Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"West Side Story" a modern-day Romeo & Juliet

By Tiffany Young
While it seems odd to call a movie modern when it was released in the 1960s, compared to Shakespeare's time that's what it is. "West Side Story" tells about two gangs—the Jets and the Sharks—and how love does not understand racial differences.

Tony, who used to be a Jet, now has a respectable job and wants to stay out of trouble, but when the gang asks him to come to a dance he thinks he may find what he's looking for, though he's not sure what that is. He finds it in Maria (Natalie Wood), the sister of Bernardo—a Shark. Maria has just come to America from Puerto Rico and does not want to marry Chino, who her parents and brother would like her to marry. When Maria's and Tony's eyes meet the world fades and they know they have found love.

However, Bernardo will have none of it and sends Maria home the moment he sees her kissing Tony, a white man from the other gang. But Tony goes up and down the alley behind Maria's home until he finds her later that night when they decide they will meet again the next day.

When they meet at the bridal store Maria works at after work, Maria convinces Tony to stop a fight between the two gangs that evening, but when he gets there he ends up being provoked and forced to fight and kills Bernardo, Maria's brother, after Bernardo accidentally kills one of the Jet's gang members. When he goes to Maria to tell her what he's done she is angry at first, but ends up forgiving him and agrees to meet later and run away with him.

Tony waits for Maria, but she is held up by a police questioning her about the dance the night before and attempting to find out how her bother was murdered. She sends her brother's girlfriend to tell Tony she will be late, but after the gang mistreats her, she tells them Chino found about about Tony and Maria and shot Maria. When Tony finds out, he is devastated, but then he sees Maria calling out to him. They run to one another and as they are falling into each others' arms, Chino shoots Tony in revenge of him killing Bernardo.

Maria comforts him until his death and then threatens both gangs that she will kill them all and then herself, but when the police officer shows up, she drops to her knees and cries as members of both gangs pick Tony up to carry him off in a procession.

While the movie starts out slow, it picks up quickly and its memorable songs and heartfelt scenes makes it a memorable classic. It's a real treat for those who love musicals and enjoy dancing. Instead of fighting, most of the fight scenes have more arabesques and finger snapping than punches and kicks. It's nice to see a movie that can tell what happened without all the blood and guts—and it didn't hurt its ratings either. The show won 10 Academy Awards and Best picture, the only musical ever to do so.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What's the story with "Morning Glory?"

By Tiffany Young
Still in theaters, with only two showings a day at the small movie complex in Texarkana, Texas, this movie starring Harrison Ford, Rachel McAdams and Diane Keaton combines romantic comedy with the world of journalism.

While not a very original idea, the way it is done changes the plot from being about how demanding bosses in the journalism world are to how media is changing--a little fluff thrown in can improve ratings even if die-hard journalists still want to cover real news.

Award-winning TV anchor Mike Pomeroy (Ford) is finagled into being on Day Break a morning news show that TV Producer Becky Fuller (McAdams) is attempting to save from being pulled off the air.

Pomeroy is cranky and resists helping Fuller in any way, but since she is the only one giving him a chance to do what he loves, he eventually comes around to seeing things, well, not exactly her way, but perhaps he'll loosen up a bit and go along with some of her ideas to keep the station going.

Colleen Peck (Keaton) is ready for a new co-anchor, but when she finds out Pomeroy is going to be starring beside her, a battle begins of who does which segments and whose dressing room gets what. Peck tells Fuller from the beginning she doubts she will be able to change the station's success, but begins to see change first-hand and backs her up by trying new things, such as handling animals on the show, for better ratings.

Meanwhile, Fuller, who has always had her sights set at the top is finally finding love from Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson), a man who has also worked with the difficult-to-deal-with Pomeroy. But Fuller's work has always been her life and she just can't seem to give that up, leaving the audience to wonder if this newly blossoming romance can withhold her obsession with answering her phone at all hours of the night and watching the news during conversations.

This underdog's tale of people who must overcome themselves to help each other out is filled with funny moments and is definitely a good way to spend an hour and a half forgetting one's own problems to be inspired. Knowing life is not always about your own is a message often overlooked by movies that focus more on the negativity that can be found at some news organizations.

A light-hearted film with funny moments, cute cliches and a little romance on the side.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Black Magic Woman fails to bewitch me

By Tiffany Young
This novel by Justin Gustainis begins with supernatural investigator Quincey Morris showing up in a small, Texas town to rid the town of vampires. Morris is a likeable, if not predictable, character, with his take-charge attitude and quiet demeanor. When Walter LaRue comes into his office telling Morris about supernatural acts in his home threatening the lives of his family, Quincey takes on the case, saying he will take care of it.

After arriving at the home, Quincey finds charms left behind by the wife's mother that had been protecting the family against a powerful dark source and he calls in a friend, white witch Libby Chastain, to help out. The two go on a hunt quite literally to find the witch who is causing all the strife to the family.

In time, the detectives find out that the wife, Marcia LaRue, came from a family that had helped persecute a witch in the Salem witch trials and the descendants of that family are willing to do anything to get revenge.

Meanwhile, an FBI-type agent from South Africa—who has experience with supernatural activity—is flown in to help with a case of repeated child murders. Agent Van Dreenan and Agent Fenton may not have immediate respect or affection for one another, but in time come to an understanding as Fenton discovers a new respect for things that seem implausible.

Both teams set out on a series of leads to find the culprit behind their respective crimes only to find they may be looking for the same criminal or criminals.

"Black Magic Woman" may have been a bit too supernatural for my tastes. While I enjoyed portions of the book, there were times when sexual-type activities seemed to just come from nowhere without any kind of romance, there were so many demons and witches it was difficult to keep track of what was going on at times and some of the grammar and spelling mistakes in the book were distracting. There are also times when the novel gets a bit cheesy going from one silly spell to another—especially toward the end of the novel.

That being said, it wasn't a terrible novel and it certainly wasn't one that took much time reading. If you like dark novels, you may want to check it out despite my unenthusiastic review.

Climbing mountains, building schools

By Tiffany Young
"Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin is an inspirational and true account of how Mortenson went from climbing the tallest mountains to falling in love with a culture and passionately wanting to help that culture.

By going back to the U.S. after promising Korphe, a village in Pakistan, that he would return and build the local children a school, Mortenson finds himself working extra shifts and sleeping in his car to save money to keep his promise. After giving presentations all over looking for funding, an unlikely source ends up being his prime benefactor in the years to come.

When Mortenson goes back to build the school he finds himself agreeing (sometimes by force) to help other communities get schools. It takes quite a while for Mortenson to build Korphe's school because of various delays, but the village becomes his family even as begins making a family back home—meeting his wife and having a baby during this tumultuous time in his life. Not only does the book describe Mortenson's ambitious goals of building schools that includes teaching to girls in the Middle East, but also tells a story of how someone immerses themselves into a culture in order to understand them and help them in the way that is needed—not always in the way he would like—efficiently.

The Pakistan culture shows that the American way is not always the way to get results—in some parts of the world, sitting down and having three cups of tea must come before making decisions, starting projects and diving in—regardless of how antsy you are to get your project underway.

I think readers will find this book inspirational in more ways than one.

There is also a young reader's edition for children eight years old and older.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lessons from the "The Fifth Agreement"

By Tiffany Young
The Fifth Agreement by don Miguel and don Jose Ruiz is an addition to The Four Agreements book published by the same father/son duo. Based on principals of The Toltec, the book shares principles that can turn ones thoughts from Hell to Heaven. The original four principals are:
1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don't take anything personally.
3. Don't make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.
The fifth agreement that was added in this book is "Be skeptical, but learn to listen." I think this is a good addition to the original four, because it reminds us that what others are telling us may not be true—they may just be a reflection of what they believe to be true. I find this in my own life at times, where someone tells me something and then I assume all sorts of things from there. It's difficult to keep these things to ourselves, so e use others as sounding boards, which is fine if they are skeptical, but few of us are leading us to believe and pass on the lies that may be told. None of this has to be done on purpose or with evil intent to cause harm. Therefore, these little lessons put to use in our daily lives can be important. At the end of the book the reader is asked to make the world, your surroundings a better place—not necessarily by doing something outrageous, but something very courageous. To use our words to build better dreams and to create a Heavenly place. I found the authors' wisdom to be helpful. Let me know if you find the same.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

French film "Priceless"

I mentioned my love of libraries in my last post and one reason for that beyond the extensive list of books is that I can use the library as my very own "Blockbuster." Only it's free and has a wider variety of films!

For instance, yesterday I went to pick up a book I had on hold, "Pilgrim's Progress," and decided to pick up the first film I saw, "Priceless."

I didn't know it was a French film, but I thought perhaps it could be judging from the back description saying it was set on the French Riviera.

Sure enough, I had picked up a French film, which I would never do at Blockbuster. I'm not even sure they have much of a list of foreign films.

It turned out to be a very cute romantic comedy in which a bell boy and bartender for a swanky hotel falls for a woman who goes from man to man trying to find a rich husband and has nothing to own for herself. Thinking he is rich, she falls into his bed only to find out when her fiance has left her he has little money to speak of. She goes around spending his money like a little spoiled girl until he spends his last euro for ten more seconds with her.

But then he becomes a boy toy for an older woman and begins playing her own games. They sneak around their "lovers'" backs, but how long can they keep their secret and will love or money prevail?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Buy the Book

By Tiffany Young
Despite my love of the library, I'm ordering a book, "Black Magic Woman" from Amazon to take part in a supernatural book club some of my Twilight-fanned friends have begun. I missed the first book they read (although I heard it wasn't truly miss-worthy). Our next meeting will be at the beginning of December, and while the sci-fi and supernatural books aren't my first pick, I'm looking forward to a change. Sometimes a book will surprise you or lead you into a whole new genre. I always tell people who claim they're not a reader that they probably just haven't found the right kind of book for them yet. Try something different and try others' recommendations. You may be surprised! But don't feel like you have to finish a book if you're not feeling it. Sometimes I'll tuck a book for years before pulling it out and discovering the first time around just wasn't the right time for me to discover the book's riches. Have a readful day!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Thumbs up for "A Weekend with Mr. Darcy"

By Tiffany Young
This sweet novel should be on any Jane Austen fan's list of books to read. I realize their are some die-hard fans that may think it's an affront to the author to do spin-offs of her work, but this lovely read is inspired by Austen's novels, rather than trying to rewrite them as works such as "Clueless" attempted to do.
A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Connelly is set in England, partly in Jane Austen's hometown. Book lovers meet for a weekend conference to enjoy, what seems to them, will be a relaxing, enjoyable weekend, but becomes a bit more of a romantic whirlwind for the two heroines in the novel.
Katherine Roberts, an Austen specialist, is done with lying, cheating men and just wants to get away when she meets Warwick, a handsome man that wants to get close to her, but forgets to to tell her a minor detail that she may think is more important that he share than he thinks.
Robyn Love, a romantic who has been dating a very unromantic fellow for years, tries escaping for a nice, quiet weekend only to be followed by her boyfriend whom she's trying to get rid of. When she meets someone who may be Mr. Right, will she be able to let Mr. Wrong go once and for all? Or will she let guilt keep her stuck in a rut "'Til death do us part?"
Find out by purchasing the novel at www.victoriaconnelly.com.