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Christy Catherine Marshall

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October 25, 2010

My husband and I recently went to see The Social Network, and I’ve hesitated to review it because it’s rated PG-13 for a very good reason. There are some raunchy college party scenes that you don’t want your children to be exposed to — so please, don’t take your kids. As we say in our house, “It’s not appropriate.”

Aside from that warning, this is an amazing movie for parents, and it highlights a topic of extreme importance to writers, musicians, artists, and anyone with marketable ideas — that of intellectual property. Do you own your ideas? Every part of them? What if someone takes part of your idea, is a few steps ahead of you, and runs with it, becoming rich in the process? That’s what the plot of this movie centers around.

The film is based on Ben Mezrich’s book, The Accidental Billionaires, the story of how Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, became the world’s youngest billionaire at age 26. It’s directed and produced by David Fincher. When the movie begins in fall 2003, Mark (played by Jesse Eisenberg) is a sophomore at Harvard, out on a date with his girlfriend, who breaks up with him because he’s being a jerk. THE DIALOGUE IS MESMERIZING. I could watch this opening scene 50 times just because it’s so well written. (Thank you, Aaron Sorkin).

So, the dejected Mark goes back to his dorm room and starts creating a website called “FaceMash” using photos of girls from sorority houses, asking users which girl is more attractive. Within a few hours, the site gets 22,000 hits, and it gains the attention of the entire Harvard campus, including twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (played solely by the actor, Armie Hammer).

The Winkelvoss twins invite Mark to help them code a new website, Harvard Connection, that would take the prestige of the “” web address and combine it with the popularity of FaceMash. After their initial meeting and agreement, Mark sort of disappears and becomes consumed with creating his own website, which he calls “Thefacebook.” Eventually, the twins decide to sue Mark for stealing their intellectual property, and the hearing for this lawsuit becomes the modern day action of the movie. Everything else takes place in the form of flashbacks.

We sat on the edge of our seats the entire movie, not wanting to miss a word. I didn’t know anything about this lawsuit, so I didn’t know how it would turn out. Justin Timberlake, who plays Napster co-founder Sean Parker, does a great job. You really feel like Mark could have been any computer whiz kid, whose great idea exploded, got noticed by millionaire investors, and took off before he really knew what happened. It’s the American Dream, right?

If you watch this trailer, you’ll quickly grasp the film’s plot:

The whole phenomenon of Facebook is fascinating. As I write this, there are around 500 million people who have a profile on Facebook. Ironically, I’m not one of them.

Although I loved the movie, I left the theater even more thankful that I haven’t gotten involved with Facebook. It’s on my to-do list, but at the very bottom, to be honest. People ask me all the time, “How do you do all that you do and keep up with five kids?” and here’s one of my secrets: I don’t do much online social networking. At this point, most of my networking takes place at real-life school, church and sports events. Beyond that, people can find me here, if they’re really looking for me online.

But as far as the Facebook movie goes, it’s important, and I’m sure it will win awards. It says a lot about our culture today, and how the world has shrunk so that we can be in contact with anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time. I hope you’ll go see it and tell me what you think.

By: Heather Ivester in: Movies | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

August 27, 2010

We went and saw Eat Pray Love last weekend. I just had to see it, even though I haven’t read the book yet. (I’ve got it on hold at the library, so it should be coming soon.) I was so curious about this story — a woman’s year-long spiritual memoir, as she travels through Italy, India, and Indonesia. Eat Pray Love. What a great title.

The book, which came out four years ago, is a true phenomenon. It’s #1 on the New York Times bestseller list in paperback nonfiction, and it’s made the list for 180 consecutive weeks. The author, Elizabeth Gilbert, has appeared on Oprah Winfrey telling her story, and of course now it’s a blockbuster movie starring Julia Roberts.

But I went to the movie not knowing much about the book, so I confess it was a little messy and confusing for me — real life is never as neat and tidy as fiction. This movie is a woman’s true story — a very brave woman in my opinion, and I admire her for being a writer willing to share it.

The film opens showing us the glamorous life Julia Roberts/Liz Gilbert is leading: she’s a travel writer based in New York who seemingly has it all: a cute husband who’s crazy about her, a beautiful home, career success with travel assignments around the world. What more could she want?

Yet something is amiss — Liz is unhappy. Although it’s not clear in the movie, she apparently doesn’t want to have a baby. She holds her friend’s baby and asks her, “How did you know you wanted this?” and her friend shows her a box full of little baby clothes that she’s kept for years. Liz then discloses that she’s kept this same type of box … full of magazine clips about travel destinations she longs to visit. She’s confused, and so are we, the movie watchers.

Liz decides to divorce her husband, and this bothered me the whole movie. It was the first time I can remember not sympathizing with a main character. I kept wanting her to wake up and realize she’d made a mistake — but she leaves her old life behind to embark on new adventures. She has a fling with an actor, who’s not quite as tantalizing when they’re in the laundry mat, broke, folding clothes together.

So Liz decides to see the world — these three “I” countries, Italy, India, Indonesia, as she explores her inner “I” and tries to heal from the mess she’s made of her life. Here’s something else that confused me — the movie doesn’t make it clear where she gets the money to do this. There was no scene where Liz approaches her agent or editor and snags a six-figure advance (as she does in real life) to finance her travels. The whole movie I kept wondering, “How does she have enough money to do this?” But in reality, she’s been paid up front to write a book.

So it’s a little similar to the Julie and Julia story and movie, except Julie Powell wrote her year-long blog first, which got picked up by a publisher and turned into a book, then a movie. Gilbert’s book idea was sold before she left, then her travels became a book, which became a movie. OK. See, I’m making this easy for you, so you won’t be as confused as I was.

The film itself is gorgeous. I loved traveling right along with Liz/Julia as she experiences the world far from the madding crowd of New York. (And oh, you’ll want to dive head-first into that Italian pasta!) I looked around the packed theater at people of all sizes and ages, realizing most of us couldn’t afford to travel even for a week to one of these countries. Yet for less than 10 bucks, we’re getting to eat, pray, and love our way through three. Pizza and gelato in Italy, silence and prayer in India, and fresh air and romance in Bali. *sigh.*

There are many reasons for seeing a movie, and here’s one where you’ll spend your money to escape, and that’s OK. For all of us scribblers, the fun part is that Liz is writing the whole time — emails back home, journal entries, tap-tap-tap into her laptop, as she’s forming her thoughts into a book. We can relate to this.

One more confusing thing I’ll clear up: the actress Julia Roberts is 42, although the woman she’s playing was only 31 when she took off on her journey. I think that’s an important point. As I watched the film, I personally felt relieved that I’d gotten most of my traveling out of my system in my early to mid-20s before marriage.

So back to that point I made in the beginning — I couldn’t sympathize with Liz who left her husband because she was unhappy. I kept thinking — why didn’t she and her husband travel together? That seems like more fun to me. When I watched Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side, I sympathized with her the whole movie, as did everybody. Liz is a more complex character, that’s for sure.

If you want to find out more nitty-gritty details about the PG-13 rating, check out the Plugged-In review. I definitely wouldn’t take any of my kids to see it. This is a movie you go see on a girls-night-out, in my opinion. But be prepared — the ending is a surprise for those who haven’t read the book.

Which I plan to do very soon!

July 31, 2010

Ramona and Beezus opened in theaters last Friday, July 23, and we couldn’t wait to see it. I think we saw the previews for it months ago before the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie. And you KNOW what a huge Beverly Cleary fan I am! It was co-produced by Walden Media, which has an amazing track record of turning books kids love into movies.

I was overjoyed to be able to invite some of my friends and their daughters to a rated G movie. I didn’t have to worry about any questionable material. This film was so much fun! My girls love Selena Gomez, and the little girl who played Ramona, Joey King, was absolutely adorable.

If you’ve read the whole Ramona series, you’ll see how the script writers cleverly wove together scenes from several of Beverly Cleary’s books. The overall plot centers around the storyline from Ramona and Her Father, when Mr. Quimby loses his job. Throughout the movie, tension builds because Ramona is afraid they’re going to lose their house, so she’s constantly coming up with schemes to earn some money.

And of course, she gets into lots of trouble.

I thought this was a very appropriate theme for families to see together, with the shambles our American economy is still in. Many parents have been hit with job loss, like Mr. Quimby. Yet, in the movie, good things begin to happen, as Mr. Quimby spends more time with his family between job interviews, and he begins to unearth long-ago talents and desires. There’s a scene where Ramona and her dad spend an afternoon drawing together on the floor that is so full of the joys of parenting.

You can read a detailed review on Focus on the Family’s Plugged-in site. Ginnifer Goodwin, who plays Aunt Bea, and Josh Duhamel, who plays Hobart, create a wonderful romantic subplot. I promise you’ll need to bring some tissues. I left the theater with mascara streaks all over my face.

In Beverly Cleary’s interview on her 94th birthday, she does confess some reservations about Beezus and Henry sharing an on-screen crush. She says:

I wanted the film to be called Ramona Quimby or Ramona Q, because it’s about a little girl, but the movie people were very concerned about their teenage audience and made Beezus older. They included Henry, which I did not want and even had them kiss. I asked to have that scene removed and at this point I don’t know if they did. I expect to get letters saying, “It wasn’t like that in the books.” The little girl who plays Ramona is excellent. She likes my books and was eager to play the part. I’m very pleased with the cinematic Ramona.

I personally found it magical to see Ramona on the big screen. I read the books as a child, read them again to my children, and now have seen a director bring these wonderful characters to life. I remember in Beverly Cleary’s memoir, My Own Two Feet, she describes how she came up with the characters, Beezus and Ramona. She created Beezus as a friend for her main hero, Henry Huggins. And then she thought she’d better give Beezus a sibling, so one day she heard a neighbor call out, “Ramona.” And she thought that was a good name. This took place around 1950.

Ah … and the rest is history.

Go see the movie. Enjoy it. But then go to your library or bookstore and get copies of all the books. Read them aloud as a family — and have FUN!

July 21, 2010

We’ve eaten at IHOP a couple of times this summer after dropping off one or more of our kids at camp. I think it’s sort of becoming a tradition for us — a good hot plate of pancakes seems to settle my stomach from worrying my kids will survive a week out in the wild. (Plus, kids eat FREE at IHOP, so it’s cheaper for us to eat there than at McDonald’s.)

Well, all over the place we’ve seen these little yellow creatures popping up. I discovered these are called minions, and yes, someone’s fabulous marketing idea worked. Our waitress told our kids the drink special was “Minionade.”

“What’s Minionade?” I had to ask.

“It’s strawberry lemonade with candy sprinkles on top” she explained, with a wink. Irresistible to the under-10 crowd.

So we became initiated into the world of minions. I have to confess I don’t watch TV very often, so if you’ve seen lots of commercials for these little guys, you’ll wonder why it took me so long.

OK! I got bitten by the minion bug and decided to go see what all the fuss was about in the animated film, Despicable Me. It opened in theaters July 9, produced by Universal Studios and Illumination Entertainment.

I enjoyed this movie, and I really love the core message. The theme is similar to what happened when the Grinch tried to steal Christmas — except in this case, it’s a bad dude named Gru who’s trying to steal the moon (to prove himself to Vector, another bad guy who stole the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt).

But in order to steal the moon, he needs a shrink ray, and Vector nabbed it from him. He decides to adopt three adorable orphans from “Miss Hattie’s Home for Girls” hoping they’ll be able to use their sweetness and innocence to win him what he needs. See, he’s rotten, isn’t he? As bad as the Grinch.

Yet something unexpected happens, and this is what makes it such a great movie for parents. He begins to fall in love with these little girls. He takes them to ballet class, and the mothers all swoon over him, having no idea what a villain he is.

Eventually, he discovers the girls’ Swan Lake ballet recital is the EXACT same day he’s planning on stealing the moon, with the help of his mighty team of minions (who are just so cute). Can’t every parent relate to the call of career versus the desire to spend time with family?

What’s a mean ol’ Gru to do?

I laughed a lot in this movie, and I also cannot BELIEVE I shed a few tears. There’s a scene where the Gru writes his own bedtime story because he’s tired of the trite little book the girls want to hear every night (which most of us can relate to!) It was so sweet. I also enjoyed hearing the voice of our beloved Julie Andrews, who played the Gru’s mom.

So, I’m reviewing “Despicable Me” here to tell you it’s a fun summer film with a good heart, and I want to let the Hollywood people know we love movies like this — reminding us the moon isn’t worth capturing if it costs us our family.

Some themes are truly universal.

P.S. Don’t skip out on the credits — there are all kinds of surprises!

By: Heather Ivester in: Family,Movies | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

July 2, 2010

On a hot summer day, there are few things more relaxing than sitting in a cool, air-conditioned theater. So, after reading Thomas McKenzie’s One Minute Review of The Karate Kid over at the Rabbit Room, we decided to go check it out.

We loved it!

It was filmed in Beijing, and the photography was beautiful. At several points, the scenery took my breath away, especially seeing it on a big screen. The Karate Kid stars Jaden Smith, son of actor Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith, who also produced the movie. His teacher is played by Jackie Chan. I’m not usually a fan of action films, especially violent ones, and while this did have some tough fight scenes, overall there was enough comic relief to carry me through.

Here’s the basic plot: 12-year-old Dre Parker moves with his mom from Detroit to Beijing when she gets a job transfer to China. His mom is busy at work, so he must find his own way in a new culture, and it doesn’t take long before he discovers bullies who pick on him. These are not your average bullies — they’re violent students of a bad kung fu teacher. The plot thickens when Dre is rescued by Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), his apartment’s maintenance man, who happens to be a kung fu master. Dre asks Mr. Han to teach him how to defend himself, and he’ll ultimately have to fight his arch enemy in a kung fu tournament.

If you’ve seen the original 1984 Karate Kid movie starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita, the plot is eerily similar. I’m wondering how the screenwriters got away with this — they must have gotten permission to copy the plot somehow. We watched the original version later, and I’d forgotten how great it was, especially since Pat Morita played Mr. Miyagi, a Japanese karate sensei.

Yet I liked the new version better, mainly because it was funnier, and the actors were kids. In real life, Jaden was only 11 when the movie was filmed last summer in China, so it’s more appropriate for younger audiences. In the old 1984 version, there’s more emphasis on dating, since the characters are in high school. The original version was scarier to me, since the bullies looked like they were really out to kill Ralph Macchio. Also, the last scene of the original is over IN ONE SECOND. We build and build to this last scene, and BAM! It ends with a quick crane kick — which was awesome, but thank goodness we could rewind on our VCR (yes, we checked out the video from our library) and watch it again.

The newer version is more sophisticated. I did have a hard time watching the kung fu tournament — is this how kung fu really works in China? This is an extremely violent sport! No way would I let my kids participate in something like this — so I was a little surprised the woman who played Dre Parker’s mom looks so happy and cheerful at the tournament. He’s such a little kid — and ouch, the knee punching scene looked horrendous, since I’ve suffered knee injuries.

But the ending is great — I won’t spoil it for you. You’ll leave the theater feeling like you’ve traveled to China and back and like you’ve learned to defeat and gain the respect of your enemies.

Most importantly, it was FUNNY. I like to laugh when I go see a movie. I did get tears a few times mostly because of the grand scenery. I would LOVE to go walk the Great Wall of China someday, but plane tickets to Beijing for a family of seven cost a bit more than the movie version.

The music is also really good in the new version as well. I’ve at last been initiated into the sounds of teeny bopper Justin Bieber, whose picture I see all over the tabloids. He sings “Never Say Never” with Jaden. But for me, the violin music played by Dre/Jaden’s Chinese friend, was stunning. When she auditions for the Berlin Academy of Music, she plays so beautifully. THAT’S my kind of music.

I also found it interesting that the movie is called “Best Kid” in Japan and “Kung Fu Kid” in China. The film isn’t really about karate, but since it’s a remake of the original 1984 version, they used the same title — yes, marketing kaching!

Still, for those of us who must do our world traveling by armchair, it was a nice way to spend a summer afternoon.

By: Heather Ivester in: Movies | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

May 26, 2010

Those of you who’ve been around me in real life know I’ve been on a Harper Lee kick lately. For a while, I managed to bring her name into just about every conversation.

It looks like rain today. Hey, that reminds me of the weather in Monroeville where Harper Lee lives.

Are you going on the field trip next week? Hey, did you know Harper Lee was from Alabama and moved to New York in her 20s?

Have you read any good books lately? I’m reading To Kill a Mockingbird again. Have you ever read it?

I can blame it on my local public library. Back in March, they hosted the first annual BIG READ event, inviting the whole town to read To Kill a Mockingbird together.

I couldn’t believe it. People of all ages reading the same book together! (Can you hear the harp music now?) Our library used some grant money to buy dozens of copies of the book, as well as DVDs of the movie, and recent biographies of Harper Lee by author Charles Shields.

If that weren’t enough, there were special speakers and events every week. I almost made it to everything. It was heavenly for me, since everything was local and FREE.

The first major event was a public showing of the movie, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” starring Gregory Peck. I gathered a group of friends and their kids, and we all went together. It was my third time seeing the movie that month, since I’d watched the DVD twice already, with and without the director commentary. So you see, I was a little obsessed.

At the movie night, we listened to guest speaker, Mary Badham, the actress who played Scout in the movie. Oh, she was wonderful. She told us funny stories about how she got chosen to play Scout and how she and Philip Alford, the boy who played Gem, used to fight and tease each other with squirt guns.

Before the movie started, she signed a copy of the photograph below for us, which I’ll always treasure:

Mockingbird atticus scout

Mary Badham was so gracious. I know she has been answering the same questions over and over for decades, but she made it so fresh and new for all of us. She did tell us that she can’t watch the movie anymore “because everybody in it is gone now. It’s just me and Philip (Gem) who are left.” Gregory Peck passed away in 2003.

A couple of weeks later, we were visited by Charles Shields, the author of the best biography you can find on Harper Lee. She really is a mysterious writer, refusing to do any interviews since the ’60s. Shields took four years writing his book about Harper Lee, completely without any cooperation from her. He conducted over 600 interviews, which make this a thoroughly fascinating read.

She only wrote ONE BOOK, by golly. It took her ten and a half years to finish it. She moved from Alabama to New York to be near her friend, Truman Capote (who is the character Dill in the novel), and to start a writing career. She lived in a tiny apartment with no hot water and wrote on a homemade desk made from a closet door.

Shields told us, at one point, Lee became so frustrated, that in the summer of 1957, she threw her manuscript out the window! She called her editor and said, “I give up.” Her editor told her to get out there and collect the pages of her manuscript or she’d have to pay back her advance. Lee couldn’t afford to do this, so she finally turned it in.

To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, and it became an instant success, earning her the Pulitzer Prize. The movie version, with a screenplay by Horton Foote, won four academy awards in 1962. It has never gone out of print, has sold 30 million copies, and still sells a million copies yearly. The book is required reading by nearly every public high school in America.

Yet she never wrote another book. She’s in her 80s now and still lives a quiet life in Monroeville, which is now known as “the literary capital of Alabama.”

Since 2010 marks 50 years since the publication of Lee’s world-famous novel, Monroeville is hosting a 50th anniversary celebration in July. There will be all kinds of literary tours and events, and even a giant birthday party for the book. You can read all about it here.

Harper Lee did publish a few essays in magazines in the 1960s. If you’re curious, here are a couple of links:

Love–In Other Words, published in Vogue Magazine in 1961

Christmas To Me, published in McCall’s magazine, December 1961

I recently found out our BIG READ book for next year will be The Great Gatsby. Good thing, because I’ve also been on a Zelda Fitzgerald kick lately. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

May 11, 2010

I know this is supposed to be a blog mainly for women, but I can’t help sharing with you this awesome story about a father whose home-grown bedtime stories for his son became New York Times best-selling books and now movies.

I somehow ended up on author Rick Riordan’s Myth & Mystery blog the other day, and as I searched through his early archives, I came across this story. His words sent delicious chills up my spine, and I knew I wanted to share it with you!

In his post from September 2005, The Learning-Disabled Hero, Rick shares how he came up with the hero, Percy Jackson, for his son:

As Haley struggled through second grade, his saving grace was Greek mythology. He loved those old stories. He would actually read them willingly in class. He knew I’d taught Greek myths for years in the middle school, and so every night he would ask me to tell him a bedtime story about the Olympians.

One night, as we were lying in bed for story time, I realized I’d run out of myths. We’d done all the gods, the heroes, the monsters. I was fresh out of Minotaurs.

‘Well, make something up!’ Haley said, as if this were the most obvious thing in the world.

I thought about that.

I thought about Haley’s struggle with ADHD and dyslexia. I imagined the faces of all the students I’d taught who had these same conditions. I felt the need to honor them, to let them know that being different wasn’t a bad thing. Intelligence wasn’t always measurable with a piece of paper and a number two pencil. Talent didn’t come in only one flavor.

Then I thought about the heroes in the old myths – sons and daughters of gods and humans – and all the troubles they’d had to overcome because of their mixed heritage. Off the top of head, I began a story about a 12-year-old boy named Percy Jackson, the modern-day son of the Greek god Poseidon, who among his many other problems has ADHD and dyslexia. He struggles in school. He’s constantly being labeled a lazy troublemaker. Yet Percy finds that his learning disabilities are actually indicators of Olympian blood. He is a hero – a child of the gods.

It took me three nights to tell of Percy’s epic quest across the United States to retrieve a lightning bolt stolen from Zeus. When I was done, Haley told me I should write the story down.
I took him seriously. I spent a year on the manuscript, not sure anyone except Haley would ever want to read it.

I was wrong. The story seems to have struck a chord.

To date, The Lightning Thief is being published in seven languages and the film version is underway. I’ve gotten a flood of appreciative emails from readers, many of them ADHD/dyslexic kids who usually dislike reading. It’s tremendously gratifying, and yet the book remains a very personal story from a father to a son. Like the Greek stories of old, The Lightning Thief is an attempt to explain a natural phenomenon — a myth to help my son make sense of who he is.

Oh, I just love this! The creator at work, inspired by his own son. According to wikipedia, Rick Riordan finished writing The Lightning Thief in 1994. It was initially accepted by Bantam Books in 1997 and later sold at auction to Miramax Books before being released on July 28, 2005.

Five years later, the five-book Percy Jackson & the Olympians series is a huge hit! For this dad, his mission of telling a great story to his son was accomplished on a grand scale!

And then there’s me. In February, I ended up in a big pack of moms and kids going to see “The Lightning Thief” at our small-town theater. I think I was the only one of our group who had never heard of these books. Embarrassing to admit! (I read mostly girly novels, OK?)

The movie was fantastic, and I thought I’ve got to get these books for my son, who wasn’t able to come to the movie with us. Well, they were completely sold out at Borders, so I ordered a boxed set, and we had to wait a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, I’m hearing the buzz that everybody is reading Percy Jackson books — and this is in a Christian school where parents are careful about what they let their children read.

Finally, the books arrived, and my kids DEVOURED them. Then we had to go see the movie again, all of us! I enjoyed it even more the second time around because I wasn’t so scared of the action parts, and I could enjoy the humor so much more. We’ll be eagerly awaiting the sequel.

Reading this story on Rick Riordan’s blog reminds me why our children can be our greatest inspiration to write! If you have a minute, here’s another interesting Myth & Mystery post full of advice for writers, The Well-Written Life.

April 23, 2010

I took my daughter to see “The Last Song” a few days ago, mainly because I wanted to see it. I had been asking her for days, “Has anybody at school talked about seeing the new Miley Cyrus movie?” but she said all they’re talking about is Letters to God, which was produced by the same people who gave us “Facing the Giants” and “Fireproof.” OK, so that one’s next on my list.

But I had to see Miley in The Last Song — for two reasons. First, it was filmed in my home state, Georgia! On top of that, in one of my favorite places, on the beaches of beautiful Tybee Island. From what I’ve read, Georgia fought long and hard against North Carolina to be the setting for this movie — so I can’t help but give a little rebel yell at our victory (though you can see here that I love North Carolina too!).

The second reason I wanted to see “The Last Song” is because I’m intrigued by the whole Nicholas Sparks’ aspect. Here’s a best-selling author who wrote a screenplay first with a specific actress in mind, then turned the script into a novel. This seems backwards to the way most films work, so I found that interesting. It reminds me of the rumor I heard that John Grisham wrote “The Pelican Brief” with actress Julia Roberts in mind. You can read more of the story here and on Nicholas Sparks’ website.

I can honestly say we weren’t disappointed. Although critics have poked fun at Miley’s acting, I thought she was wonderful. Give her a break — she’s only 17! She made me laugh — the first half of the movie has some hilarious scenes, especially when Miley/Ronnie meets her beach beau’s parents for the first time.

I think Nicholas Sparks must have had fun writing this scene. Miley and co-star Liam Hemsworth have been slinging mud at each other trying to get his truck out of the marsh. They’re filthy and run back to his house to hose off. Except … his house is a GIGANTIC southern plantation, recognizable to those of us from Georgia; it was filmed at Wormsloe Historic site, in Savannah.

Miley stares up at the live oaks, dripping in Spanish moss, as they pull into his “driveway.” She’s shocked. After all, this guy has been bugging her the whole movie, until he finally convinces her to go out with him.

When she gets out of the truck, her mouth drops open and she says something like, “I didn’t know you were so rich!” This line surprised me and struck me as absolutely hilarious because one of my kids said that recently to a classmate, when we visited her large home for a swim party. The movie is full of good lines like this that make it fun to watch.

And there are baby loggerhead sea turtles, oh so cute! Miley is trying to protect a nest of turtle eggs from an evil lurking raccoon, and she gets a little help from Liam, who just happens to be a volunteer with the nearby aquarium. (aw, sweet. Yes, you girls will think that when you see him in his uniform.) We happen to be big Georgia sea turtle fans and look forward to visiting the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island every year.

The title of the movie comes from a classical piano piece Miley’s father is composing for her. (Don’t think about this too much, or it will spoil the plot.) When the film begins, Miley is an angry teenager, coming down from New York to spend the summer with her dad, who left the family. She’s a former child piano prodigy — we see newspaper clippings of her playing as a youngster. Moreover, she’s been accepted to Juilliard, if she chooses to go. But in the beginning of the movie, she’s too rebellious and mad at the world. She won’t even go anywhere near the piano.

As the film continues, Miley/Ronnie begins to connect again with the piano as an instrument of healing. Since I’m the mom of two daughters taking piano lessons, I enjoyed this aspect. My daughter and I both found Miley’s piano performances to be inspiring. In fact, after watching the movie, my daughter came home and right away sat down at the piano to practice. The music is really beautiful in this movie.

In the opening credits, I knew I was in for a treat, when I saw that Miley’s mother, Tish Cyrus, was the executive producer. Wow. How many actresses star in a film produced by their mom? Go Tish! In this article, I read that the plot of the film is similar in many ways to the life of Tish Cyrus, so Miley’s acting allowed her to experience many of the same painful emotions her mom had been through.

If you go anywhere near a Wal-mart, which I must do frequently to keep our supplies of stuff replenished, you will be familiar with Miley’s autobiography, Miles to Go.

Read it. I enjoyed it. It’s well-written and full of hope. She has a great voice. I don’t know if she had help writing the book (the title page says “with Hilary Liftin”), but it takes you into the mind of a teenager, one who is trying desperately to find her place in the world and not lose track of her rural Tennessee roots. In fact, she asked Nicholas Sparks to name his novel’s main character Ronnie after her grandfather (whom she calls “Pappy” in her book).

Miley Cyrus is not too much older than my daughters, and I guess I don’t want her to grow up. I want her to still act in films that I can take my children to see. We all enjoyed the “Hannah Montana” movie, though “The Last Song” is not appropriate for kids under 9, I feel, because there are some romantic scenes, and the plot is too heavy for the hearts of little ones.

Although she doesn’t sing any during the movie (except for a brief sing-a-long in the car where Liam’s awful crowing drowns her out), Miley Cyrus’ song, “When I Look at You” does play a part at the end. As I listened to it, watching the credits, I had to wipe away my tears, like the other moms around me.

We walked out of the dark theater and back into the Georgia sun, which was just beginning to set. Without a word, I searched around until I found our Miley CD, tuned to that song, and drove off with a sigh. I wish we could have driven straight to Tybee Island, but I had to head home to cook supper and oversee the bedtime routines of five kids.

You can hear her sing it here, with these opening lyrics, which tie in perfectly to the plot of the movie.

Everybody needs inspiration
Everybody needs a song
A beautiful melody
When the nights are long

’cause there is no guarantee
That this life is easy

Yea when my world is falling apart
When there’s no light
To break up the dark
That’s when I
I look at you

After seeing the movie, I’m already plotting a trip to Tybee. I must see the church which was built on-site for the movie. Any of my Georgia friends up for a summer road trip?

By: Heather Ivester in: Movies,Travel | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

April 28, 2007

Our family recently enjoyed seeing this adorable canine movie, Firehouse Dog.

I loved it because the main theme centered around the restoring of a father/son relationship — and the actor, Josh Hutcheson, is the same wonderful kid who starred in Bridge to Terabithia.

You can read my review of it here.

April 20, 2007

A few weeks ago, Active Christian Media sent me a pre-release of a new film to review, Hidden Secrets, produced by Pureflix Entertainment. It will premiere nationwide in over 200 theaters on April 30th, then release on DVD in late August.

When I received my screener DVD, I had no idea I’d be able to have it signed by the star of this movie, John Schneider. Yet that’s exactly what happened last night!

I grew up in the 80s watching “The Dukes of Hazzard” on TV, seeing John Schneider play the role of Bo Duke and shouting “Yeee-HA!” along with my siblings when the red General Lee flew high over a ditch. A good many of my classmates carried Dukes of Hazzard lunchboxes to school.

Since his Dukes’ days, Schneider has starred in several more films and popular TV series, including a recurring role on “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” and the role of Jonathan Kent on 100 episodes of the hit show, “Smallville.”

For the past few months, Schneider has been touring the South promoting his latest film, Collier & Co., which we saw in a special premiere last night in our small Georgia town.

He wrote, directed, and starred in this good-ol-boy comedy-action film (which was a lot of fun to watch!).

The most exciting news about John Schneider is that he’s a born-again Christian and the married father of three. Before the movie began last night, he explained to our packed theater of all ages, “I want to help make movies that you grandparents can watch while sitting next to your grandchildren.” He said nothing makes him happier than seeing families enjoy a film together.

It’s not often that a movie star who lives in Hollywood makes a guest appearance in our town, so it was fun to be invited to attend as a media guest. I brought my “Hidden Secrets” DVD for John to sign, and he asked me what I thought of it. I told him it had a positive, uplifting message, and that I hoped Pureflix would keep making more movies like it. (My mouth said those words, while my brain was screaming, “You’re standing next to John Schneider! Movie star!”)

Hidden Secrets deals with some weighty issues that may not be suitable for children under 12. The plot of the movie is this: in the first scene, a man writes a suicide note and then shoots himself (it doesn’t show the violence). Then we see a woman grieving and learn this is his sister, Sherry, who is played by stunning “Bold and Beautful” actress, Tracy Melchior.

Nine friends come back to their hometown to attend the funeral of Chris Hayden, who was apparently a strong Christian influence in their lives. They end up staying at his sister Sherry’s home, which has been turned into a bed-and-breakfast.

Most of the action takes place in or around this gorgeous home, except for a couple of poignant scenes in a church and at a bar/restaurant where the Christian band, Building 429, plays live.

The soundtrack also includes songs by Rachel Lampa who makes her acting debut playing the role of Sally.

There’s an interesting love triangle that heightens the tension: ten years ago, Sherry broke the heart of Jeremy, played by David A.R. White (who also co-wrote the script and produced the movie). Now Jeremy is one of the house guests (along with his new flame, Rachel, played by Stacy Keanan).

Each character represents a different stereotype, and having them all together in a “Big Chill” fashion brings their past secrets to the forefront where they discuss things in the light of their faith. There were a few lines of dialogue and two characters I found a little unbelievable, but despite the quirks, the inspirational message is clear.

The DVD version includes candid interviews with the actors and those involved in directing and producing the film. I really enjoyed learning more behind the scenes.

In a recent interview with the Christian Examiner, David A.R. White said, “Christ forgives and there are second chances. There is hope at the end of the tunnel and God is waiting there. He’s just waiting on us.” In a nutshell, this is the main message viewers take away from watching Hidden Secrets.

The first time I heard about Pureflix Entertainment was in Christian Women Online’s interview with Candace Cameron Bure. She starred in another Pureflix film called The Wager, along with actor/singer, Randy Travis.

Today’s parents are trying to raise children in a lost world, with school shootings, suicide bombers, and people trapped in addictions. I want to support the efforts of Pureflix and others who are more interested in producing films with a positive message than in grossing millions of dollars at the expense of our children’s innocence.

Getting to meet John Schneider last night was fun, making me one happy mom blogger today.