I was able to see an advanced screening of Zathura last night. And I was surprised to say the least. Zathura was much better than I thought it’d be. I was assuming it’d be just a remake of Jumanji but for children. And while, of course, the game-coming-to-life aspect resembled Jumanji, there the similarities stopped. Zathura’s story revolves more around two constantly-bickering brothers and their relationship with each other. The youngest, Danny, finds a game down in their creepy basement. And after his first turn, they find themselves in an outer space adventure. The boys must survive a meteor shower, a defective robot, evil aliens, and their own strained relationship, aided only by a stranded astronaut.

The story is very touching, with a couple fun twists thrown in. The movie was very action-packed and suspenseful, but even the Gorgons (the lizard-like aliens that attack them) are toned-down and almost muppet-like as to not scare younger children. This is definitely a movie for all ages. The only complaint I had were the few swear words that parents might need to talk to younger children about later. I saw a mother in front of me lean over to talk to her 6 year old girl after the youngest brother, Danny, swore at his older brother.

The two boys Jonah Bobo/”Danny” and John Hutcherson/”Walter” were amazing young actors and very convincing as brothers. And the supporting cast of Dax Shepard, Tim Robbins, and Kristin Stewart were great as well. Since the entire movie remained solely in and around the house, no other actors were even seen.

Zathura is a fun, science fiction, action, suspense, drama, comedy, family-friendly movie.

Greatest Game Ever Played


Well, this week is the week for sneak previews! I got to see The Greatest Game Ever Played last night, Oliver Twist tonight, and tomorrow night is Into the Blue. Then of course, Friday is Serenity. 4 movies in 4 days! If I didn’t love movies so much, I might be burned out on them.

The Greatest Game Ever Played definitely surprised me. The movie was funny and heartwarming, a pure feel-good movie. I love leaving the theatre with that feeling. This movie is based on a true story about Francis Ouimet, a poor American boy who had a passion and talent for golf. His father didn’t approve of Francis’ dreams; and being working class family was an obstacle as well. But still, Ouimet gets the chance to play as an amateur in the 1913 US Open along side his childhood idol.

Francis Ouimet is played by the Disney Channel’s own Shia LaBeouf who does a wonderful job of making his character lovable and relatable. His ten-year-old caddie, Eddie, was played by Joshua Flitter, who stole the show in many scenes!

One of my favorite things about this film though, was the unique, artsy film effects of the golf games. Even for people like me who don’t care for golf, the way this movie flowed and the great camera shots, made it much more interesting and fun to watch. Many times I found myself holding my breath when someone was making a putt.

This was a wonderful, wholesome family movie that seems to be so rare nowadays.

Brothers Grimm

Well, the Brothers Grimm wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. And I don’t know why the director, Gilliam, was complaining about the PG13 rating that they received. This movie is definitely not for young children. Stories in books aren’t as scary, but when you see something on screen it brings a different reality to it. Some of the gore could have been cut out, and it could have been still pretty creepy.

Matt Damon and Heath Ledger were perfect in their roles, and made a great team. Damon played the level-headed older brother who is always ready for action, and Ledger played the scholarly brother that loves fairy tales. There was a great blend of action and comedy. It reminded me a lot of The Princess Bride. Except in this movie, the suspense was pretty much non-stop.

And yet, for some reason, I still felt like something was missing. I was a tad disappointed with how the fairy tales were mentioned. I expected a little more, I guess. It’s hard to say anything more without giving away any spoilers. But overall, The Brothers Grimm was a very fun, entertaining movie. And it made me want to reread some of the Grimm fairy tales.

The Historian

The Historian is Elizabeth Kostova’s first published novel, and at 642 pages it was very impressive. She held my attention throughout the entire book. I hated putting it down. Kostova has a beautiful writing style and makes the history of “Vlad the Impaler” very interesting. Most of the story is told through letters and jumps around quite a bit, but it is very easy to follow.

The book begins when a teenage girl comes across an ancient book and containing some mysterious letters in her father’s library. The book is blank, save for the center pages which contain a woodcut rendering of a dragon with the word “Drakulya.” Her father then proceeds to explain his personal search for Dracula and the truth behind the historical figure.

The vast references to the history of the 1400’s in the surrounding eastern European countries, makes this book seem more like a work of non-fiction. But the supernatural qualities add an eerie, suspenseful dimension to this work of art. The only complaint I have is that the ending seemed somewhat anti-climatic. But on a whole, this was a great piece of literature. I highly recommend it to those who love historical fiction or just a good vampire tale.

The 4400 – Finally caught up


I can’t believe I had never seen an episode till last Saturday’s marathon. I taped them all and was able to watch season 1 and 2 this weekend. Let’s just say, I’ll have my VCR set to record the new season starting this Sunday even if I’m there to watch it. Unfortunately, I never watch the USA network so I had never caught this show. I’d seen many reviews about it in SciFi magazines, but just never made an effort to figure out when it came on. So I’m really glad I caught a commercial saying there was a marathon of every episode over the holiday weekend.

I like alien abduction stories, but the premise seemed a lot like Spielberg’s “Taken,” which I knew couldn’t compete. But they put some wonderful twists in their story which slowly is unraveling like a great mystery. Throughout the past 60 years, people have been abducted, and all 4400 are returned at the same time at Highland Beach in Washington. The abductees remember nothing, but over time some start developing strange powers like precognition, healing, and reading minds. Through the first two seasons, we find out that the abductors claim to be from the future, and sent these 4400 back to save the world from a disaster. And the 4400 each have a purpose, some having larger roles than others.

There is, obviously, a large cast. There’s no way they can run out of stories with 4400 people. The character development of the regular cast (of at least 8 returning characters) has been well thought out. I’ve put brief character descriptions below.

I can’t wait to see where the 3rd season takes us. I hope they can get a large enough following to put this show on another network, for at least reruns. I’d hate to see this show get cancelled before it’s time like Roswell. They definitely need better promotion and marketing. The 4400 could easily become a huge hit with a cult following like many other SciFi shows.

If you missed the marathon this past weekend, season 1 is already out on DVD. Plus, before each episode they do a short recap of what’s been happening. So you can easily catch up on what’s been going on.

Cast Bios of the 4400:

Tom Baldwin ( Joel Gretsch ) – Tom works for Homeland Security with his partner, Diana Skouris. He has a personal involvement with the 4400 since his nephew, Shawn, is one of them. His son, Kyle, was saved by Shawn from abduction, but instead has been in a coma for the 3 years following (which ultimately killed his marriage). Tom continues to try to unravel the mystery of the 4400, as well as being called to help prevent the forewarned disaster along with the 4400.

Diana Skouris ( Jaqueline McKenzie ) – Diana is Tom’s partner with homeland security. Besides working to figure out and help the 4400, she recently adopted one of them named Maia.

Maia Rutledge ( Conchita Campbell ) – Maia was the first of the 4400 to be abducted back in 1946. Maia just wants to live a normal life of a child, but she has an extremely special gift, precognition. She has told her adoptive mother that she no longer has been seeing the future. But Diana recently found Maia’s journal that lists all her recent visions.

Kyle Baldwin ( Chad Faust ) – Kyle should have been one of the 4400, but his cousin Shawn pushed him out of the way just in time. Kyle still ended up in an unexplained coma for 3 years. Shawn used his healing power on Kyle to wake him up. But when he awoke, he was’t the same person. The person who had control of his body claimed to be from the future, and warned Tom that the 4400 were sent back to divert a future disaster. Now, in control of his own body, with no knowledge of what had happened to him, Kyle is trying to get on with his life.

Shawn Farrell ( Patrick Flueger ) – Shawn disappeared in 2001, saving his cousin Kyle from abduction. When he returned, he found that he had the power to manipulate life-force, more specifically to heal people. After an accident where he almost killed his brother, Shawn ran away to a fellow 4400 and billionaire, Jordan Collier. Currently, Shawn works for Collier at the 4400 Center using his healing ability to not only save people, but bring in money for the Center.

Jordan Collier ( Billy Campbell ) – Jordan disappeared in 2002. He easily picked up his life where he left off, continuing his billionaire status, manipulating others to do his will. He founded the 4400 Center, a place not only for fellow returnees, but ordinary people looking to “unlock” the 4400 within themselves. Jordan has not shown any signs of special abilities yet.

Richard Tyler ( Mahershalhashbaz Ali ) – Richard disappeared in 1951, a pilot during the Korean War. He left behind a fiance who turns out to be the grandmother of Lily, a woman who looks remarkably like his former love. He soon finds himself falling in love with Lily, and as a new father to their child who was conceived supposedly while they were abducted. Richard has not shown any signs of special abilities yet.

Lily Moore-Tyler ( Laura Allen ) – Lily disappeared in 1993, and returned to find that her husband had remarried and her daughter believing that her new mother is her real mother. Her former husband has put a restraining order out on Lily so she can’t even see her own daughter. After meeting Richard Tyler in quarantine, she met up with him again and ended up falling in love. Not long after returning, Lily found out that she was pregnant, impregnated while she was abducted and not knowing for sure whom the father is. After getting married to Kyle, she gave birth to Isabelle, a beautiful and gifted baby. Isabelle’s powers are not completely known, but she can control people’s minds and has some level of telekinesis at the very least. Lily has not shown any signs of special abilities, outside of being able to communicate with her 6-month-old baby.

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