Monday, May 26, 2008


I haven't been lured to the movie theater lately, so I've been catching up on new release DVDs, Indies, and Foreign Films. Here's a few I've seen this month:

I’m having trouble finding words for this film review. It was a crowd favorite during the annual award shows. I’m way behind in watching it. I saw an interview with the author on Oprah during the pre-Oscar buzz, so although I thought the film topic was one I could skip, I was intrigued by what the writer had to say and decided to take a peek. I loved Ellen Page, the leading actress, who was absolutely spot on playing the lead character (who reminds me very much of the writer herself), but couldn’t help feeling despite the clever dialog and great hits of teen jargon, the story lacked content. The show was a lot slow—about the pace of Napoleon Dynamite. Having said all this, I would have to agree with the 2008 Oscar voters and say this was probably the best pick for original screenplay of the year and worthy of that award. Unfortunately, I can’t say this is one to watch.

The Kite Runner
A touching must see. This is the most full-bodied film I’ve seen in a while. The film embraces a wonderful story of childhood friendship, family, honor, betrayal, and redemption. Although set in Taliban ravaged Afghanistan, location and war-torn conditions take a back seat to the enlightening message. Based on the novel, the author clearly worked along side director Marc Forster (who also directed Finding Neverland--one of my all time favorites) helping him capture this worthy story of human values to share with today’s world. This film unquestionably crosses cultural barriers and opens our hearts placing each of us among others in the common trials of mankind. This is the type of film I’m searching for in my continual hunt for the laudable films of today. As this is not a fast paced film, be sure to watch it on a movie night when you are ready to receive the message. I would place this film a bit on the ‘dark side’ which means it’s not meant for everyone, but all the same, still one to watch.

The Flying Scotsman
This short story is based on the true life of Graeme Obree, an amateur cyclist, who sets out to break the cycling world’s speed record, and in so doing becomes a local hero. This feature gives a great depiction of an athlete’s sheer determination and love for his sport. It’s an amiable account but I couldn’t help feeling significant parts of the story were missing, leaving it unfinished. A bit of the Scottish accent was tough for this American to catch. If you enjoy Indies, cycling or overcoming the odds films you would most likely enjoy watching. Overall, it’s a short film I would call a ‘one-timer’ (which means I would watch it once but probably wouldn’t rent it again—and would hesitate to recommend it to those I don’t know).

Mad Money
Although Duchess loves the leading actresses, at the risk of sounding like a harsh critic, this movie is definitely one to completely skip. Luckily, I rented this DVD from the RedBox.

The Namesake
The trailers peaked my interest in watching this movie. You know, the typical first generation immigrant boy struggling to make adjustments to the American way of life, caught between his parents and American youth. Meanwhile, the father is earning a good life for his wife and ungrateful children. It was a cute, sweet, slow film--touching at points, charming at others, giving us a brief look inside the Southeast Asian community filled with colorful beauty (by this I mean more than outside beauty). Overall, I couldn’t help feeling they were leaving out a lot of the story. It left me feeling a little empty. Rating: One to watch on a day when you’re looking for a short story and not entertainment. This movie actually makes me want to read the book. *Personal note: Just after I watched this film, we heard my In-laws (Doc and Soulmate) had finally received their referral to adopt their Chinese daughter, Katie. The name of the mother in the film is much like that of little Katie’s Chinese name—when translated means to me (not others) her life will be one “without boundaries, limitless.” I believe there will be no constraints to what little Katie will do!

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Nothing compares to a holiday weekend when it comes to making me want to live by the beach, or to be more specific, to own a house on the beach. I would even be happy with a lake house. There are lots of great lakes in the Hill Country of Texas. Plus, there’s just something about the summer kick-off season that makes me want to travel to the coasts of California, or to Florida. This brings me to the point of my blog today:

My oldest son was invited by a friend to a Florida beach town for his first official week of summer. I can’t think of a better way to create great memories with your buddies during your high school years than a road trip to a beach town. They’ll be driving most of the day-- “chillin” is what he called it when he texted me a few hours ago. I hate to spend time away from him, but the opportunity was too great for him to miss. The house is really quiet without an older brother around---and it has only been 6 hours since he left. Overall, the family left behind is looking forward to the quiet time to kick our feet up—especially his younger brother who says being home alone is like “eating a giant piece of Chili’s Paradise Pie with lots of whipped cream on top.” To which I share the following story:

Memory of the Week: Older brother, Scout (I call him ‘Scout’ because he loves scouting athletic talent, no matter what sport it is), wakes up and immediately places last nights piece of Paradise Pie in the microwave to heat up for breakfast. While the pie is in the microwave, he slips upstairs to finish a few things. Meanwhile, Pops and Kooza (nickname for my youngest son because he swears he’ll run away with Cirque du Soleil soon), stroll into the kitchen on their way out to pick up tacos, at what the boys call the local ‘taco shack,’ and are suddenly hit with a whiff of what’s cooking. They proceed to: get out a bowl plus a couple of spoons and the ice cream, slip the pie out of the microwave after the ready beep goes off, add the ice cream and slither out the side door into the hybrid for their taco journey. Down comes Scout, and yep, you guessed it, ‘WHAT?’ ‘MOM!’ ‘WHAT?’ ‘Punks!’ ‘That’s not right….’ Fifteen minutes later Pops and Kooza make it back with the tacos promptly mentioning to Scout, “You are the Master at heating up Paradise Pie to the perfect temperature.” And the chase is on….

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I don’t know exactly how many films I’ve seen. According to Netflix, I’ve reviewed a little over 400. Those are the few I’ve actually run across while being on their website. I doubt I’ve seen AFI’s 100 list, but I have certainly seen 85% of the top ten: CITIZEN KANE (#1), CASABLANCA (#2), THE GODFATHER (#3), GONE WITH THE WIND (#4), LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (#5), THE WIZARD OF OZ (#6), THE GRADUATE (#7), ON THE WATERFRONT (#8), SCHINDLER'S LIST (#9) and SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (#10). I suppose that’s one point of their list, to put together the all time favorites (which some would consider old school). I know for sure I've seen 90% of the current Netflix 'Top 100' list. (I'd hate to put a dollar amount on this summary.) The true number of films I’ve watched is probably closer to thousands over my lifetime---and hopefully there will be thousands more.

Film I will watch: Drama, comedy, love story, true story, classic, action/adventure, documentary, Indie, festival favorite, foreign with some sci-fi in the mix. Film I will not watch: horror and x-rated (or even close).

Memory of the day: It’s the last day of school for us. Summer is here. After talking about our summer plans, my youngest said this morning he expects this summer to be “complete paradise.”

Monday, May 19, 2008


“Duchess of Reel”
Embarking on a New Journey

I surveyed fellow bloggers by asking all sorts of questions to set the groundwork for my blogging adventure. Each gave me pros and cons on being the author of something many would browse. After much thought, I ultimately determined I wanted my own space to keep a journal of daily life and thoughts. In addition to daily life, my ‘hook’ would be to include the occasional review covering my hobby of movie/film watching. Hence, the ‘reel’ portion of the blog title. The ‘Duchess’ title is just for fun (there’s already a Princess in my neighborhood). I know folks who watch a whole lot more movies than I do, but I do watch my fair share (my husband thinks I watch too many). It’s the constant hunt of finding the movie that will take you away for a few hours-—like a great novel. Hopefully along the way I’ll hear about other films I should see from fellow film enthusiasts.

A fair amount of research and preparation has gone into starting my own blog. I couldn’t seem to get past the initial fear of making this thing go live but I’m working through it…

Thank you to my friend Karen for giving me the encouragement to jump in and write (she encouraged even random thoughts). Thank you to my brothers in law for giving the go ahead, why not. :)