Salt – A Review

Angelina Jolie as Salt
Angelina Jolie as Salt

Netflix Synopsis:

After she’s accused of being a Russian sleeper spy, rogue CIA agent Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) goes on the run, using every tactic, accent and disguise she knows to elude her pursuers, clear her name and protect her husband. Her supervisor, Winter (Liev Schreiber), buys her story, while counterintelligence officer Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) decidedly does not and will do anything to stop her in this fast-paced, intrigue-filled spy adventure.

My Take:

I really wanted to like this movie, and I did for about the first third. But then it took a sudden turn downward when the movie changed direction from plausible to unbelievable super-action hero. I mean, I believe the Jason Bourne movies more than Salt. Granted, the film was well shot, the chases and stunts well choreographed. I know, it’s a movie, and things don’t have to be realistic. Perhaps it was my mistake going into this film hoping for an actual action/espionage film, as opposed to pure cartoonish action sequences. I prefer Angelina Jolie’s in Wanted than in this film.

For me, any empathy for “Salt” was lost, as the story failed to support her actions or motivation. But I guess this isn’t a movie about character motivation, but of the momentum of action.

Rating: Cable TV

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – My Review

The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo

Netflix Synopsis:

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and rebellious computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) team up to investigate the unsolved disappearance of wealthy Henrik Vanger’s (Sven-Bertil Taube) teen niece (Ewa Fröling), only to uncover dark secrets about Vanger’s powerful family. Niels Arden Oplev directs this Swedish thriller based on the first novel from Stieg Larsson’s best-selling trilogy.

My Take:

I haven’t read the book, a synopsis of the book, or even a synopsis of the movie before renting it. I thought the title was interesting enough to warrant a rental. What was I expecting? From the title I was expecting an action film a la Angelina Jolie in Salt. What I got instead was an compelling hardcore drama-mystery-thriller.

What was difficult to handle in this film is not the subtitles, but the violence against women. There is graphic violence against the “Girl”, Lisbeth, in the title of the film, as well as referenced violence against several other females. The dialog, descriptions of what happens to certain characters, is also difficult to stomach. It is like watching a hardcore episode of Criminal Minds or Law and Order: SVU. But then Lisbeth is one smart tough girl. She is not afraid of the pain she goes through, and certainly is not shy in dealing out a violent barrage if need be. Her complexity – a product of what she’s been through – is alluded to throught the film. I’m sure it’s dealt with more throughly in the book(s).

I hear they are doing a US remake of this film. I would be hesitant to see it. But then I hear David Fincher is helming the remake. Either he or Christopher Nolan would do a worthy remake worth, at the least, checking out.

Rating: Full Admission

Red Cliff

The Netflix synopsis: When a warmongering prime minister (Fengyi Zhang) advances his armies against two rival kingdoms, he unwittingly prompts his adversaries (Chen Chang and Yong You) to work together in this martial arts action-adventure. The ensuing conflict culminates in the epic battle of Red Cliff, a struggle by the sea involving more than one million soldiers.

My Take:John Woo film without guns isn’t bad. And it doesn’t hurt to have Tony Leung in the cast. I was captivated by the story. But I wished it was fleshed out more. I then realized there is a longer two-part original version available.  Albeit it is four hours long, versus 148 minute for theatrical version I watched. I think the trade-off would be worth the extra effort, especially on blu-ray.

Rating: Matinee

Whiteout

Kate Beckinsale

The Netflix synopsis: “The lone U.S. marshal at a research station in Antarctica, Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) stumbles upon the continent’s first murder victim. With only three days left until the sun sets for six months, Carrie races to solve the complex mystery before darkness falls.”

My Take: Unfortunately, Whiteout was a weak mystery-thriller where you could predict the culprit(s) in the first 10 minutes. The only saving grace of the movie has going for it is the Antarctic setting and the Kate Beckinsale shower scene.  I’m guess the latter was added due to the overall dullness of the movie.  The source material must have better.

Rating: Cable TV

My Short Review of Iron Man 2

We were finally able to watch Iron Man 2 the other night in Cupertino.  I know its been out for some time, but we’ve been a little busy these last few weeks.  The baby fun is just starting, right?

In short, Iron Man 2 is worthy sequel. The movie introduces a few villains and heroes.  Also a character from the first film played by another actor.  It contains as much story depth and deep character development as they first movie – I write sarcastically – and plenty of action sequences.  My favorite sequence was the scene at the race track. 

Rating: Matinee

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-03-27

  • I’ve been up since 4:30am. What the heck am I doing up so early on a Sunday? #
  • Evil Girl Scouts are outside selling cookies. @ Best Buy http://loopt.us/VmLzOg.t #
  • Getting ingedients for Korean BBQ. @ Hankook Supermarket http://loopt.us/xotrCw.t #
  • The iPad better support the Kindle app. I’d be upset if I had to buy an iPad version of a book that I can read on my iPhone Kindle app! #
  • I can’t seem to choose a good font for the blog. I guess I’ll go with the default in the theme I’m using. #wordpress #
  • I think I’ve had my fill of the word “frickin'” today. #
  • Gouged my nose with a fingernail last night while sleeping. I drew blood and skin. Must have had a a bad dream to do that to myself. #
  • Haven’t been here in almost five years. @ Thea Mediterranean http://loopt.us/cERYow.t #
  • I’ve never had lunch here. @ El Pollo Loco http://loopt.us/2QID-g.t #
  • Getting takeout to celebrate my birthday. @ Tao Tao Restaurant http://loopt.us/qsEp5A.t #

She’s Having My Baby

Ultrasound of the Little Dude or Little Dudette

Farrah is pregnant!

[Note: Apologies to our shared friends on Facebook.  I know you’ve heard this announcement before, from Farrah’s wall posting last week. I just haven’t had time to make a blog post and post it on my Facebook wall as well.]

Not much to add.  Well, I guess we could throw in a few details.

 How far along are you?

At this point Farrah is at 14 weeks.

 When did you find out?

 The morning of November 1.  Farrah woke me up early that morning, showing me a photo on her iPhone of a home pregnancy test.  I had to ask who’s it was. She then smiled and said, “It’s mine!”  Later that day we took two other tests just to be sure.

 When is your due date?

July 11th.

 Do you know the sex of the baby?

Not yet. It’s too early. But we do want to find out when we can.

 How are you feeling?

Not too bad. Luckily Farrah hasn’t experienced a lot of morning sickness, though there were times where she did not feel like eating.  Her appetite returned last weekend with the beginning of the second trimester.

We hear that the second trimester is the best.  I can say, for both of us, that we’re extremely happy,  excited, and of course, nervous.  I take it all of those are natural responses. 

Last Monday, we heard the baby’s heartbeat for the first time.  At first it was difficult to distinguish it from the static coming from the Doppler Baby Heart Monitor’s – I think that’s what it’s called –  speaker.  After some maneuvering of the microphone by the doctor, a clearly identifiable strong heartbeat was coming through.  I have to say hearing the heartbeat was as cool as seeing the first ultrasound of the baby back in November. I honestly could have cried.  Yes, I did cry during a couple of the ultrasounds.

We can’t wait until July. 

My Year in Review Plus More or Less List

A belated Happy New Year to all!  Welcome to Twenty-Ten! This is the proper way to say it, right?

Again, I blame the Winter Break for not doing this post earlier.  But here I am, a little late to the party, trying to summarize blog postings and happenings from the last year:

  • Kayla started playing volleyball.  This prompted my sister to get into DSLR photography. She is doing great taking photos, and using the plenty of tips on photography from family and friends.
  • This past Christmas Eve we did our first Skype call with my sister and her family in Nebraska. I think it surprised my mom, who was happy to see them on screen even though she had just seen them in person less than a month earlier. Ah, technology.
  • Two new additions to the extended family this past year: Kaleb and Kaelin.
  • We did a few concerts this year: Paolo Nutini, Dane Cook, Rex Navarette, and Tori Amos.  Farrah also saw No Doubt at Shoreline.
  • We saw the King Tut exhibit and went to the California Academy of Sciences.  I didn’t blog about King Tut, but will probably do so in March.
  • We bought our first LCD TV and took the dive into blu-ray.
  • We, and everyone else bought the iPhone 3GS. It’s been a very good phone for us.
  • Once again, the state of this blog has fluctuated this year.  The blog has bounced from WordPress to WordPress.com to Tumblr to WordPress again. I also pointed the domain (Janella.com) directly to my Smugmug account to start a new site alex-is.com. And once again, with my manic web life, I’ve decided to shut down alex-is.com and blog back at Janella.com. Confusing, huh?  Even though everyone seems to be on Facebook, I believe I will continue to blog here. I want to avoid getting stuck in a walled garden.
  • My uncle passed away last year.  It was tough to take, even though I hadn’t seen him in so long.

Ok, now onto my New Year’s resolution list.  I know, you really don’t need to wait until a new year begins to make a list of goals. You should be able to do this any day of the week. But I suppose New Year’s Day is an apt occasion to think about what you’d like to change. Wait? Wasn’t New Year’s Day about a week ago?  Yes, it was, and I’ve listed “less procrastinating” as one of my goals.

I present here, in this blog post, my “More or Less List.” Should be a straightforward read.

In the coming year, I would like to do more:

  • Reading: I do plenty of online reading. I’d like to read more books. I started two books last year, American Gods and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I got halfway through both books. I need to finish those first, then find other books of interest.
  • Writing: I’ve been trying to write an hour a day, write like a stream of consciousness. I’d like to continue this. I’m hoping this leads to better blog entries or at least more interesting entries.
  • Taking photos: As I’ve said in a previous post, I’d like to take more pictures and to be more creative.  My understand lighting and depth-of-field seem to be growing more, but I don’t think about it often on-the-fly. Also, following some of these resolutions would be good.
  • Watching movies: There was a time when I would devour movies.  But my ability to sit through a film waned a few years ago.  I’ve been able to watch a few movies the last several months.  I hope to continue the trend.
  • Exercising: I took a month or so off for the holidays.  I need to desperately jump back on this horse.
  • Cooking:  I need to bust out the pots and pans more this year.

I probably should do less of the following:

  • Dining out: Too many restaurants too often. But it does help with my Yelp reviews. I should be cooking more though.
  • Playing video games: I’ve already conquered the world (Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution), won 15 Super Bowls (Madden 10), beat Arsenal to a pulp (FIFA 10), and saved the world – for the time being (Call fo Duty: Modern Warfare 2). Time to cut down the hours on the PS3.
  • Giving in to treats: I need to eat less chocolate, drink less soda, and cut down on my Starbucks Mocha consumption. Of course, if we receive a care package with chocolate in it, well, I’ll probably breakdown. I’ve been successful in cutting down on the mochas, so far.
  • Spend less time on Facebook, Tumblr, etc.: I’m thinking of just logging in once a week instead of the multiple times a day, onto these networks.  Just a thought.
  • Procrastinating: Yes, I just need to get things done!

How did I do compared to last year’s list? Considering that I have many repeats on this list, it seems I didn’t do well.   I probably should assess how I’m doing by the middle of the year.