’ll let you watch the movie, I don’t want to spoil anything for you.  It’s a really cute romantic comedy.  If you have sons, you will be amused at Dan’s daughters’ antics.  If you have daughters, be afraid, be very afraid!  On another note, Steve Carell has beaten out Tom Hanks as my favorite actor – he is just amazing and so fun to watch, whether it’s in the Office, Evan Almighty, or Dan in Real Life.  His characters never remind me of each other, and it’s not like they’re mentally impaired like Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade or Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump – sometimes those types of characters are actually easier to play since they have a very specific demeanor about them.  Steve Carell plays ‘regular’ guys, yet he gives them such depth and character that it really helps draw you into the movie and / or show.  I never watched the tv show Get Smart, but with Steve Carell playing Maxwell Smart in the big screen version of Get Smart due this summer, you can bet I plan on checking it out!  Dan in Real Life is funny and heartwarming, and it makes me look forward to having huge family get-together weekends at our house someday with the kids and their spouses and kids…  providing we survive the teenage years of course – that remains to be seen!