All posts by Kelly

Marvel Marathon, Day 2

The Backstory:  So I decided I wanted to see Captain America: Civil War 3.  The problem: I’ve only seen the first Avengers (I liked it, but didn’t remember it that well) and was worried that I would be lost as all hell seeing CA3.  The solution: A binge.  I consulted the internet, which said that I would be ok if I just saw Captain America, the first Avengers, the second Captain America and the second Avengers.  (I decided to add the first Iron Man, because Tony Stark.)

This is day two.

CAPTAIN AMERICA 2:

Okay, this is my new favorite of the Marvel superhero movies. It’s insanely good and there’s a lot of intrigue. I also really like Black Widow, who we got to know a little better this time around. I wish we had seen more of the other Avengers (especially Tony Stark and Bruce Banner) but sure. I’m getting really excited for CA3. 

AVENGERS 2:

I had been warned that this was not as good as the first Avengers and that’s an understatement. Even so, I really enjoyed it, primarily because I love Bruce Banner and Natasha/Black Widow. (Can we get origin movies for them soon, PLEASE?) I cannot wait for the next one and I do plan to watch the Thor and Ant-Man movies soon. 

Marvel Marathon, Day 1

The Backstory:  So I decided I wanted to see Captain America: Civil War 3.  The problem: I’ve only seen the first Avengers (I liked it, but didn’t remember it that well) and was worried that I would be lost as all hell seeing CA3.  The solution: A binge.  I consulted the internet, which said that I would be ok if I just saw Captain America, the first Avengers, the second Captain America and the second Avengers.  (I decided to add the first Iron Man, because Tony Stark and because it’s one of the AFI’s 10 best from 2008.)

This is day one.

CAPTAIN AMERICA:

I had been warned going in that this wasn’t very good and so my expectations were very low. Like Mamma Mia low. :) And I ended up really enjoying this (due in no small part to one Agent Carter). It’s really fun and while yeah, it’s no Batman, it’s pretty solid. 

IRON MAN:

This was so much better than Captain America. I think part of it is the fact that Tony Stark is a better, more interesting character…but most of it is the fact that Robert Downey Jr. is a great actor who also makes basically every movie he’s in much more fun. I like my superheroes smart and sarcastic AND good. 

AVENGERS:

I had seen this one before and it’s just ridiculously fun. I hope they do a Hulk movie with Mark Ruffalo (I know the other two—with Eric Bana and Edward Norton—didn’t do well but I think one with him would. It’s great to see everyone together and I’m excited to watch two more movies tomorrow. 

One For the Murphys

Finished One For the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Twelve-year-old Carley Connors can take a lot. Growing up in Las Vegas with her fun-loving mother, she’s learned to be tough. But she never expected a betrayal that would land her in a foster care. When she’s placed with the Murphys, a lively family with three boys, she’s blindsided. Do happy families really exist? Carley knows she could never belong in their world, so she keeps her distance.

It’s easy to stay suspicious of Daniel, the brother who is almost her age and is resentful she’s there. But Mrs. Murphy makes her feel heard and seen for the first time, and the two younger boys seem determined to work their way into her heart. Before she knows it, Carley is protected the boys from a neighborhood bully and even teaching Daniel how to play basketball. Then just when she’s feeling like she could truly be one of the Murphys, news from her mother shakes her world.”

Oh, you guys, I love this book.  I’m going to try and do it justice, but since I’m pretty sure I’m just going to sound like a crazy person, just go read it.

It reminded me a lot of The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson.  Both books deal with girls who want to be with their moms but who are instead put in foster homes.  And both are really, really tough girls who don’t take shit from anyone.

And both will break your heart.

I’ll admit it—I was a mess for the end of this book, especially the last chapter.  It’s really good but also really hard.  So be prepared.  But so, so worth it.

Highly recommended.

Inside Out

Why I Picked Inside Out: It’s one of the 10 best movies from 2015 and I am really not great on kid movies.

Seen before? No

Would I recommend? Yes

Okay, first, let me say how awesome it is to see (okay, HEAR) Phyllis Smith, who played Phyllis on The Office! She plays Sadness and her voice is so perfectly suited to that without it being kind of annoying (think Moaning Myrtle).  She’s sad but not whiny.

The cast of this is seriously amazing, btw.  It’s got Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling and Louis Black and they are all perfect in their respective roles.

I really enjoyed this movie and may be willing to rethink my stance on kid movies.  (I also really liked Zootopia.)

Shug

Finished Shug by Jenny Han.

Summary (from Goodreads):

SHUG

is clever and brave and true (on the inside, anyway). And she’s about to become your new best friend.

Annemarie Wilcox, or Shug as her family calls her, is beginning to think there’s nothing worse than being twelve. She’s too tall, too freckled, and way too flat-chested. Shug is sure that there’s not one good or amazing thing about her. And now she has to start junior high, where the friends she counts most dear aren’t acting so dear anymore — especially Mark, the boy she’s known her whole life through. Life is growing up all around her, and all Shug wants is for things to be like they used to be. How is a person supposed to prepare for what happens tomorrow when there’s just no figuring out today?”

This is a seriously amazing book.  It reminds me a lot of old-school Judy Blume, and Shug (or Annemarie) is a worthy successor to my beloved Margaret.

All Annemarie wants is for everything to stay the same, but things are changing all around her.  Her sister and her best friend have both gotten boyfriends, and so she feels like she’s being left behind.  And she has feelings for her best guy friend, Mark, except he doesn’t seem to like her that way…or any way, really; he’s been ditching her a lot lately to hang with his guy friends.

Things are made even worse by the fact that her dad is gone almost all the time, her mom clearly has a drinking problem and probably some undiagnosed depression issues and her sister is reacting to this by staying gone as much as possible.  Annemarie seems to be holding everything together by herself, and that’s a lot for a 12-year-old to deal with.

This is a fantastic book.  Highly recommended.

Kramer vs. Kramer

Why I picked Kramer vs. Kramer: it won best picture and is one of the AFI’s 10 best courtroom movies.

Have I seen it before? Yes.

Would I recommend? Absolutely.

Oh, you guys.  I’d seen this movie a few years ago and I remembered liking it and I remembered crying at the end, but I didn’t realize just how emotionally devastating this book would be.  Part of it is due to the fact that I read Her Again, and there’s so much behind the scenes stuff that makes this even more intense.

It’s about a couple who gets divorced and the kid ends up staying with the dad (Dustin Hoffman) instead of the mom (Meryl Streep), who basically checks out.  It’s complete chaos at first; he has no idea how in the world to be a dad, and Billy is a good kid but he’s only five or six years old.

It doesn’t take too long for him to become a good dad, though…and eighteen months later, Joanna comes back and she wants custody of Billy.

The last few scenes (custody trial through the end of the movie left me absolutely gutted) and this is such an amazing movie.

The interesting thing though is that Dustin Hoffman apparently went full-on Method which would be fine except that he was seemingly determined to make Meryl Streep do it, too.  Her fiance had just died of cancer, and he kept bringing that up to get a more emotional performance from her.  (Even though she was apparently like, STOP THIS NOW.)

Her Again

Finished Her Again by Michael Schulman.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A portrait of a woman, an era, and a profession: the first thoroughly researched biography of Meryl Streep—the “Iron Lady” of acting, nominated for nineteen Oscars and winner of three—that explores her beginnings as a young woman of the 1970s grappling with love, feminism, and her astonishing talent.

In 1975 Meryl Streep, a promising young graduate of the Yale School of Drama, was finding her place in the New York theater scene. Burning with talent and ambition, she was like dozens of aspiring actors of the time—a twenty-something beauty who rode her bike everywhere, kept a diary, napped before performances, and stayed out late “talking about acting with actors in actors’ bars.” Yet Meryl stood apart from her peers. In her first season in New York, she won attention-getting parts in back-to-back Broadway plays, a Tony Award nomination, and two roles in Shakespeare in the Park productions. Even then, people said, “Her. Again.”

Her Again is an intimate look at the artistic coming-of-age of the greatest actress of her generation, from the homecoming float at her suburban New Jersey high school, through her early days on the stage at Vassar College and the Yale School of Drama during its golden years, to her star-making roles in The Deer Hunter, Manhattan, and Kramer vs. Kramer. New Yorker contributor Michael Schulman brings into focus Meryl’s heady rise to stardom on the New York stage; her passionate, tragically short-lived love affair with fellow actor John Cazale; her marriage to sculptor Don Gummer; and her evolution as a young woman of the 1970s wrestling with changing ideas of feminism, marriage, love, and sacrifice.

Featuring eight pages of black-and-white photos, this captivating story of the making of one of the most revered artistic careers of our time reveals a gifted young woman coming into her extraordinary talents at a time of immense transformation, offering a rare glimpse into the life of the actress long before she became an icon.”

This book made watching Kramer vs. Kramer almost unbearably emotional (see my review of that tomorrow for more) and I think it’s always nice to be able to get a more thorough picture of a good movie.

As the synopsis says, this book doesn’t cover her whole career (or her childhood).  It’s basically a little of high school, a lot more of college and then her career through Kramer vs. Kramer.  Because of that, we get a really in-depth portrayal of Meryl Streep right as she’s on the cusp of becoming MERYL STREEP.

I’m not sure if this book is for everyone, but if you’re a fan of hers (and who isn’t, really? She’s a phenomenal actress and I don’t think many would argue that she’s the best actress working today) it’s required reading.

Recommended.

Krampus

Why I picked Krampus:  I wanted something funny and, despite the fact that this is not likely to show up on Movie Week, I thought this would fit the bill nicely.

Have I seen it before? No

Would I recommend it? Yes? But only to someone with a really twisted sense of humor.

Easily the best part of this movie is the casting.  It’s solid throughout but it’s helmed by Toni Collette and Adam Scott, two of my favorites.

It’s sort of the anti-holiday movie, but one that shows Christmas as it actually is, with everyone stressed out and kind of snapping at each other.  (I refuse to believe that’s just my family’s Christmas.)

So the family’s youngest kid, Max, throws a little bit of a tantrum and rips up his letter to Santa…and that basically brings Krampus to town.  (Krampus is the dark version of St. Nick and, as the German grandma who knows all about it says, he doesn’t come to give—he comes to take.)

And so yeah, that guy Krampus? Kind of a jerk.

(But it’s still pretty funny.)

A Change of Pace

So as you may have heard if you are my friend on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, I’m planning on trying out for movie week of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Last year, the Baltimore tryout was the first Friday in June.  It’s now late April, and the fact that I haven’t really trained that hard is starting to stress me out.  So I’ve adjusted my April and May reading schedule to add some movie posts.  I’m going to watch stuff from a variety of genres—some I haven’t seen before and some that I just haven’t seen in a while.  I’m going to try and focus on award-winners and AFI movies, but that won’t be everything.  And you know me, there’s going to be some horror movies in there, too. :)

I’ll talk about the movie, as well as why I watched it and maybe some interesting things about it.

There will still be a lot of book talk here, but I hope you stick around for the movie chats, too.  And if you have any movie trivia I should know, please leave me a comment.

Like my cinematic idol, Robert “Rocky” Balboa, I hope to go the distance.

Fish in a Tree

Finished Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The author of the beloved One for the Murphys gives readers an emotionally-charged, uplifting novel that will speak to anyone who’s ever thought there was something wrong with them because they didn’t fit in.

“Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”

Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions.  She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.”

I absolutely loved this book.  It’s clever and heartbreaking and shows just how much a great teacher can change your life.

Ally sees herself as dumb because she can’t read or write very well.  (But she doesn’t realize how talented she is in other areas or just how smart you have to be in order to convince the entire world, pretty much, that you can read when you can’t.)

And then her new teacher, Mr. Daniels, takes over the classroom and he sees everything that Ally is trying to keep hidden. And best of all, he figures out how to help her without making it obvious that she needs help.

This book is absolutely charming.

Highly recommended.