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Reel Mama: April 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012

OVER: The Hunger Games Trilogy Book Giveaway

Mom Does Reviews, Powered By Mom, Mom Blog Society and Mommy and Baby Reviews and Giveaways have come together to give book lovers and movie fans alike the fantastic opportunity to win the new trilogy edition of the The Hunger Games, a hardcover book set! One winner will receive all three of Suzanne Collins best-selling books: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. These books are page-turning, and will keep readers up all night. The movie was riveting, but an outstanding film requires outstanding source material. You’ll discover how it all began when you dive into these books. I hope you win, dear reader. May the odds be ever in your favor!

Giveaway will start on April 30 and end May 29, 2012!

Open to US and Canada readers!

The Hunger Games

Catching Fire

Mocking Jay

Thank you to the following blogs for hosting

The Hunger Games Giveaway!

Read more »

Thursday, April 26, 2012

National Princess Week: why I’m okay with it

This week, you, or better yet, your daughter, are invited to be a princess.  Disney and Target have inaugurated National Princess Week, and they want their customers to “create a princess experience” by filling up their shopping carts with the tenth anniversary edition of The Princess Diaries, as well as a vast array of themed merchandise featuring Disney’s other beloved princess characters. 
I did my part, and it looks like other customers have as well.  I snagged the last available princess swimsuit in the entire store for my two-year-old daughter.  It had been well hidden behind the star-spangled red, white, and blue swimwear and the teal suit with the flamenco flair.  I also bought a pair of Disney princess sunglasses to match the swimsuit, entirely unaware that I was helping to celebrate the latest commercial holiday, something created just for little girls.
We’ve all heard of the Mommy Wars.  Close to the beating heart of this war is the debate over the Disney princesses: whether or not they are harming our daughters because they instill the belief that they need to look beautiful all the time and be rescued rather than thinking and acting for themselves in a tough situation.  Some even argue that the media and commercial princess blitz is nothing short of a War on Women of sorts, an attempt to roll back the last fifty years or more of women’s progress.  Admittedly sometimes the Disney princesses are too passive in some of the story books in print right now, but the princesses on film merit a closer look.  
The earlier Disney princesses are a part of film history.  Snow White, for instance, needs to be taken in context.  The story can be appreciated, and with older girls it can be discussed in modern terms.  I find that the new Disney princesses, beginning with Belle in Beauty and the Beast and continuing with Tiana in The Princess and the Frog and Repunzel in Tangled, are much more progressive.  Belle is a lover of books; Tiana is an entrepreneur who works her fanny off to open a restaurant, and Repunzel is a dreamer with wanderlust and courage.  These are admirable qualities I'd like to foster in my daughter.  I want to help her be literate, resourceful, and courageous.
I believe in choosing my battles as the parent of a toddler, and the one I allow my daughter to win almost every time is about what she is going to wear.  The Disney princess swimsuit was her choice out of a lineup that included the patriotic and the teal numbers.  I let her wear her Disney princess nightgown during the day on occasion, and routinely acquiesce when she insists on her usual uniform: a tutu.  She’ll be out of the frilly pink stuff, the glitter and the sequins, and into jeans and a t-shirt soon enough.  With her choice of clothing, she is asserting her identity and her independence, and she’s having the time of her life.
The princesses are members of a large cast of characters my daughter embraces.  Elmo, Buzz Lightyear and Woody, Diego and Dora, Nemo, Sam-I-Am, not to mention countless non-character-specific toys and dolls, often excite her more than the princesses.  The presence of the princesses is not offensive to me: I see them as part of the fun of childhood.  In fact, as a movie lover,  I often enjoy watching the Disney classics almost as much as my daughter.
I understand that the marketing of princess paraphernalia has reached a fever pitch, but I believe our daughters will remain unharmed by it.  Whether a girl grows up happy, confident, and well adjusted can hardly be determined by her exposure to these fairy tale characters alone.  So much more goes into it.  I loved the Disney princesses growing up, and the experience didn't hurt me.  As an adult I’m not afraid to take risks. I’m comfortable in my own skin.  I’ve never felt the need to be rescued.  I don’t feel that my psyche was shaped by my enjoyment of the Disney princesses or wearing tutus.
I don’t see anything wrong with allowing my daughter to play with or wear something that makes her smile on a daily basis as long as it’s within reason.  Julie Andrews, the spokesperson for National Princess Week, says it’s about letting your “inner sparkle shine.”  I think that’s something everyone needs to do.    

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Ready, Steady, Shoot": How to think like a filmmaker and make better home movies (Book Review)

We’ve all had to do it: sit bored to tears through those painfully long home videos at family get-togethers, feeling jolted by the shaky, out of focus, and poorly framed images and wondering when they are going to end.  Under these conditions, the videographer is bound to lose her audience, even if it includes her spouse, parent, or child.  The result is often glazed eyes and poorly concealed yawns.
Enter renowned Oscar-nominated filmmaker and cinematographer Roger Sherman with The Guide to Great Home Video: Ready, Steady, Shoot, a brilliant new pocket guide for helping makers of home movies think like professional filmmakers, whether documenting a sporting event, family vacation, or ballet recital. Written in a style that is both funny and accessible, Sherman's manual teaches how to avoid the common mistakes amateur videographers make. Never again miss those magic moments worthy of being caught on camera due to poor sound or the wrong camera location in relation to the action.  
Sherman emphasizes that his techniques can be applied regardless of the device used, whether an iPhone, a camcorder, a Flip cam, or a professional video camera.  Suggestions such as avoiding zooming in at all costs will revolutionize thinking about making home movies. Best of all, his approach requires no editing.
With a little planning, even the most inexperienced videographer can create home movies that are fun to watch and pleasant to look at, complete with engaging storytelling and techniques used by the pros.
Parents, this book is for you.  Read it as soon as possible, and the next time you hit “record,” you’ll be documenting a memory in a style that your family will want to watch again and again for years to come.  

More details and a video blog introduction to the manual can be found on Roger's website:  The book can be purchased for $7.99 on by clicking here.  The e-book version is available here.

Oscar-nominated filmmaker and cinematographer Roger Sherman shares his filmmaking secrets in Ready, Steady, Shoot

Watch for my interview with Roger next week!  We'll learn more about his movies, his company Florentine Films, and partnership with renowned documentarian Ken Burns.  He might even share a few helpful hints for making great films!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"The Three Stooges": Oddball homage hits and misses

The double eye poke.  The tweaks on the nose. The hair pulling.  The noggin knocking.  All accompanied by loud and hilarious sound effects originating in the era of silent film.  If you grew up watching The Three Stooges like I did, then the violent yet somehow heartwarming antics of this brainless yet well-meaning trio are probably close to your heart.  To fall in love with the Farrelly brothers’ 2012 take on The Three Stooges, you need to be a die-hard fan and then some.
The new Stooges movie is a series of silly, disjointed skits loosely strung together in a storyline that could have provided a brilliant showcase for some classic slapstick antics with a clever plot, but instead is messy, oddly amateurish, and a little bizarre.  In it the Stooges find themselves needing to raise $830,000 to save the orphanage where they grew up.  Right away they find work: a sexy gold digger (Sofía Vergara) tricks them into becoming assassins, convincing them to end her husband’s life as a mercy killing.  Even the official 20th Century Fox synopsis calls this plot development “oddball.”  The Stooges louse things up as always, and through a strange turn of events, Moe winds up as the newest cast member of Jersey Shore.
The Three Stooges as a Hollywood feature film had more false starts than one of Moe’s harebrained business schemes, and it shows.  The result is a faint shadow of the Farrelly brothers’ hysterical Dumb and Dumber.  The combined star power of Sean Hayes as Larry, Will Sasso as Curly and Jim Diamantopoulos as Moe can’t equal that of one Jim Carrey, who at one point was slated to star in a Stooges film, the script for which never made it out of the operating room.   The new Stooges are three gifted TV comedians, but their talents are straightjacketed to a certain extent:  these actors weren’t given free reign to craft original, zany performance like Carrey in several Farrelly classics, but instead were required to deliver exacting impersonations of the original Stooges (Larry Fine, Moe Howard, and Curly Howard) as the Stooge fan base would demand.  
Will Sasso has built his career on impersonations, and viewers will remember him as one of the cast members of Mad TV, where he brilliantly captured the behavioral nuances in at times unflattering but hilarious portrayals of famous folks such as Bill Clinton and Kenny Rodgers.  It’s no surprise that his Curly is spot on.  He’s perfect for the part.  Sean Hayes may not be a household name, but everyone knows him as “just Jack” from Will and Grace.  Not perhaps the most obvious choice for Larry, but this one was probably the most difficult to cast.  Hayes’ strength is timing rather than impersonations, but he struggles to bring sympathy and heart to the role.  Diamantopoulos has appeared in countless roles as memorable supporting characters in TV sitcoms.  While his relentless squinting and mugging are a dead ringer for Moe, his by-the-book impersonation seems to stifle his charisma and spontaneity.
The real star of the show is the knuckle-headed violence, and the new trio have mastered the slapstick to a tee.  It is absolutely flawless, as seen on an extra-extended and laugh-out-loud funny scene cycling through a seemingly endless series of slaps, punches and pokes capped with the delicious sounds of honking, clanging and pounding.  A few more of these antics would have done the movie good.  I could have done without the scene where the Stooges arm themselves with peeing babies and get soaked having the equivalent of a water gun fight.  Such tasteless and cheap grabs for laughs don’t do justice to the Stooges’ original comedy and lack the heart and humor of moments in the Farrelly brothers' better films, such as Cameron Diaz using sperm as mousse in Something About Mary.
The supporting cast of the Stooges is a mixed bag.  The child actors portraying the orphans were directed to deliver saccharine, over-the-top performances for maximum cheese effect.  The notable exception to this is Skyler Gisondo as young Moe.  He brings phenomenal charisma to the role and eerily captures the essence of the Stooges’ ringleader.  He easily steals every scene he’s in and is neck and neck with Sasso for best performance in the movie.
Jane Lynch of Glee fame plays a humorless nun at the orphanage: talk about a waste of her talent.  I wouldn’t have minded seeing her take a few jabs at the knuckleheaded trio. Jennifer Hudson also plays a nun, but again, her talent remains hidden beneath her habit, only to emerge when she inexplicably bursts into a spiritual when Moe, Larry, and Curly leave the orphanage.  Sofía Vergara is the Latin firecracker with the gravity-defying physique: not a stretch for her, but it’s always fun to watch.
The film could have benefitted from a sly rendition of the Stooges as anachronisms in the new millennium, similar to the 1990s update of The Brady Bunch.  The anachronisms played for humor are significantly watered down in this movie.  The Farrelly Brothers’ “don’t try this at home” lecture at the end takes political correctness to new heights.  It undermines the entire film, but doubtlessly was insisted upon by the legal department.  I’m sure Moe, Curly, and Larry are looking down from the great beyond in between bashing each other with their harps and choking each other with their halos.  They are in disbelief that our society has become so litigious that their humor has to be explained away to the point where the filmmakers of this homage practically apologize for it.
Reel Mama’s rating: 10 and up.  The Farrelly’s forte really is comedy for teens and immature adults.  They took a stab at kids’ film and missed.  The assassin plot in which the Stooges plan to smother their victim with a pillow is too dark for a PG film.  Some of the humor, such as an object getting caught in Sofía’s ample cleavage and the aforementioned diaper-less baby boy pee party, seem more appropriate for a PG-13 movie.  There is of course a lot of slapstick violence.  There’s no language to speak of, except for juvenile words like “wuss.”  The appearance of the Jersey Shore cast could raise some eyebrows, but seeing them take the classic Stooges beating from Moe is a riot.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Trash of the Titans: Paying customers will feel the Wrath with this sequel

If only this giant hand
could have stopped this movie from being made...

I wanted to like Wrath of the Titans.  Hollywood has been having a good year when it comes to movies geared to young adults, and I hoped the lucky streak could continue.  Going into it, the movie would seem to have it all: world class thespians, money apparently no object in its creation, and some of the most riveting story lines in all of Greek mythology.  Unfortunately, all of these prodigious gifts from the filmmaking gods were squandered, and the result is that Wrath of the Titans can best be described in one word: lame.
Some would argue that the first red flag should have been that it’s a sequel, but the franchise factor is certainly not the best indicator of a film’s quality.  There are some great sequels out there.  The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King comes to mind. This movie might have liked to be The Lord of the Rings, but it’s as if the filmmakers thought about it, then said, “Nah, too much work.”  Some sequels, such as this one, shouldn’t be made if they are going to be made badly.  Paying customers will feel the wrath because the filmmakers had so little regard for both the film and the audience.
As the story begins, the Greek demigod Perseus (Sam Worthington) has retired after his exploits in Clash of the Titans to a quiet life as a fisherman with his son.  His father the god Zeus (Liam Neeson), looking every bit the homeless man, visits him, and explains that the Greek gods are dying, losing their immortality because humans have stopped praying to them.  The Titans, the fearsome precursors to the gods, were imprisoned eons before in the underworld when Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon defeated them.  Now the Titans are gaining power as the Olympian gods lose theirs, and the only one with the capability to stop them is Perseus, himself half mortal.  
Perseus reluctantly suits up to fight for the gods, joining forces with Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) and another demigod, his dreadlocked half-brother Argenor (Toby Kebbell), who looks like he’d be much more comfortable running a pot clinic on Venice Beach.  Meanwhile Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Ares (Edgar Ramirez), brother and son of Zeus respectively, betray Zeus by offering him in sacrifice to Kronos, the leader of the Titans who also happens to be Zeus’ and Hades’ father.  
The Greeks took family dysfunction to epic proportions in their myths, and keeping track of the nasty things the gods, humans, and demigods did to each other can make your head spin.  It seems fitting therefore that perennial Hollywood bad guy Fiennes yet again dons the fantasy villain robe, probably a Voldemort cast-off.  He wears villain roles like a second skin, but with this performance it seems like it’s wearing thin for him, and maybe he’s starting to get bored.  Fiennes is Oscar-nominated, and when he’s directed well, evil incarnate shines in the eyes of the villains he plays.  Not here.  The audience can only wince as one of the great Shakespearean actors of our time mutters such cringe-worthy gems as “Let’s have some fun” to Zeus after he has an absolutely inexplicable change of heart and decides to help his brother defeat Kronos.  Cue the bad special effects.

Ralph Fiennes bored out of his mind as the villain Hades:
he must have gotten one hell of a pay check

As he loses his powers Liam Neeson as Zeus is made up to resemble a Santa-Clause impersonation of Dumbledor and Gandalph the Grey.  Neeson is also Oscar-nominated, and it’s impossible for him not to invest himself in each role he performs with every ounce of his being.  He even manages a tear rolling down his cheek, but his heartfelt efforts are a lone cry in the wilderness of a cast and creative team who just don’t seem to care.  His talents are wasted here, unfortunately, and so are those of Rosamund Pike.  She has delivered admirable performances in other films such as the stellar An Education.  Her role is fairly significant and allows her to be more than eye candy, but unfortunately she has no chemistry with Sam Worthington.  Her big moment is a speech about humans having hope, but she sounds more like she’s stumping for Obama.  
The screenplay is a litany of Screenwriting 101 “don’t”s, right down to Perseus explaining to Zeus that his son is his reason for living and fighting.  Show, don’t tell, people.  As for Sam Worthington, he has a resume a mile long, but he remains as stony-faced throughout this film as a marble bust of the hero he portrays.
By the end, I was praying to the filmmaking gods, or anyone who would listen, really: please don’t let there be another sequel to this steaming pile of Zeus’ excrement.  
But who am I kidding?

Reel Mama's rating: Appropriate for 13 and up.  While there isn't any strong language or sexual content to worry about, the film's violence is very intense, though not gory or bloody.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Extreme couponing can equal extreme savings: Here's how

Before last week, I never understood extreme couponing nor the shrieking hysteria of the couponers on reality shows after scoring the deal of the century.  I was too busy for couponing, and quite frankly keeping up with all those little slips of paper with an expiration date really stressed me out.  I was tired of finding crumpled unused coupons on the floorboard of my car.  
Then I decided to give it a chance, and I ended up walking out of the grocery store last week having saved a grand total of $140 on my bill.  I felt euphoric the whole day, and I suddenly understood how one could become addicted to bargain hunting.  Our lives are hectic, even chaotic, but with a little time and planning you too can enjoy the amazing deals discovered by the frugal experts.  If I can become an extreme couponer, so can you, and you’ll start experiencing a good kind of sticker shock:  the kind that comes from getting a great bargain.

1. First you have to round up the coupons.  These are available from a variety of sources, but you have to know where to look. 
Coupons are available online for printing through Google searches, store websites, and even banner advertisements on parenting websites.
Junk mail isn't junk! The grocery store circulars containing all the deals arrive weekly.  Review them and circle the items you would like to buy.  You may have to go to more than one store to get the best deals.  Store coupons are also often available for clipping, usually toward the back of the circular, so don’t forget to check the last few pages.  Coupon circulars also arrive with the “junk mail,” so be sure to flip through the circulars before recycling them.
Take the Sunday paper.  The coupon packets are tucked in the middle of the newspaper with the store circulars.  These are often duplicates of the coupons that arrive in your mailbox.  This can be helpful if you want to purchase larger quantities of an item, especially essentials like detergent or diapers.  The savings more than covers the cost of the newspaper. Coupons are also printed along with your receipt at the end of your grocery trip, so keep an eye on these. Stores will often print a $10-off coupon for use on your next shopping trip if you spend a certain minimum.
2.  Next, you’ll need to organize all those coupons.  It can be overwhelming at first, but a mini file from an office supply store can help.  Some are labeled by month, and you can organize them according to the coupon’s expiration date.  Devise a system that works for you so that the coupons you need are easily accessible once you are in the store.
3.  Combine store coupons with manufacturer’s coupons to maximize your savings.
4.  Use the power of “BOGO”: buy one, get one free!  This is equivalent to getting an item at a 50% discount.  Combine this with coupons, and you’ll wind up with some deals that are almost too good to be true.
5.  Take advantage of a grocery store's three- and four-day sales, which usually include the weekend.  This is often when the higher ticket items, such as deli meats and cheeses, organic produce, steak, and seafood, are discounted.  Don’t miss it.  Timing is everything.
6.  Create a menu for the week, then shop for the items you need.  Try to stick to what’s on sale and plan around that.  Extreme couponing trips are great for stocking up on staples, such as meat, frozen veggies and bread (yes, it can be frozen to make it last longer, and there’s no noticeable difference to the taste), that you can stash in the freezer or canned goods and pasta for the pantry.
At the end of your couponing adventure, your fridge will be full of goodies galore, and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment, perhaps even euphoria, at all the money you saved that can be used elsewhere in your family’s budget.

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chippendales and sexy Pop Tarts

I was taken aback on Easter when a fellow mom saw my daughter playing with her Alvin the Chipmunk toy.  “Is that one of the Chippendales?” she asked.  I was so taken aback by her question, I stuttered an affirmative response, not wanting to explain in front of our kids that the Chippendales, the famous male strippers who perform seven days a week in Vegas to houses packed with tipsy bachelorettes, are very distinct from the Chipmunks, the trio of cute if annoying singing rodents.

Which got me to thinking about the appropriateness of products and media marketed to our kids these days.  Exhibit A: The Family Guy in syndication in the time slot when kids are getting home from school.  The Family Guy has its moments of genius, true, but it also has plenty more moments of jaw-dropping envelope-pushing.  The shock-and-awe wince factor is ridiculous.  Not stuff kids need to be watching. 

Exhibit B: Pop Tarts. No, not Bratz Dolls, those pop nasty party girl dolls who look like Barbie dropped out of high school so she could focus on impressing club bouncers.  The other kind of Pop Tart, the edible ones.  Everyone’s favorite toastable cardboard with frosting has “Wildlicious” new flavors being rolled out in a new ad set to Right Said Fred’s Gen X anthem “I’m Too Sexy.” 

To me, this is so wrong said Fred.  Pop Tarts are “wildlicious”?  Are we sure we’re not talking about a Girls Gone Wild video?  These are breakfast pastries marketed to little kids!  How are they so sexy it hurts?

Kellogg's is trying to sell to the Gen X parents and our notorious sense of nostalgia for the 1990s.  Right song, perhaps, but wrong product. In the ad, little creatures who look like walking sperm climb over the colorful new Pop Tarts, eat them, get doused in color, and then parade up a runway.  It's like a bad trip from the 1960s that made a wrong turn into the 1990s, and somehow wound up in 2012.

Watch the commercial at and tell me (or them!) what you think.

Eat too many of those wildlicious Pop Tarts and you might not be too sexy for your shirt, because it won’t fit anymore.  Are they trying to "sex up" the child obesity problem?

What the hell are they thinking?

This week at the movies (4/14 - 4/20)

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet star in Titanic
in their first major Hollywood roles

There are a number of films worth checking out in theaters this weekend. Most of them are family friendly, so check out my reviews to decide which ones you and your kids will enjoy.  A double feature might be in order.  Have a cinema-tastic weekend, and see you at the movies!

Now in theaters

Titanic in 3D: A rare chance to see a recent classic on the big screen the way its creator James Cameron intended.  It’s the story of the doomed maiden voyage of the Titanic, and the two young lovers (Kate Winslet as young Rose and Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack) from vastly different worlds who create a scandal almost as big as the ship itself when they fall in love.  Romance, exquisite special effects, and dialogue that’s anachronistic and sentimental but somehow feels so right.  You’ll be as awestruck and inspired by this film as you were at the first viewing.
The Hunger Games: Based on the wildly popular young adult trilogy, it’s the perfect recipe for good fun at the movies, grrrl style.  Engrossing from start to finish, The Hunger Games is a sendup of America’s obsession with reality TV set in what’s left of the United States, which has been divided into districts after a brutal civil war. For their own entertainment, the powers-that-be demand that each district send two young people to compete in a fight to the death called the Hunger Games.  Jennifer Lawrence shines as Katniss Everdeen, the film’s heroine. 

Mirror Mirror: Inspired by the Princess Bride, this update of the classic Snow White fairy tale is a broad costume comedy featuring plenty of slapstick, anachronistic crackling quips, and pleasantly modern interpretations of familiar characters.  The film stars Lily Collins as a liberated Snow, who doesn’t need rescuing, thank you very much.  Julia Roberts stars as the evil queen, who can’t wait to sink her cougar claws into the prince’s hairy chest.
The Lorax: A fun and flashy movie with an environmentally conscious social message.  While the movie has a non-stop pace and sometimes gets lost in wacky chase scenes, the visuals are dazzling, and 3D (Tree-D) serves the world of Dr. Seuss quite well. Danny DeVito as the Lorax and Betty White as Granny offer standout performances.
The Secret World of Arrietty: A reflective, visually stunning film that moves at its own pace yet touches the heart and delights with humor thanks to the comical voice stylings of Amy Poehler and Carol Burnett.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

TITANIC in 3D a pleasure cruise

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet
star as lovers from two different worlds in Titanic

If you want to get an education in Hollywood history, Titanic should be required viewing.  But should you fork over the extra four bucks to see it in 3-D?  My take on it is yes.  The chance to see a film of titanic importance on the big screen in a theater near you doesn’t come along every day.  I would argue to run to the theater even if the film weren’t in 3-D.  This movie does not belong on your iPhone.  It demands to be seen the way writer-director James Cameron intended: larger than life.  It’s the story of the doomed maiden voyage of the Titanic, and the two young lovers (Kate Winslet as young Rose and Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack) from vastly different worlds who create a scandal almost as big as the ship itself when they fall in love.
After fifteen years Titanic can be classified as a classic, at least in my book, and for fans of the film in its original release, it’s a joy to relive the epic moments you might know by heart.  Your shock and terror at witnessing the harrowing climax won’t have diminished.  For those new to the film, you are in for a treat, and I’m delighted that a new generation will have a chance to experience the movie that revolutionized filmmaking and Hollywood and won 11 Oscars.  This is storytelling on such a grand scale, it really isn’t overstating the case to say that they don’t make them like this anymore.
In fact, the film would definitely be made differently if it were undertaken today, and 3D would be a critical component of the production’s special effects.  For the re-release, Cameron converted the film to 3D, which gives the movie a very different look than if it had been shot in 3D in the first place, as was his most recent blockbuster Avatar.  The original movie has been enhanced with 3D effects, but not transformed.  In many cases the 3D effects are subtle, and I was relieved to see that Cameron avoided the temptation to inundate Titanic with unnecessary “in-your-face” 3D effects that would have distracted both from the storytelling and the masterful artistic accomplishments of the original.  
The film can be watched almost comfortably without the 3D glasses, but viewers will be delighted that they are wearing the glasses at the most surprising moments.  With the introduction of young Rose, when her famous purple silk hat proceeds her out of the luxury vintage car, the 3D effect is quite pleasing.  Similarly, when Jack stands at the ship’s prow for the first time, the dolphin popping in and out of the water is another sweet moment enhanced by 3D.  I was extremely pleased with the close-ups of Leo in 3D:  I just wanted more of them.  Overall, 3D enriches Titanic.  The big moments are just as striking as they were in the original, if not a little more impressive, especially the moving scene at sunset when Jack helps Rose “fly” at the ship’s prow.
It’s so enjoyable to meet somewhat younger versions of Kate and Leo in their first major roles.  It seems obvious now that they were cast for their deep wells of talent.  At the time their potential had hardly been tapped, but now the actors have both achieved almost veteran status, and many believe that they are the best of their generation.  Kate has gone on to garner six Academy Award nominations and a win for Best Actress in The Reader, among a slew of other accolades.  Leo too has been nominated for an Oscar multiple times, and though he has yet to win, Razzie nomination  for The Beach aside, his time will come. 
Is Titanic a guilty pleasure? Yes, but you know what they say: if you don’t feel guilty, it wasn’t very good.

Tip: The movie is 3 hours and 15 minutes. Don’t order the gallon-size drink prior to showtime. 
Reel Mama’s rating: Ages 14 and up.  The film has a surprising amount of profanity, including one f-bomb: some of it unnecessary, some of it totally understandable (I’d make use of a few choice expletives too if I were locked in the Titanic’s bowels as the freezing water poured in).  I didn’t know a film could receive a PG13 rating with the f-bomb except in very rare cases (see my recent essay about Bully), but now we know it can.
The scenes of the Titanic sinking definitely are too intense for under 12.
There is some nudity and a steamy love scene, and there is also the issue of Rose defying her family.  These don’t feel gratuitous and are in fact important parts of the story.  The movie will impress most teens, and a discussion about Titanic’s place in history, and Titanic the movie’s place in Hollywood history, will enrich them all the more.

Click here for a piece about my meeting Titanic star Gloria Stuart several years ago at a celebration of her work.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

National No Housework Day, the most awesome holiday of the year

Saturday was national No Housework Day, and what was I doing?  The dishes, of course.  Now they tell me!
Attention, Congress: we need to make this holiday legal.  But first let’s move it from a Saturday to another weekday, so banks can close and postal workers can have a day off from delivering mail in weather so crazy only field news reporters in thigh high wading boots dare to tread in it.  To make it happen, we need an organizing committee, and I’m the president.
If you need to get an idea of what national No Housework Day would look like, just come to my house on any given day of the week.  I have so many dust bunnies you’d think I’m trying to breed them to save them from extinction.  This is how NOT to have the house when your mother-in-law visits.  This is life with three pets, a toddler, a husband in med school, and me.  
Might as well face it: I’m addicted to blog, so waxing the floors and scrubbing charred pizza off the bottom of my oven stay on the list of things that will happen when my fantasy comes true and Mary Poppins decides to move in with us.  True, Mary Poppins doesn’t do floors exactly but she does find the “element of fun” in “every job that must be done.” She snaps her fingers and the bed makes itself, the toys put themselves away (but not before doing a clever dance), the clothes hang themselves up, and it’s time to go out dancing on the rooftops of London.  How cool is that?
But since Mary Poppins won’t return my phone calls, I’ll just have to settle for national No Housework Day if I need a break from Dustbusting kitty litter until I can’t see straight.  I have a vision: every woman, and man if he so chooses, should get a mani pedi on this day.  I can think of a lot of people who deserve to put their feet up.  On national No Housework Day, we should take a lesson from my fluffy fur ball (aka five million dust bunnies waiting to happen) and do exactly nothing.

My cat Goldeneye doing what he does best

Friday, April 6, 2012

Reel Mama got star struck with Titanic's Gloria Stuart

It's the fifteenth anniversary of Titanic, and having the movie back in theaters brings back a favorite personal memory of mine: meeting Titanic star Gloria Stuart at the Women in Film (WIF) Foundation Legacy Series.

Lauren Ivy Chiong having the time of her life
with Titanic star Gloria Stuart

I have to admit to getting star struck with the great actress of Hollywood’s Golden Age, who experienced a resurgence in popularity when she played Old Rose.
The WIF Legacy series interviews women who leave an indelible mark on Hollywood.  They have been leaders in the industry and serve as an inspiration for all women currently working in Hollywood, and for young women who wish to pursue a career in film.  These special interviews, including Gloria Stuart’s, are archived at UCLA and are available to the public for viewing with an appointment.  Click here for more information.
Enjoy seeing Titanic in 3-D at the movies this weekend, and when you watch Gloria’s performance, remember that she is one of the most important trailblazers Hollywood has ever seen!

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Iconic director Tamar Simon Hoffs, the Bangles' Susanna Hoffs, and actor Paul Howard rocked the airwaves on "Showbiz View"

I was thrilled to be a part of the "Showbiz View" broadcast this past week, when red carpet radio host extraordinaire Le Rad interviewed internationally renowned writer-director-producer Tamar Simon Hoffs, and her daughter Susanna Hoffs, lead singer of the Bangles, about their film Stony Island, which is currently being re-released.

I had the pleasure of being guest host on the broadcast in the second segment, when I interviewed my friend, actor-writer-producer Paul Howard.  I also reviewed Tamar's children's film "Rock and Read," and one of the greatest children's films ever made, The Black Stallion.

You can listen to an MP3 of the broadcast here:

Just click on the 4/4/12 date to listen to the latest broadcast.  

I also recommend that you check out the broadcasts from the previous two weeks. In the inaugural broadcast on 3/21/12 we discussed the Oscars, I reviewed children's films, and much more.  The 3/28/12 broadcast was also wonderful: we discussed The Hunger Games and interviewed Tamar about her body of work.  Check it out!

Actor-writer-producer Paul Howard
discussed his latest film "sauce" on Showbiz View

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Is the Easter Bunny too creepy for Easter?

I thought that Santa was bad when it comes to scaring my daughter, but the Easter Bunny is worse--much worse.  I have to admit I’ve never been terribly fond of the Easter Bunny who waits at the mall to be photographed with children.  Maybe it’s the crooked ears or the buck teeth, but there’s something about mall Easter Bunny that creeps me out on a primal level.  For my daughter, however, it goes much deeper.  It’s sheer terror.   An unfamiliar and imposing figure covered in fur is enough to freak out a two-year-old and turn her world upside down.

Early onset: It's starting to dawn on Leilani 
that the Easter Bunny is present at our local egg hunt

Our friendly neighborhood Easter Bunny is hulking, 
but is one of the less creepy "wascally wabbits" you can find

I first discovered this colossal bunny phobia last week when I took Leilani to a spring play date at a local dance studio.  The children were already in the studio dancing with the Easter Bunny when we arrived.  Leilani took one look at the Easter Bunny, then ran as fast as her tiny legs could carry her to the front door, screaming “I want to go home!” with tears streaming down her face.  I felt terrible.  I had intended to give my daughter a fun early Easter celebration.  Instead, I inadvertently brought her face-to-face with her worst nightmare.  Her phobia of giant costumed characters seems to be getting worse, and the prospect of Disneyland seems like something we may have to put off until she’s eighteen.

 The bunny in other forms is just fine, 
especially small and stuffed or chocolate

I think my own fear of the mall Easter Bunny harkens back to the 1980 classic horror film The Shining.  There is one scene at the climax when Shelley Duvall’s character is racing through the mansion, and she comes across one of the most spine-chilling and unsettling images in the entire movie: two party goers are together in a hotel room, and one of them is in a furry brown costume and animal mask.  The party goer is probably meant to be a bear--the mask has fangs and a snout--but the ears are just long enough to push it into rabbit territory.  The party goers stare straight at the viewer, and as the soundtrack becomes more frenzied--syncopated percussion punctuated with loud clanging on metal--I defy anyone not to feel the hairs rising on the back of their necks.

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