Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Iron Man 2" (2010) and Another Revelation

I'll say it right here at the beginning so you have no misconceptions:  I do like Iron Man 2.  It's very fun and has some amazing things that delight me.  However, I don't like it nearly as well as Iron Man or Iron Man 3.  And I think I've figured out why.  In fact, thanks to spending a whole bunch of time contemplating why I don't like this as well as the first one in particular, I've had another revelation:

I love stories where what's going on inside the characters and what's happening to them are related.

I'm going to compare Iron Man 2 and Iron Man here, because they're fresh in my head.  Will then expound on other movies.  At some point, yes, I will do a bit of reviewing Iron Man 2.  (There are spoilers ahead.  I'm not marking them individually.  They start pretty much now.  Just so you know.)

So, in this one, what is going on inside Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.)?  He's freaking out because he's dying, and he has no idea what to do.  He's terrified, and he's refusing to confide in anyone other than JARVIS, and so he's doing all kinds of seemingly irrational things.  What's happening to him?  Some Russian dude named Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) is bent on avenging his dad for getting cheated by Tony's dad.  He teams up with another dude named Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) who's trying to steal the Iron Man technology and sell it to the military.  Or something like that.  Anyway, my point is, neither of those has anything whatsoever to do with the fact that Tony is dying.  They try desperately to tie them together with the idea of what legacy you leave behind you, but that feels kind of tacked-on.

Now, what's going on inside Tony Stark in Iron Man?  He's scared by his near-death experience when he was kidnapped, elated by his new creation, and determined to bring his kidnappers to justice.  What's happening to him?  He gets kidnapped, he escapes, he finds out his supposed friend is behind it.  It's all tied together, what's going on inside him and what's happening to him.  I used to say movies like that are really well focused, but now I think I'll say they have a pleasing Singularity of Purpose.

I'll do two other movies to illustrate, and then say a bit more about Iron Man 2.

Another movie that, for years, I've been a bit dissatisfied with:  X-Men (2000).  What's going on inside Wolverine (Hugh Jackman)?  He's trying to accept that he's found people who accept him and falling in love with Jean Grey (Famke Janssen).  What's happening to Wolverine?  Well, one of his new friends does get kidnapped, but it has nothing to do with the fact that she's his friend.  It's all because Magneto's hatched a loony plan to rule the world and he needs Rogue's (Anna Paquin) powers to do it.  I have been known to watch what I call "the good parts version" of this movie, skipping what I call "the boring Magneto parts" because I love so much what's going on inside the characters (especially Wolvie), but the plot keeps getting in the way.

You know this whole post was an excuse to showcase this picture.

By contrast, X2:  X-Men United (2003) has Singularity of Purpose in spades.  What's going on inside Wolverine?  (Yes, let's just admit that he's the main character of those three movies.)  He's tracking down his past, trying to put the puzzle bits back together and figure out how he became who he is.  And what's happening to Wolverine?  His past is chasing him, in the form of William Stryker, who gave him his adamantium skeleton and claws.  It's all tied beautifully together in one giant chocolate truffle of magnificence.

Yeah, that last sentence made no sense, did it.  Oh well, you get what I'm saying.

What I'm saying is that Aristotle, with his Three Unities for drama, may have been onto something.  With the Unity of Action, anyway -- I don't mind so much if the Unity of Place and Unity of Time get bent.  But I want that focus, that Singularity of Purpose, that Unity of Action.  This, of course, is very useful to me as a writer, because I'm sure that Aristotle and I are not the only ones who feel this way.  From here on out, I'm going to make sure my stories are focused like laser beams.

Okay, so anyway... Iron Man 2 amuses me a lot, and has some wonderful character development.  Everything with Tony Stark in it is wonderful.  Much as I like Mickey Rourke (and he's amused me greatly for many years, ever since I first saw Sin City), his part of the movie really feels superfluous, and I can see myself fast-forwarding through them to get to the Good Parts.

And I don't really like what happens with Pepper Potts in this one.  To be very honest, it feels unrealistic.  Here is a woman who has managed Tony Stark's life for years, cleaned up his messes, taken out his garbage, fielded every curve ball he's tossed her way.  But then she becomes head of Stark Industries and falls apart?  What?  It makes no sense to me, and makes Pepper look weak and inept when the whole first movie was spent making her look strong and capable.  Pfui.

I've run out of things to say, suddenly.  OH!  Um, they replaced Terrence Howard with Don Cheadle.  That really, really bugged me the first time I watched this.  Now that I've also seen Cheadle as Rhodey in Iron Man 3, I'm used to him, but I still prefer Terrence Howard -- he had more gravitas, seemed more solid, like he really could just stand up to Tony Stark and call his bluffs.  Don Cheadle feels more weary, annoyed, and impatient.  Could just be me.
Howard and Cheadle as Rhodey

So, in sum, I wish this movie had more of this:

And less of this:

Then I would feel like this:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

In Which I Join My Own Party

I suppose it would be a good idea if I answered the questions and joined my own party, huh?  I decided to answer them over on this blog so as not to interrupt the games and such over there.  (So handy having two blogs!)  If you love Tolkien but haven't joined the party yet, the questions are here and the giveaways are here, or you can just go straight to The Edge of the Precipice and see all the games too.

Well, here goes:

1.  Have you read The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit? If so, how many times?

I've read The Hobbit three times and The Lord of the Rings five times -- I'll be embarking on my sixth read-through on Thursday, when I kick off the read-along on my other blog!

2.  Have you seen any movies based on them?

I've seen Peter Jackson's LOTR trilogy and The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey.  All in theaters at least once, and on DVD many times.

3.  Who first introduced you to Middle Earth?

Well, I suppose my mom, because she had me 
read The Hobbit in high school.  I didn't much care for it, so I didn't read The Lord of the Rings because I figured that if I didn't like reading a couple hundred pages by that Tolkien guy, why would I want to read a thousand or more?  Um, yeah, I was an idiot.  But in college, my best friend Emily and my then-fiance Cowboy insisted I go see The Fellowship of the Ring in the theater with them.  After that first viewing, I went and bought a copy of the book and have been a firm fan ever since.

4.  Who are your three favorite characters?  (Feel free to elaborate on whys.)

Only three?  What kind of a mean person wrote these questions, anyway?  Okay, okay, my three favorites are Boromir, Samwise Gamgee, and Gandalf.

I love Boromir because he's strong, brave, courteous, and kind -- he's like the epitome of the classic knight.  Not only that, but he's possibly the most human character in the whole book.  He's not perfect; he makes mistakes, and he then does his best to atone for his misdeeds.  Takes a big man to admit you were wrong, and he does it.

I love Sam because he's cheerful, reliable, helpful, and faithful.  He has the most interesting character arc in the whole story, going from gardener to warrior, yet still remaining true to himself.  As far as I'm concerned, Sam is the true hero of the tale:  he does what Frodo could not do, gives up the ring of his own free will.  Even Bilbo had to have an awful lot of help to do that.

And I love Gandalf because he's wise, sarcastic, kind, and merciless.  He's a great mass of contradictions -- he has no use for fools, yet he finds a uses for those who can be foolish, like Pippin and Butterbur.  He's a ruthless warrior and also a kindly grandfather-figure.  And he says at least half of my favorite lines.

5.  What's your favorite Middle Earth location?

Rivendell.  I love the woods, so I'd love to live there, with all the trees and rocks and waterfalls.  And, as Bilbo showed, it's a great place to write.

6.  If you could belong to one of the races of Free Folk (Men, Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, Ents), which would you choose?

Men -- I want to be one of the Rohirrim.  A shieldmaiden, if possible, but if not, just somebody who gets to tend horses and hang out with them all the time.  Yes, I realize that would mean I didn't get to live in Rivendell, but I don't get to live in my favorite Real World place either, so oh well.

7.  Would you rather eat lembas or taters?

Lembas, absolutely.  I hates taters, precious.

8.  If you lived in Middle Earth, what weapon would you prefer wielding?

I'm not very strong or fast, so swords are out.  I'd like a nice bow or crossbow, as I'm a decent shot.

9.  What draws you to Tolkien's stories?  (The characters, the quests, the themes, the worlds, etc.)

The characters, as usual.  By the time I'd finished watching The Fellowship of the Ring for the very first time, I was firm friends with all the Fellowship's members, and eager to spend more time with them whenever I could.  Been that way ever since.

10. List up to five of your favorite lines/quotes from the books or movies.

Oh, here we go again with the limited numbers!  Fine, here are five that I think or say often:

"We may yet, Mr. Frodo.  We may yet." -- Sam

"Go where you must go, and hope!"  -- Gandalf

"Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes." -- Frodo

"Books ought to have good endings." -- Bilbo

"The wise speak only of what they know." -- Gandalf

Friday, September 20, 2013

Homeschool Tag

I saw this over on For the Beauty of the Earth and thought it would be a fun Friday post. It's a round of homeschool tag, though there's not actually any tagging involved. Just some questions to answer!

1. You must be currently enrolled in homeschool or a homeschool graduate.
2. Answer all the questions in a blog post of your own.
3. Comment on the Freckled Adventures blog to let her know you have done a post.

Are you currently enrolled in homeschool or are you graduated?

I graduated back in 1998.  I was homeschooled K-12, and went on to college.  Now I've started homeschooling my own kids -- my son is 5 and doing kindergarten, and my 3-year-old daughter is doing preschool things.  My 21-month-old daughter gets in on the fun however she can.

What is (or was) your favorite school subject? 

Literature has always been my dearest love.  I also love English and History, though.  

Do (did) you usually finish school before lunch? 

When I was the one getting homeschooled, no.  Maybe when I was younger, but what I can remember, we usually did school all day.  I would often do as subject or two on my own before breakfast, as I usually woke up before either my mom or my brother -- Mom would set out a couple things the night before that I could do without help.  Then I'd do other subjects after breakfast and in the afternoon.  I will admit, however, that I spent a lot of time during high school secretly reading old Reader's Digests from the 1950s and '60s instead of my schoolwork -- I probably could have finished up by lunch if I hadn't done that.

Now, I try to get our schoolwork done in the morning, as soon as we've finished breakfast and brushed our teeth.  Because I'm only doing preschool and kindergarten things, we usually only do workbooks and me teaching things in the morning, for about an hour.  Then in the afternoon, we often do more fun things like art projects or whatever, usually while the littlest one is napping.

Do (did) you get a recess? 

When I was homeschooled, we would quit at 11:30am so Mom could make lunch and we could have a bit of playtime.  My brother and I would play until lunch was ready.  That was recess.

Snow days? 

When we first started homeschooling, we lived in Michigan, and so every day from mid-October to early April was a snow day, in that there was snow everywhere, often more of it falling.  We got a LOT of snow -- we lived in "the thumb" and were 20 miles from Lake Huron, so we got the "lake effect," which basically means cold weather all year, and piles of snow.  So we did not take snow days, because there was always snow -- we could play in it a lot.  However, sometimes my dad would declare a break day, and we would go do something fun.  This was usually to give my mom a break more than us.

When I was 12, we moved to North Carolina and rarely got snow.  So once every winter, we'd take a "snow day" and drive up into the mountains to either play in snow there or ski.

Now, since we're just doing preschool and kindergarten, and most "regular" pre-K and K classes don't run 5 days a week, we generally take one day off each week.  Usually it becomes Mommy Running Errands day.  Next week, though, it's going to be Going To See "Planes" With Friends day.  

What subject(s) do (did) you get the best grades in? 

Literature and English.  And History, in college.  Not so much in high school.  I graduated college Summa Cum Laude, with a 3.98 GPA, second in my class.  (I'll stop bragging now.  Go, homeschooling!!!)

Are (were) you one of those students who follows (followed) a schedule, gets (got) all your assignments done on time, and does (did) the optional activities?

I have always loved schedules.  Like I said earlier, I used to get up before my mom and do schoolwork on my own.  By the time I was in high school grades, I did almost all my schoolwork by myself, only calling on her to help if I was having trouble understanding something.  She gave me my tests and helped me prep a bit for them, though.  But that meant that I was really used to self-motivation and getting things done in a timely fashion without being nagged, which was so very helpful when I went to college.

Now, I tend to set little schedules for us, like, "This week, we're studying food!" or "This week, we're studying whales!"  And then find activities and stuff to go with that theme.  I did that a lot last year, but only somewhat this year since I'm also teaching my son things like math that don't always fit well with themes.

That's all, folks!  Have a great weekend!  I'll try to have a movie review or two done soon, but with my Tolkien Blog Party of Special Magnificence starting on Sunday over on my book blog... we shall see.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Arrrrrrr!  And here ye thought I'd be forgettin' what day it be, didn't ye?  Well, haul for cover, because I'll always remember when it be International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

I'd stay and hoist a pint or two with ye, but me crew be clamorin' for more swill, so I'd best be servin' up their mess.

Drink up, me hearties!  Yo ho!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A New Story Up

A few people have asked recently where they can read things I've written, so I've decided that, whenever I have something new posted, I'll mention it here.

So... I have a new story up!  Most of my Combat! squaddies have read it already, as I wrote it for a challenge a while back, but I finally got around to spiffing it up enough to post it for the whole world to see.  It's called "Lucky You," and you can read it here.  It's pretty short, just 1300 words, and I think it would work fairly well for people who don't have a knowledge of the show, though obviously it would work better for those that do.  It's sort of a tag for the episode "The Bridge at Chalons," which has Lee Marvin as a guest star and is one of my favorite eps.  You can watch the whole ep on YouTube here.  But you don't have to have seen the episode to understand the story (I don't think), you just need to know that it's about American Infantrymen in WWII France shortly after D-DAY.

Monday, September 16, 2013

"Iron Man" (2008)

This was my third time seeing this, and I enjoy it more each time.  I'm mildly annoyed with myself for refusing to see it for so long -- I had this total loathing for Robert Downey Jr. based solely on his character in U.S. Marshals (1998).  In fact, until I saw The Avengers last summer, the only other thing I'd ever seen him in was Richard III (1995), which I totally forgot he was in until someone reminded me.

But, as happens to me from time to time, I have had a 180 reversal of my opinion on him, and I now actually quite enjoy his acting!  I'm not quite to the point where I go seek out movies because he's in them, but I no longer avoid things just because of him either.

After I fell in love with The Avengers, I found and watched most of the movies that precede it, including this.  Then I watched this again with my husband.  And this weekend, I got in a big Avengers mood, partly because Iron Man 3 is coming to DVD in a couple weeks, so we watched this, and next week we'll watch Iron Man 2, and then the week after that we'll be able to watch Iron Man 3.

So anyway, I like so many things about this movie!  First off, it's really grounded in the characters -- way more time is spent developing the characters than blowing stuff up, which is such a welcome change compared to so many action movies these days.  Also, it starts out with a really unlikable dude and gets me to root for him even before he has an epiphany and starts becoming likable.  I mean, let's face it -- at the beginning of this movie, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is not the super cool "billionaire-genius-playboy-philanthropist."  He's a bored billionaire playboy with genius he's not using who is more interested in enjoying himself than in anything else -- he even stands up his so-called friend Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Terrence Howard) twice in twenty-four hours because he's too busy pursuing his own pleasure.  I have to say, the first time I saw this, I was going, "Oh, yeah!  THAT is why I don't like RDJ.  He plays jerks!"  But I stuck with it, remembering that in Avengers Tony Stark was actually very sweet in his own manic-abrasive way.  I'm so glad I did.

Because, of course, Tony Stark is a jerk at the beginning of the movie.  But then he gets captured by terrorists and imprisoned in a cave, and he figures out a way to escape using only his genius at building nifty stuff.  And I am just a complete sucker for prison-escape stories.  Everything from The Count of Monte Cristo to The Great Escape to Horatio Hornblower:  The Duchess and the Devil... yeah, I'm so there.  Give me a person in a prison figuring out how to get out of it, and I'm a happy Hamlette.  Also, people using whatever they can get their hands on to create something -- I'm all about that!  That's what made me love the first season of Lost so much, the ingenuity and creativity that the characters used to make life work on a deserted island.

But I digress.  Also, um, I should issue a SPOILER ALERT here because I'm totally going to be discussing plot details from here on out, and if you haven't seen this yet and have any desire to, just go get a copy and watch it, okay?

So.  In captivity, Tony meets this dude named Yinsen (Shaun Toub) who is genuinely a nice guy.  No real idea why he's also been captured, but he's the one who gives Tony a way to save both his physical heart (namely, that electromagnet in his chest) from shrapnel, as well as his emotional/spiritual heart (namely, unconditional friendship) from the oblivion Tony has thrust it into.  He also helps Tony build an iron suit to escape in.

And, when Yinsen lays down his life for his friend, he charges Tony with earning his new lease on life.  And, once he's escaped and been rescued, Tony sets out to do just that.  He's had his epiphany (I love epiphanies!) and he's ready to transform himself from a pointless playboy who profits from creating the best weapons in the world into someone who matters, who believes in something, who others can believe in.  And, you guessed it, character reformation is another big sweet spot on Hamlette's list of favorite things.

The rest of the movie, of course, is about Tony building a better Iron Man suit, saving innocent people, visiting justice on those who've escaped it too long, and bringing down the nemesis he didn't know he had until about halfway through this movie.  Also, once he starts transforming into an actual person, he notices that his right-hand-woman, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is an actual person too, not a computer program like his JARVIS (Paul Bettany's wonderful voice) or a disposable date like all the other women he's been attracting.

I have been a Gwyneth Paltrow fan since the first time I ever saw her in a movie, which was Emma (1996).  I've only seen her in a handful of things, but I always find her lovely, charming, and funny.  It's kind of rare to find a woman who can pull off beautiful and funny at the same time, but Gwyneth does it well.  Her Pepper Potts was one of my favorite characters in The Avengers, and I only wish she had been in it -- and the Iron Man movies -- more.

I think what I like best about Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of Tony Stark is how he has this nearly-hidden sadness in his eyes almost all the time.  Whether this is due to RDJ's own life experiences or just great acting, I don't know, but it really gets inside my emotions and makes me cheer him on.  And want to hug him, but I'll leave that to Pepper.  

(Actually, this might be from a later Iron Man movie, as I don't clearly recall this shot.)

So.  Is this movie family friendly?  It could be with a filter thingie.  There's a brief scene of a woman on top of Tony as they paw each other while both of them are somewhat undressed, some innuendo-filled dialog, and violence.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

It's Almost Party Time!

Just a reminder that my Tolkien Blog Party of Special Magnificence will begin one week from today!  But not here -- it's on my book blog, The Edge of the Precipice.  Next Sunday, I'll get the party started with the questions for you to answer on your own blog (or Facebook if you don't blog), and also two giveaways (one worldwide, one US-only, both having six prizes each).  Monday and Tuesday will be game days.  Thursday will be the kick-off for the read-along.  And Saturday, I'll post the winners of the giveaways.

Now I just have to finish all of that in time for it to start next Sunday!  Which, of course, is Bilbo and Frodo's birthday :-)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (2001)

Cowboy finished reading the whole Harry Potter series recently, so we decided to start watching the movies together.  I saw all but the first two in the theaters, and I saw those exactly once on DVD years ago, so I'm glad to revisit them myself.  And I'm going to take this opportunity to do a review of each movie as we watch them.  What fun!

After we finished this first one, Cowboy said he thought it was "both too short and too long."  He felt like the explanation of the world and its characters could have been more organic ("more like Fellowship of the Ring" were his exact words), and he also thought that they worked too hard at making Snape seem sympathetic.

I disagree with him on the last point, but I kind of agree on the other two.  I feel like this was very much aimed at ten-year-olds, and so there are a lot of things that get a bit sillied-up, if you know what I mean.  The troll and its boogers, the letters flooding the Dursley house -- I know they're in the book, but they get emphasized to make kids laugh, I think.  Some scenes went on longer than necessary just because something was funny.  Not necessarily bad, just not necessarily great either.  Especially since it does start to feel like, "Now that you've met this person, you need to meet this other person because they'll be Important later on."

However, there's one thing about this movie that I do not think could be improved on:  the casting.

Ohhh, the casting.

Richard Harris as Dumbledore.  So kindly, firm, charming, cheerful, solemn, wise, and a bit scary around the edges.

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape.  Unlike my husband, I felt like they were trying really hard to make us think Snape was evil, giving us shots of him sneering and scowling and looking very shifty.  Turning him into the red herring to end all red herrings, in other words.  However, Rickman as Snape is just delicious, all eaten up with old jealousy and remorse -- haunted, that's the word.  Haunted and angry.

And I love Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall.  Snippy, sarcastic, abrupt, and caring.

It's very interesting watching this twelve years after it was made, not only knowing how everything turns out, but also how all the children age and mature.  They're all so little and cute here!  None of them are doing much acting to speak of yet, but you can see glimmers of what they'll do in a few years.

I have two favorite scenes in this movie, both of which are favorites of mine in the book too:  the Sorting and the boat ride to Hogwarts.  Both are such fun introductions to Hogwarts, us (and Harry) falling father and farther down this rabbit hole.  I think the boat scene is beautifully filmed, too.  I want to ride in one of those boats and see Hogwarts across the water, all twinkly and, yes, magical!

Overall, I like this movie, but I like the book better.  Part of that is because, compared to films of a similar era like The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the special effects lack.  The three-headed dog in particular just looks horribly fake.  But I really like the giant game of wizard's chess, that was well done, though it went on way too long.

One thing that struck me during this viewing is how much Harry's childhood was like being a house elf.  He's treated like a menial servant, he lives in a cupboard... very interesting.

Harry cooking breakfast for the Dursleys

Okay, I think that's all I have to say about this movie.  Time for supper!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

For Now

I'm trying to write two movie reviews, get ready for my Tolkien blog party, and catch up on my blog reading.  But right now, I only have 2 minutes before it's time to make lunch, so I'm just going to share this picture, because I found it in a glorious two-page spread in The Lone Ranger:  Behind the Mask, which I've been savoring over the past week.

This is a shot of four Texas Rangers waiting for the train to arrive.  On the train are a dangerous outlaw coming to face justice, the Indian who's been hunting him for decades, and a freshly minted lawyer.  One of these Texas Rangers is the lawyer's brother.  But you don't need to know any of that to be struck by this image, do you?  It's glorious.  It makes me want to write thirty different stories all at once.  I can only look at it for a little bit before I'm overcome by this whirlwind of crazy emotions and ideas and... yeah, now I'm way over my time limit.  Better just post this and head to the chuck wagon.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

"Mirror Mirror" (2012) -- Initial Thoughts

I didn't expect to like this movie so much!  I guess it goes on the pile with all the other movies I've seen lately and disagreed wildly about with critics and many other reviewers.  (Did that sentence make sense?)

Mirror Mirror is not a great movie, by any means.  But it is a delightfully fun movie.  I will go ahead and say that I liked this better than Snow White and the Huntsman, since everyone always wants to compare them. Really, I just want to yank The Huntsman out of that, toss him in here, and we'd have a perfect movie.  Well, except that The Huntsman would be a bit disconcerted by how happy and bright everything is here.

But anyway, this post is supposed to be about Snow White (Lily Collins).  Her mother died, and her dad, The King (Sean Bean), didn't want her to grow up without a mother, so he married The Queen (Julia Roberts).  She promptly did away with him and took over, shoving Snow into the corner for the next several years while she throws lavish parties and wears dresses made from enough fabric to clothe all seven dwarves.

Holy giant skirt, Batman!

The Queen also has magical powers of some sort that allow her to visit a magical underworld, where her mirror-dwelling doppelganger gives her potions and stuff to solve her problems.  Except her monetary problems -- The Queen has bankrupted the government and is now sending the entire country's economy into a tailspin.

Enter Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer).  He's rich, he's cute, he's young, he's charming -- The Queen must have him.  Except he's much more interested in Snow White.  That's no problem for The Queen, of course -- just send Snow White to the woods to be killed, give Prince Alcott a love potion, and all will be well.

Armie Hammer wears period costumes so well, doesn't he?

So, yeah, your standard Snow White story, told with tongue firmly in cheek and one eye winking at the audience.  It has random references to modern life (my favorite being when Prince Alcott tells The Queen he needs a moment "to process" what's going on), and all the actors are clearly there solely because they are having so much doggone fun.  And so I have fun watching them have fun.  It's all good!

Snow White and the seven completely wonderful dwarves.

I'll be getting a copy of this for my very own, as I think that before my kids are old enough for the cheeky fun of Jack the Giant Slayer, they will enjoy the sweeter, gentler fun of this movie.

I really want to make her costume here for myself.

Is it family friendly?  Mostly.  There are some low-cut dresses, some kissing, Armie Hammer spends a lot of time shirtless, several characters are seen only in their old-fashioned and very modest underwear, and there are a bunch of delightful sword fights.  There's also a very creepy attack by wooden marionettes, and a dragon-wolf monster.  Too scary for small kids, fine for teens and most tweens, I'd say.  No bad language except for a couple instances of OMG.

My Ten Favorite Action Movies

So, I've decided I love too many "action/adventure" movies to lump them all together, and I'm going to do lists of my favorite superhero, sci-fi, fantasy, and war movies separately.  Which means these are all pure action movies about people without super powers or magical abilities that are battling other real people, not robots or supervillains or evil wizards.  Yes, such movies exist!

1.  The Fugitive (1993)

Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) is wrongly convicted of his wife's murder, escapes, and goes hunting for the real killer while U.S. Marshal Sammy Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) hunts for him.  My second-favorite movie of all time.

2.  The Bourne Identity (2002)

Amnesiac Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) races across Europe, evading unknown pursuers, seeking answers about his past, and falling in love with a quirky stranger (Franka Potente).  The movie that changed my mind about Matt Damon.  And based on one of my favorite books.

3.  A Knight's Tale (2001)

Poor William Thatcher (Heath Ledger) pretends to be a knight so he can win jousting tournaments and feed himself and his friends (Paul Bettany, Alan Tudyk, and Mark Addy).  Rollicking good fun, with a crazy soundtrack and some awesome jousting scenes.

4.  Conspiracy Theory (1997)

Paranoid cab driver Jerry Fletcher (Mel Gibson) convinces the woman he loves (Julia Roberts) to help him uncover a conspiracy.  I think this is the first thing I ever saw Patrick Stewart in other than Star Trek:  The Next Generation.  It manages to be twisty and tender, creepy and sweet, all at the same time.

5.  The Three Musketeers (1993)

Young d'Artagnan (Chris O'Donnell) just wants to be a Musketeer, but he ends up embroiled in unmasking a plot against the king.  His three Musketeer friends (Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, and Oliver Platt) are hilarious and awesome too.  I actually like this better than Alexandre Dumas' book!

6.  GoldenEye (1995)

James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) battles his ex-partner (Sean Bean) to save Britain from an electronic meltdown.  The first thing I ever saw Brosnan, Bean, and Judi Dench in -- and I became a total fan of all three.

7.  Master and Commander:  The Far Side of the World (2003)

Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) leads his best friend Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany) and his ship's crew on a quest to capture a dastardly French ship.  I'd read all of Patrick O'Brian's novels about Aubrey and Maturin before the movie came out, and I spent a lot of my time in the theater whispering to my brother about how perfectly everything matched the books.

8.  R.E.D. (2010)

Retired black-ops agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), his new girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), and a bunch of his old pals (Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren) and enemies (Brian Cox) team up to figure out who's trying to kill them, and why.  Hilarious from beginning to end.  You guys wanna get pancakes?

9.  The Hunt for Red October (1990)

CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) tries to convince his superiors that a Russian submarine captain (Sean Connery) wants to defect.  Still the best Jack Ryan movie, and since I love Harrison Ford but only like Alec Baldwin, that's saying something.

10.  Romancing the Stone (1984)

Romance novelist Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) goes to South America to rescue her kidnapped sister and ends up having a grand adventure with the help of a stranger (Michael Douglas).  Rollicking good fun, and all the parts that have to do with being a writer crack me up to no end.