UP! (2009) Sunday, Jan 31 2010 

I went round to a friends house the other evening for a board games and movie night (don’t laugh, totally the best kind of evening EVER!) and the movie we ended up watching was UP!, of Disney/Pixar fame. Two of my friends had already watched it, and had been raving about it ever since, so I was mildly excited to finally see it.

What ended up happening was I found a movie that easily slotted into my top five fave flicks (alliteration at it’s best 😛 )!

UP! is an animated movie that at first glance, seems like a kids movie. But it is so much more than that. Hilarious, witty and smart, but also unexpectedly raw and heartfelt. The story follows Carl Fredrickson through his shy boyhood, as he dreams of being an adventurer like his hero Charles Munts, who claims to have found The Lost Land somewhere in South America. This place has been labeled a myth by the scientific community at large, but Carl clings to hope of its existence. He meets the rambunctious neighborhood girl Ellie, their shared love of The Lost Land growing as they do. They grow up and marry, live a happy but fairly uneventful life together.

At the ripe old age of 78, Mr Fredrickson finds himself alone after his beloved wife has passed. The world he knew has changed, his demeanor is crotchety and negative, and all he wants to do is keep living his days out in the house he and his wife were happy in. Unfortunately, a developer is trying to get him to move, and when he plonks one of the workers on the head with his cane, he gets told by the courts he has to go into a retirement home. So, what is a man to do?

Well, as an ex helium balloon salesman, he attaches thousands of balloons to his house and floats off of course! He decides to keep the promise he had always made to his wife – to find their magical place they always believed existed. Unfortunately, Mr Fredrickson doesn’t discover his accidental stowaway until its too late! Russell, an eight year old boy who his trying to get his scout badge by helping the elderly, was on the front porch when the house took to the sky and now the two of them are stuck together on an adventure that leads to The Lost Land.

I won’t ruin the plot by divulging the rest of the story line in detail, but once the two unlikely adventurers arrive in The Lost land, hilarity ensues. You meet Kevin, a female bird that has yet to be discovered by the rest of the world and who is being hunted by Charles Munts, Mr Fredricksons lifetime hero. Theres Dug, one of Munts’ dogs that comes equipped with a specialized collar fitted by his owner that allows him to speak. Dugs lines made me laugh so hard I cried!

Dug: “My master made me this collar. He is a good and smart master and he made me this collar so that I may speak. Squirrel!” [looks to distance for a few seconds] “My master is good and smart.”

Dug: “I was hiding under your porch because I love you.”

Dug: “Hey, I know a joke! A squirrel walks up to a tree and says, “I forgot to store acorns for the winter and now I am dead.” Ha! It is funny because the squirrel gets dead.”

This movie was a delightful and well crafted mix of comedy and heart, so good in fact, that I think Disney has outdone itself. This is definitely going to be one of the few movies I want to own myself, as it is JUST THAT GOOD! I recommend that you watch it, either with the kids, with your significant other or even with friends. I think the audience for this movie is the entire human race!

Watch the trailer here.

UP! Movie Poster

Henry, Russell, Dug and Mr Fredrickson

Dug In The Cone Of Shame



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New Years at Omaha Sunday, Jan 3 2010 

So normally I blog about objects, activities, movies etc but I really wanted to write a small piece about my New Years in Omaha with my very good friends. 

The past year has been quite tough for me – for a lot of reasons. But this holiday absolutely wiped the slate clean and made me really look forward to 2010. I was surrounded by my best friends, friends from the past, and people that (by the end of the holiday) became new friends. We sunbathed on the white sand, letting the crystal blue water lap at our toes as the sun turned us a gorgeous red (whoops, pass the sunblock!) and I looked on as those wonderful people zoomed around on a jetski, dragging behind a water-biscuit carrying screaming victims (think flailing limbs and massive fails into the water!).

We played card games like Skip-Bo, Bastard and Last Card. We played board games like Pictionary and Trivial Pursuit. We played Buzz on the Playstation, and watched Girls Of The Playboy Mansion on TV. We ate bacon, eggs and pancakes for breakfast – then had BBQ’s, pizza’s, pasta’s and roasts for dinner. Copious amounts of alcohol was drunk, peels of laughter were constantly emanating from our overcrowded deck (covered in sandy towels, blow up chairs and sports gear) and the time for bed was often 4 A.M. 

The days were long and filled with sun, sports, swimming and the reading of good books. The nights were longer and filled with all the silly games we could think of, all the while singing along to music, discussing relationships, life and everything in between. 

In my life, I have never been part of such an eclectic group. People from different walks of life, with different beliefs and goals, but it just clicked. And I came away feeling so very grateful to know these wonderful, fun, interesting people. Thank you guys.

Happy New Year everyone. 

Omaha Beach

Painting of Omaha Beach

2009… Farewell… R.I.P… Lesson Learnt Saturday, Dec 26 2009 

What did 2009 mean to you? What stories caught your attention, what songs buzzed around in your brain like a fly whacked on speed? Everyone had their own personal ups and downs, of course. For me, it was (is) recovering from a pretty bad car accident. Breaking up with a boyfriend of over five years (my choice, but none the less hard), coping with the backlash of the recession and trying to move past my friends death that happened at the end of 2008. Sorry to be a downer there, but 2009 has been ROUGH! I’m looking forward to a fresh beginning in 2010, but before the year rolled over, I thought I’d blog about the events and happenings that caught my attention in ’09. 

First off, the recession. It’s almost become it’s own entity, hasn’t it? People talk about it like it’s a living, breathing thing with actions and no conscience. People have lost their jobs, homes, security. Businesses have closed down, new graduates have struggled to find work. It has been a terribly hard year for everyone, but we battled through and its only up from here!

The Recession Trend

 

The Chris Brown/Rihanna debacle where Chris attacked Ri-Ri while he was driving and she was in the passenger seat. This was brutal and alarming – you don’t think such horrendous behavior happens between celebrity couples. It has highlighted how violence can permeate into anyone’s life, including those who seemingly “have it all”. I won’t go into the he said, she said stuff – google it if you want details. All I want to say is that after it happened, the world was awash with sympathy for the Umbrella singer, and Chris continues to be shunned. Abusing someone is never okay, and I’m just glad that Chris was given the dunce hat on this one as opposed to being excused. I hope a lot of people out there learned from this situation, at the very least. Rihanna will continue to make great music, and seems to have become stronger despite all of the negative media attention and hype. Chris played the “I don’t know what happened, it just wasn’t me” card, but at least owned up to what he did. He didn’t blame her. I just hope he can learn to harness his temper so that the next girl doesn’t cop it too, and I also pray that his fans don’t take direction from his actions and let themselves lash out too. Sad to say, it happens when people are impressionable. This was a big story in 2009 – and I look forward to seeing more and more celebs being pulled up on their behavior in the coming years. I don’t care about sex, drugs and alcohol. That’s personal, it’s not my business. But when it’s something like violence, I do not believe they should get away with it because of their fame. Step one. 

Chris Brown and Rihanna

 

President Barack Obama had a bit of a full on year. He was elected 44th president (and first African-American one to boot, whoop whoop!)  in November of 08′, but was inaugurated as president on January 20, 2009. Along with that, he also won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. What a year, and what a man! The news has been saturated with everything Obama has done, from his decisions regarding Iraq to his economical plans and strategies to beat the global recession. I finally have faith in the US government with him at the reins. 

Barack Obama

 

The release of the movie The Twilight Saga: New Moon (based on Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling books) was a big event in my eyes! My friends and I, all avid fans of both the books and the first flick, spent most of the year discussing the up and coming release. Edward or Jacob? Could they get across the sorrow of New Moon, the book, into the movie? Could Taylor Lautner pull off Jacobs physical change? Would the movie work with Edward leaving at the beginning? Ahhh, it’s the big questions in life! You may laugh at me, but I was merely one of MILLIONS waiting for the same thing. A bit of Vampire/Werewolf action – oh yeah! 

New Moon Movie Poster

 

On a sad note, many celebrities died in 2009. A scarily high amount, and a lot of them far too young. This struck a chord with me, and I do believe, with the world. So R.I.P. to the following greats:

* David Carridine – 08/12/1936 to 03/06/2009. An actor, well known for many roles over the years. One of his most recent magic roles was Bill in the Kill Bill movies. He was found dead in Thailand from, err, accidental asphyxiation. Enough said. 

* Edward (Ted) Kennedy – 22/02/1932 – 25/08/2009. A United States Senator and an integral part of the Kennedy family. In 2008 he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, and died from the ensuing complications in 2009. 

* Farrah Fawcett  – 02/02/1947 to 25/06/2009. An actress known most famously for her role in Charlie’s Angels. Died from the complications of rectal cancer. 

* Frank McCourt – 19/08/1930 to 19/07/2009. Teacher and famous author of the books Angela’s Ashes and Teacher Man. He died from metastatic melanoma.

* Jade Goody – 05/06/1981 to 22/03/2009. TV personality and “Queen” of reality television in the UK. Died tragically of cervical cancer. 

* Jett Travolta – 13/04/1992 to 02/01/2009. Jett wasn’t a celebrity, but his parents were (John Travolta and Kelly Preston.) This poor kid captured the heart of the world when he died. It made everyone think, if it could happen to a celebrities child it could happen to mine. So sad. His cause of death was an epileptic seizure

* Michael Jackson – 29/08/1958 to 25/06/2009. This was probably the most famous death of the year, and one that truly stopped people in their tracks. MJ was possibly the most talented performer ever to live (okay, I’m a bit biased, so sue me) and was known world-wide for his amazing music and bizarre lifestyle. He died in his home from an overdose of drugs… It has yet to be determined if this was the fault of his Doctor or just the result of his chosen lifestyle. Either way, we lost an amazing talent. 

* Natasha Richardson – 11/05/1963 to 18/03/2009. An actress in movies like The Parent Trap and Maid In Manhattan. Died far too young due to a skiiing accident which resulted in a fatal epidural hematoma.

* Patrick Swayze – 18/08/1952 to 14/09/2009. Actor and dancer – famous mostly for his roles in Dirty Dancing, Ghost and Point Break. Died of pancreatic cancer. 

* Stephen Gately – 17/ 03/1976 to 10/10/2009. Singer with Irish boyband Boyzone. Died from a pulmonary oedema.

* Walter Cronkite – 04/11/1916 to 17/07/2009. Famous US journalist. Died from cerebrovascular disease.

* Brittany Murphy – 10/11/1977 to 20/12/2009. An actress famous for rom-com roles in such movies as Clueless and Just Married. Her autopsy results have yet to be released at the time of me writing this, but she was found collapsed in her bathroom from suspected heart complications/failure. So young, so sad.

There were more, but these are the people that passed that truly made their mark on the world (in my eyes, at the very least.) R.I.P. to you all, you amazing, talented, wicked bunch. 

R.I.P.

 

The Swine Flu Pandemic. Now, that lasted through a huge chunk of 2009! A lot of people poo-poo’d it, but at the end of the day, it was a flu that could take down someone with a compromised immune system. The young, the old, the already sick. But it certainly caused an uproar – but with less panic than the Bird Flu (remember that?) At the very least, I hope it taught people to wash their blimmin’ hands. (Pet peeve, don’t mind me!) 

Swine Flu

 

The Tiger Woods debacle. The car accident, the cheating, the media circus surrounding it. I kind of feel sorry for the guy… I don’t believe in cheating, and his poor wife for having to go through it all, but imagine how it must feel to be them! With the media glare watching their every move – how humiliating. Over a dozen women have stepped forward to say Tiger cheated on his wife with them, and at this point (to be fair), there’s no proof that these allegations are all true. I’d say most of these “ladies” (scoff) are lying just to get into the headlines and on tv. But Tiger has admitted to transgressions in his statement here and most recently, his wife Elin (a model, so why Tiger, WHY?!) has walked out on their marriage with the kids in tow. Looks like this sports star has a rough path ahead of him… But at the end of the day, he is human. If everyone could forgive the rapscallion President Clinton for his “transgressions”, I’m sure we can all move past judging Tiger and leave him and his family to sort themselves out in private. This has been such a major story for 2009 – sad huh?

The Woods Family

 

This year has been a major year for book to screen adaptations. Of course this is a concept that has been around for ages, and has been gaining real momentum in the past ten years or so. But I found 2009 to be quite heavy with it. The movies that came out in ’09 that were originally books are:

* The Twilight Saga: New Moon – The sequel to the movie Twilight about two star-crossed lovers, Bella anordinary human girl, and Edward, a tortured vampire. Another dimension is added with Jacob, a werewolf who is also in love with Bella. Based on the series by Stephenie Meyer.

* The Lovely Bones – Directed by Peter Jackson and written by the amazing Alice Sebold. This is about a young girl who is raped and murdered, and how she watches over her family as they fall apart over her death. She is stuck in the “in between”, having not quite passed over and yet not on earth. Her Father strives to find her murderer, and becomes consumed by this. Heart wrenching.

* My Sisters Keeper – A wonderful movie made from the amazing book by Jodi Picoult. It’s about a beautiful teenaged girl who has spent her entire life dying of cancer, kept alive only due to her mothers absolute refusal to give up. When her daughter is diagnosed with cancer, the mother chooses to give birth to a genetically specified child so that she can harvest blood and stem cells etc from this healthy child to save her dying daughter. Heartbreaking, thought provoking and makes you appreciate your family. 

* Up In The Air – Originally a novel by Walter Kirn, this movie has yet to be released in NZ, but has been (just!) in the US. This is about a corporate downsizer and his travels. Where he goes, who he meets and what he learns.

* Invictus – A movie directed by the great Clint Eastwood and based on a book called Playing the Enemy, by John Carlin. A true story about newly elected Nelson Mandela, and how he joined with the captain of the South African rugby team in the wake of the apartheid to push forward his country, leading them to the 1995 world cup championships. 

* Julie & Julia – A movie about the chef Julia Child, based on the book about her experience with Julia’s cooking by Julie Powell. 

* Where The Wild Things Are – A childrens book by Maurice Sendak that has been adapted for the big screen, about a boy called Max who is naughty and sent to bed early, and creates his own world where there are monsters and he is king. 

* Precious – You may have heard of it, because it has Oprah Winfrey’s fingerprints all over it. The movie is based on the book that was originally titled Push (later renamed Precious) by the author Sapphire. The story follows a young african american girl called Precious, who is overweight, illiterate and living in poor-town Harlem. She becomes pregnant after being raped by her own father, and struggles with the help of her teacher to create a real life for herself and her child. 

* Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince – This is the sixth book/movie in the multi-million dollar franchise that J.K. Rowling wrote as a struggling, single mother. Harry Potter is a teenage wizard who attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with his friends and has to face many challenges along the way. (Usually evil ones)

* The Time Travelers Wife – This novel by Audrey Niffenegger has sold so many copies worldwide that it’s not surprising that it was turned into a movie. About a man who spontaneously time-travels against his own will, and the complications it brings to the absolute love of his life, his wife.

* Angels & Demons – The sequel to The Di Vinci Code, another very smart book by Dan Brown turned into a bit of an action flick for the big screen. 

* Confessions Of A shopaholic – Based on a series of light-hearted books by author Sophie Kinsella, this was easily adapted into a Rom-Com type flick.

* The Road – A book written by Cormac McCarthy, about a father and sons relationship evolving as they are left alive while most of the world is killed. A post-apocalyptic tale about survival. 

* Coraline – A children’s book by Neil Gaiman, turned into a movie, about a little girl called Coraline who finds a way into an alternate world where all her dreams come true. It’s a tale of “be careful what you wish for”.

Honestly, that’s not even all of them, just a few of my picks! Obviously they have caught on to the idea that you just can’t beat a good book – or perhaps they are just relying on the pre-existing fan base? Hmmm…

Adaptations: Books to Movies

 

Another thing that stuck out in 2009 for me was the iPhone. I know it wasn’t released in 2009, but it has become stronger and stronger in popularity, especially in the past year. From applications, to music, to using your iPhone to update your Twitter/Facebook account, the iPhone is this years must have. 

The iPhone

 

2009 also brought forward the brilliant Lady Gaga. She truly became an artist of her own standing this year, and I kind of see her as the Madonna of the naughties. Weird, funky, catchy, freaky – she is an odd act, but one no one can get enough of! I have even caught my Mum singing along to her – which has to mean she is saturating the market because my Mother only listens to the oldies stations!

Lady Gaga

Michael Jackson found the uber-talented, Australian born guitarist Orianthi before he died – he even had her set up as his lead guitarist for “This Is It”. She released an album this year due to her sudden popularlity – and it’s okay, she can sing, meh – but OMG her guitar riffs are orgasmic! (I can say that, it’s my blog!) So check her out on iTunes or YouTube – WOW! Best newcomer for 2009, even if it’s for her instrument artistry. 

Orianthi

So, 2009 has been insane for celebs having babies and calling them Sunday-Roast or whatever. But I don’t want to do a run through of that because I don’t have another 12 hours to list them all. So I’m going to list another popular hobby this year for the rich and famous: Breaking up. Doesn’t matter how sexy you are, or how much money you have, there is always someone willing to leave you. Bless.

So here are a list of some of the most famous of golden couples that have decided to walk (according to magazines and gossip websites – I take it all with a grain of salt myself!)

* Kim Kardashian & Reggie Bush

* Joe Jonas & Camilla Belle (Awww… Poor kids)

* Kim Cattrall & Alan Wyse

* Jessica Simpson & Tony Romo

* Jon & Kate Gosselin (Thank god, for the kids sake, sheesh)

* Billy Joel & Katie Lee (Might be the age difference… ?)

* Megan Fox & Brian Austin Green

* Paris Hilton & Doug Reinhardt

* Miley Cyrus & Justin Gaston

* Mel Gibson & Robyn Moore 

* Lindsay Lohan & Samantha Ronson (Not that they ever publicly declared they were together either *shrugs*)

* John Mayer & Jennifer Aniston (Poor Jen 😦 )

* Holly Madison & Criss Angel

* Hayden Panettiere & Milo Ventimiglia

* David Cook & Kimberly Caldwell

* Patricia Arquette & Thomas Jane

There are sooo many breakups it’s not funny. And yet, a lot of the big ones stayed together… Tom and Katie, Brad and Angelina, Posh and Becks… Maybe it only happens when your are only so-so famous? PFFT, yeah right. 🙂

Heartbreak

 

One of the really sickening events in New Zealand in 2009 was the Clayton Weatherston case. He was sentenced this year for the murder of his former girlfriend, the beautiful and intelligent Sophie Elliott. He stabbed poor Sophie 216 times in her own bedroom while Sophie’s mother tried to break down the locked door. No one believed his plea of self defense (that she had tried to stab him with scissors first – but even if she had, why retaliate by stabbing her that many times? Who goes somewhere with a knife? One word: Premeditated) and he was sentenced to 18 years non-parole. This was another case that highlighted the culture of brutality between some couples, or at least the potential of it. As awful as it sounds, I hope he rots.

Clayton & Sophie

So thats the things (or as much as I can be bothered to write about) that shaped my year… Events and news that touched me, angered me, stayed with me. What was yours?

Avatar Movie (2009) Thursday, Dec 24 2009 

So I went and saw this last night with one of my best friends at her very excited insistence. She had already seen it and was over the moon at being able to go again. So I went in with high hopes. I walked out going “Oh my god, that was one of the best movies EVER!”

The movie is set in the future, and though there is talk of Earth, everything is set either on spaceships or on the planet Pandora. Jake Sully, a paraplegic former marine, has taken part in a science experiment in the place of his dead twin brother. He is part of a team of humans that have created “Avatars”, bodies like the native Na’vi people of Pandora (big, blue, amazonian). He can transfer into this new body and out of his broken human one. In the beginning he is protection for the rest of the team, going down with them to Pandora in his new body (and enjoying being able to walk!) and scoffing as they take plant samples and talk of learning the ways of the natives. When he is suddenly separated from his group due to the horrifically scary animals of this planet, he is saved by one of the natives, a female called Neytiri. When the essence of the planet gives Neytiri a sign that he is important, she takes him back to her clan, where he is forced to pass through trials to prove he can be one of them.

Whenever he goes to sleep as a Na’vi he wakes back up in his human body (and vice versa), and during these times you find out more and more about the true reason humans are on Pandora. Underneath the Na’vi tribes home is a precious metal that Earth people want and believe they have every right to take. Jake’s team of scientists know this is inevitable, and are trying to get the Na’vi to move so that they don’t get hurt. The military side of it has stated that if they don’t move in three months they will be executed. At first Jake isn’t that fazed by this, as he thinks he can make them move and with the promise of his legs being fixed, he selfishly believes he is doing the right thing. 

As Jake learns more about the cultural and spiritual aspects of the Na’vi’s world, as well as falling in love with Neytiri, he finds himself. He reevaluates what is important, what is right and good. He learns a strength he never had before, and as a character becomes more animated in his Avatar body than as a human being. I won’t give everything away, but this movie HAS IT ALL! Romance, action, humour, fantastic CGI (and I mean, bloody amazing! Go Weta Productions!), heart and even an environmental message that really makes you think. I kind of thought this was a super modern day Pocahontas, where two worlds meet and the individual who thinks they are more civilised learns that really, they are not. This movie has a beautiful feeling to it, backed up by great acting and amazing, fantastic, wonderful CGI and effects like none I have ever witnessed before.

All in all, I’d give this movie a 10 out of 10. I’m most certainly going to be buying it on DVD when it’s released. I can’t stop raving about it – and neither can anyone I know thats seen it! Please, take my advice. Go see it. Don’t think, boy flick yuck. Science fiction, no thanks. Animated? Bleh. No. Go into it with new eyes. It’s just great – and now I think I prefer blue boys! Hehe.

Avatar The Movie (2009)

Neytiri - Daughter of the clan leaders