Saturday, October 23, 2010

My Aspie Angel

I picked up the expression "Aspie Angel" from an Autism/Asperger's support group I joined. People with Asperger's Syndrome are referred to as Aspie's. My son, Bill, has Asperger's Syndrome. He is beautiful, sweet and brilliant. Everyone adores him. He is not like other kids - normal kids, that are referred to as Neuro Typical or NT. He is not NT. He is unique. True, all children are unique and special but a child with Asperger's is not only that but they see the entire world as a unique place and through their unique eyes. Asperger's Syndrome is on the Autistic Spectrum but carries it's own special markers.
Recently, I attended a conference with Temple Grandin, a brilliant inventor and author with Autism/Asperger's that was recently featured in an HBO film and Tony Attwood, the leading expert in Asperger's Syndrome. There were over 1400 people in attendance - parents, teachers, mental health professionals and adult Aspies. It was an emotional journey. I found myself interviewing an adult Aspie and telling him my fears of what lies ahead for my son. I also spoke to a woman with a 3 year old boy that she feared had Autism. I told that between about 2 1/2 and 6 were the worst times for us and that things would get better. I told her how well Bill was doing now but that the road was very hard and that she could do it if I did. I felt strange doling out advice but I felt I had too.
There were parents with children older than my son and they shared their experiences. I felt hope in myself.
While Temple Grandin was finishing up her speech, I snuck out so I could be in line for her to sign her book. Standing at one of the book dealers I spotted a white haired man giving autographs. It was Tony Attwood. The man I drove 6 hours to see. He was autographing a book for the book dealer. I stood next to him and thanked him for being there. I told him how far I came and he commented he came all the way from Australia to be there. I thanked him. I asked him if he had time to sign books later. He said he didn't know but would sign one for me. I pulled my book out of my backpack and he signed it. As I handed him the book I started to cry. I told him that I thought he wrote his book, "The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome", about my son. He was very gracious.
I didn't think my son was classic Autistic as he was first diagnosed. Some things didn't fit in to that diagnosis. Yes, he was high functioning but not exactly. Something was different about him. Something about his socializing, speaking and moving was not all autism. Dr. Attwood's book described Bill exactly - as unique and as unique as everyone with Asperger's Syndrome is.
Temple Grandin said, "If it wasn't for people like me, all you socialites would still be sitting around in caves talking to each other." To love an Aspie is to get that quote. In the opinion Ms. Grandin and Dr. Attwood there would be no silicone valley, inventors, engineers, spelling bee winners, actors, directors, animators or geeks without the wonderful world of Aspergers. Maybe not true for all but Dr. Attwood referred to the "Antique's Roadshow" as "spot the Aspie." For those of us that love and know an Aspie those comments are funny. The obsession with a subject, attention to detail and awkward social skills fit many we know in those professions. You can giggle out loud now, if you want.
Dr. Attwood also said there was cure for Autism! Put the person with Autism or Asperger's in their room and close the door. When they are in their room alone they do not have Autism! Once again, feel free to giggle, if you understand.
People ask me when I knew something was "wrong" with Bill. I never thought it was vaccines, birth issues, etc. I have a video of him in an exersaucer at 6 months old just bouncing and bouncing for an hour straight. Could have been then. When he didn't talk at 18 months, 20 months, 24 months or 2 1/2 years old. Could have been then too. His diagnosis was when he was almost 5. It was heartbreaking. I refused to give up on him. When was 3 or 4 and was just so terrible I didn't want to look at him - I did not want to give up. He was beautiful, sweet and smart. I knew he was really in there somewhere.
BUT now I have a renewed sense of hope from this conference. I learned that Aspies are probably the ones that are okay and the rest of us NTs just have to catch up. Maybe they are the next step in our evolution. In a world that has replaced real social lives with social networking. Maybe that is true.
Bill is 6 1/2. He is in 1st grade and the sky is the limit. If I read this to him, he would ask what the limit of the sky is. That is why I love him.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Despicable Me (guest reviewer!)

Despicable Me is being reviewed by a guest reviewer - the Super Mommy! The Movie Mommy thanks the Super Mommy for this timely review.

I recently read a review of Marmaduke that bemoaned the fact there’s nothing really new under the sun when it comes to kids’ movies. And after seeing my share of sweet but uninspired kids’ movies this summer, I was inclined to agree. That is, until we saw Despicable Me. Here’s a kids’ movie that’s not only warm and funny, but original too!

Steve Carrell (of The Office and Horton Hears a Who) voices the lead character, Gru, a “super-villain” who lives in an awesomely scary-looking house sandwiched amid the cookie-cutter houses of suburbia, with a host of “minions.” Gru’s minions are the cutest animated characters since Wall-e, and they bring a lot of personality and humor to the film. Gru’s fearsome facade masks a sad upbringing at the hands of a singularly unsupportive mother (voiced by, of all people, Julie Andrews). Like any misbehaving child, Gru hatches ever-escalating “evil” exploits to win his mother’s approval and attention.

When a younger, competing super-villain (Vector, voiced by Jason Segel) steels Gru’s thunder by pulling off the heist of the century – swiping the Great Pyramid of Giza – Gru decides it’s time to pull out all the stops and show up this newbie by … wait for it … stealing the moon. While plotting his greatest exploit yet, Gru turns away from his door three cute-as-heck little orphan girls who are out selling cookies to raise money for their orphanage. Turns out, however, the tykes are integral to his moon plans – Vector has a sweet tooth and the girls are Gru’s ticket into his competitor’s inner sanctum, where Gru plans to steal a shrink ray essential to his plot. While Gru sees the girls as his ticket to successfully stealing the moon, the tots – Margo, Edith and Agnes – have other plans, namely to turn Gru from “superbad” into “superdad.”

Carrell, Segal, Andrews and the actresses who voice the three girls (Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier and Elsie Fisher) do a great job conveying all the humor and emotion the storyline demands. And the animation is on a par with Pixar’s best – character facial expressions, in particular, are masterfully executed.

Like any good children’s movie, Despicable Me has plenty of cute characters, a heart of gold, ample laughs for adults and kids (including a hilarious fart joke), and an important message to convey about the nature of family and love. Parents will relate to Gru’s struggle to accept his transformation from the super villain that he always thought he was (Who were you before you had kids?) into a responsible, nurturing parent. And everyone will be charmed by the girls’ moxie and the minions’ cuteness.

But it’s the creative plot that really gives the film its originality, and sets a stage for all those familiar kids’ film elements to play out in a new, fun and exciting way. How can an evil – “despicable” – character like Gru turn into a father for three little orphan girls who desperately want one?

Maybe Gru, like many of us who always thought of ourselves as improbable parents, isn’t quite so “despicable” – or inept – as he thinks he is.

MMMM1/2 M's (out of 5)

Friday, July 2, 2010

ECLIPSE (the only review you need to read!)

On a lovely Friday morning I hit the early showing of Eclipse. The phenomenon that is the Twilight saga is not without merit. The books are just...well...okay. The movies, so far, have improved upon Stephanie Meyer's work. I attribute this to the fact that she did not write the screenplays. Moving on to the movie! (Note: I am not going to go into who the characters are, etc. I am going to assume you have some inkling of the story so far.)

Eclipse: The Twilight saga, by definition meaning long heroic story, continues with this third installment. I loved it! The writing and definitely directing have all improved in this movie. And, well, the saga continues...
Eclipse picks up where New Moon (which I also liked) left off. Edward proposed to Bella, Jacob Black is a werewolf (as is all the studs in his tribe) and Victoria is on the lose still looking to have Bella for lunch. Things are pretty much the same at the start Eclipse. Bella wants to become a vampire so she can stay with Edward forever and his condition is that they get married. She, of course, sees the only reason a recent high school graduate gets married is because she is knocked up. There is a very funny scene with Bella's father, Charlie, as she asks him about the merits of marriage. He starts to have the "talk" with her about sex and she is not into it. Little scenes like this in the movie I find to make the characters seem real. The thing I like about the Twilight movies are that they make the teenagers seem like teenagers - at least to me. They are not stereotypical teenagers but just kids. That is refreshing! Their biggest worry should be the prom and graduation. Bella on the other hand has a lot more to deal with, like knowing vampires and werewolves, but those teenage things still are at play.
Some nice things that are in the book and the movie are the backgrounds of some of the Cullen family like Jasper and Rosalie. As well as some stories of the Quileute tribe on the history of the shape shifting wolves (basically they are not werewolves in the traditional sense) and their early encounters with "the cold ones."
On the horizon there is trouble as someone is creating a "new born" vampire army that will be bent on Bella's destruction. There is a little visit from the Volturi and an uneasy truce between the Cullen's and the werewolves to protect the town of Forks and Bella. There are some great werewolf/vampire fight scenes at the climactic battle that is very satisfying for the guys in the audience (of which there are few!).
Part of this wonderful vampire action might be in part to it's director, David Slade, who also directed Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night. I consider 30 Day of Night to be quintessential vampire movie viewing (also reviewed on this blog). His direction says a lot about this movie. Not only his ability to direct action and gore but to have the individuals react with believable emotion.
I did think that the Eclipse book was the weakest of the series and really could have been one big book with Breaking Dawn (that is why I am not impressed by her writing...she is not concise enough). I hope that Slade directs the next one and brings his magic!
There is always the question asked of which camp or team I am with - Jacob or Edward? I will make this easy - Dr. Cullen! He is more my age and, after all, he's a doctor.
MMMM (out of 5 M's)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rental Reviews!

I am a bit behind but the following will review The Wolfman, Invictus, From Paris With Love, Horsemen and The Princess & The Frog. Feel free to comment!

The Wolfman: I am not exactly sure what this yawner was supposed to do. Was it a tribute movie? Re-telling? Re-make? Or Mess? I will go with the later - a mess. Most people are familiar with Lon Chaney, Jr.'s original 1941 version of The Wolf Man. It has been what all others have been based on. A version that brought to the American collective psyche the curse of being a werewolf. The werewolf lore has been in everything from Wolf to Underworld to the Twilight series and back again. The full moon makes all of us just want to's natural.
What is not natural is this boring movie that is supposed to retell the lore of the werewolf. Much like the 1941 original there are mysterious Gypsies, wild eyed townspeople with pitchforks and damsels in danger.
Benecio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins almost look embarrased as they trudge there way through this movie. The changing into the werewolf is no great special effects and then to have them look like the l941 version almost looks silly. It worked for that movie but not for a modern take on it.
Predictable and plodding I was sorry that this movie could have gone in many interesting directions but didn't. And a small scene in the beginning with Max Von Sydow tells us nothing but we longed for him back on the screen.
Rent the original and the many good werewolf movies that have come since. The fact that Lon Chaney, Jr. was a suffering soul his entire life will make the original more poignant by far.
YAWN. (No M's)

Invictus: Clint Eastwood does it again as he directs this powerhouse of movie. Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon are brilliant as two men who have different motivations on winning the world rugby cup for the new country of South Africa.
Some Americans do not remember what apartheid is and that is a shame or what a man like Nelson Mandela meant to an entire nation. Some in South Africa saw him as a terrorist and others a patriot (as those often go hand in hand, depending on the side you are on). If you need a refresher on those difficult times then I recommend it before watching this movie BUT it is not necessary for the enjoyment.
Mandela (Freeman) as the newly elected president of South Africa wishes to ease tensions and bring a truly divided country together. He is not out to win a popularity contest with his own party or the party before his. He wishes for a unified South Africa. He realizes that sport can do that. He focuses on the South African rugby team. This team was very popular among South Africa's whites but not blacks. The black South Africans saw the team as a symbol of the old regime. Mandela saw it as an opportunity to have all sides cheering for a common win - a world cup. He enlists the help of the team's captain, played by Damon, and puts him in motion to make it happen.
An inspiring movie that will have you cheering in the end and believing that maybe we can all make some kind of peace in the world.
MMMM (out of 5 M's)

From Paris With Love: I enjoyed this movie in the same way I enjoyed The Long Kiss Goodnight. Clever script and lots of action with a great cast encourages you to just sit back and enjoy the ride. The previews made me in now way interested. John Travolta with a goatee and bald? No thanks! But I am so glad my husband got this. We watched it several times and even kept it an extra night.
A thriller with an incredible body count, you must watch and listen as you are taken for a ride, literally and figuratively, and you don't know who to trust or even what the truth is. Travolta is some kind of government agent that is to train a new guy, Jonathon Rhys Meyers, in how it works. Travolta's character lets the the new guy in a bit at a time, just enough to confuse him and draw us in.
Great fun and is worth the rent.
MMM 1/2 M (out of 5 Ms)

Horsemen: Dennis Quaid is what I like to call a "reliable" actor. He has done a few duds but the guy works at his craft and works hard. I have seen about 3 movies in the past 3 months he has been in. I am eagerly awaiting his Jeff Bridges moment at the Oscars. It won't be with this movie but he has been creating an abundant and varied body of work that this can fit into.
Quaid plays a dental forensic police specialist that is first called into a case because there were teeth found at what appears to be a murder scene with cryptic messages in blood written around. He begins to work on it but doesn't think anything of it until more bodies start turning up. Then it becomes an obsession.
Through his research he realizes that the murders are related to the story in the book of Revelations of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. There are many twists and turns and you will probably figure it out but it is a nice little thriller. Then end could have been tidied up better but it works.
I will warn you that it is pretty gruesome.
MM 1/2 Ms (out of 5 Ms)

The Princess & The Frog: This is a fun animated movie that takes a new twist on an old story. It is cute yet will keep the interest of any adult that has to sit down with their princess to watch it. The music is catchy and you be on the edge of your seat (with your kids) as you wonder if the good guys will prevail. This is you know how that goes. Not the best animated movie of the year but worth watching and buying for your own princess to enjoy - over and over!
MMM 1/2Ms (out of 5 M's)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Quickie Reviews

Just some quick reviews of some recent rentals:

Shutter Island: Don't waste your time or brain power trying to figure out this poor excuse for a thriller. You will figure it out in the first 5 minutes and spend the rest of the movie trying to get to the point. And wonder why you are continuing to watch it. Good actors wasted in the Martin Scorsese flop.

The Tooth Fairy: The Rock delivers in this fun for the whole family movie. Somewhat predictable but with enough fun surprises to keep you happy. I recommend buying this for the whole gang. Surprisingly clever and creative. You will all want to watch it again!

The Road: Great performances but a bummer, as a father and son fight for survival in a post apocalyptic not-so-distant future. Viggo Mortensen devours the screen with this award worthy performance. I thought it was too much of a bummer to recommend it for everyone. Check with me first to see if I think it is for you.

Edge of Darkness: Nothing wrong with Mel Gibson showing all his age and wrinkles in this vigilante thriller. No one and nothing is as it seems as Gibson's character searches for the killer of his daughter. Corporate greed and the evil face of government makes for a good conspiracy as well. The bad guys under estimate Gibson's character as some schlub city detective but it is canny intuition as a cop that gives him the edge. Nicely done.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sex and The City 2

The following review is by The Beauty Alchemist, famous for her fashion and make up advice and has a fantastic blog:

Sex and The City 2 was eagerly awaited by the shows many fans all Spring. Last week it finally hit theaters. I've been a fan of the show from the beginning. For me it was all about it being located in NYC and the fashion. Yes, the friendships resonated too. I've been friends with my oldest/dearest friends since high school or earlier , so those bonds I know and love. We weren't too much like those girls( my fashion obsessed-ness aside) but they sure are /were fun to watch.
The racy parts, the silliness, often flew right by me as I was waiting to see what new piece of jewelry Carrie would wear each week. I was also an Aiden fan. Big often annoyed me. He didn't deserve Carrie then and always seemed a bit patronizing to her. Aiden was free, easy and less a larger than life, too stuck on himself boyfriend like Big. Big grew up in the last movie and was a far more enjoyble presence in this installment. He gets a little of his ways handed back to him and that may be a good thing. Aiden shows up in the new film and tempting as he is, by this point we know where Carrie should be. She, on the other hand, isn't quite as sure.
The sequel mostly is very much about those friendships. The deep ties that as Samantha says, are never broken . " We are soulmates ". The friends are the ones who listen, who get each other tipsy to make unburdening oneself easier , who take care of middle of the night emergencies and who sometimes have to tell each other to stand down.
The movie also though, is about marriage. What is a good marriage, what is right in a marriage and how do you keep the "sparkle" years later when the TV comes into the bedroom instead of the title's Sex. These looks at marriage , Carrie and Big especially, are not done for jokes or camp, but serious and thoughful . They make you laugh, because if you know a man, then you will get it and shake your head knowingly, but they aren't "funny". Carrie and Big have been married 2 years and like all couples have settled into their life , changed some and are also still trying to figure some things out.
The camp comes in the desert scenes. It's mostly funny but there did come a point when Samantha's lewd jokes hit a saturation point for me. Everyone in the audience , though, laughed every time.
Some reviewers have hit at this movie because in our economic times it is portraying such excess, when few have that these days. Yes, that's true. It's excess to the max and frankly I wouldn't have it any other way. It's escapism. I can't book a 5 star resort for a week or have my dearly wanted Lady Dior bag, but that doesn't make me enjoy the film any less. 10 years ago, did I have more disposable income, yes. Did I have the money for a Dior bag, still no. So some things change, some stay the same. I love seeing the fashion, the decadence on screen. Isn't that what movies are for ? Besides, Carrie ends up finding the cutest shoes in the souk in for a whole $ 20.00 . " $ 20.00 ? For shoes ?" from the woman who made Manolo Blahnik a household name.
The other reviewer complaint is the depiction of muslim women in one scene where a group of ayaba clad ladies lead Carrie & Co. into a back room and show them their full on designer wares under their robes. Many feel this is just a sad excuse for a scene and demeaning to the Muslims . Now I cannot quote anything and am far from an expert here but I do recall reading an article on Dubai when it first became the big deal of ultra riche locations and interviewed were many local women who while they could not wear designers clothes on the outside, carried the most expensive handbags , wore the chic-est shoes and were all for shopping the western designer stores. So without an actual women living there telling us her experiences, I am not sure any of us can make solid pronouncements here. Now, the scenes were Samantha flaunts herself in the souk, well I agree, that was too much. No matter your feelings towards a countries ways, you have to respect them when traveling there just as you would expect American ways to be honored here. This is one place the movie went awry.
You don't have to have seen the series or the previous movie to enjoy it, but it might help to have some background. They do a nice little montage of what's happened to the ladies years previous to get fans new and old up to speed.
Sex and The City 2 is a overall a romp and the ultimate chick flick. Do not even think about taking your guy to see this. Fun and a perfect weekend wind down with a best friend or 2 which is exactly how what I did. I left the theater smiling and fighting the urge to go shopping.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Good Gore!

I don't go for modern horror - no Saw, Ring or I know what you did last summer - do it for me. I was never really into Jason or Freddy that much either. But horror done right is horror done right and Legion and Daybreakers are good spooky fun. And available to rent!

Daybreakers takes place in a not so distant future where a "virus" has turned most of the population on Earth into vampires. Things were fine as long as there was plenty of blood donors, so to speak, around. When a blood crisis occurs it turns this otherwise civilized world on end (oil anyone?). I do mean "civilized." Other than the fact that everyone is a vampire - things hum along like they do now. Daybreakers has a clever story, bloody effects and a reliable cast of actors including Ethan Hawke and Sam Neill (a personal fav!). This story could have been just some gorefest but it is clever and well thought out. The vampire story has been told and re-told but when a different take is taken - it's a treat.
I will tell you there is a good amount of blood, bloodletting, eviscerating, feeding and blood curteling screams. If you are used to that kind of stuff and don't wince then you are going to be fine. If you are squeamish, I can't recommend this unless you can keep that at bay. That is too bad because it is a great movie!
MMMM (out of 5 M's)
ps. Other vampire movies that are outside the usual vampire box - 30 Days of Night and Let The Right One In. Both movies have been reviewed on this blog. Also, available to rent.

Legion appeals to me because I am interested in all kinds of religious mythos movies. I will watch any kind of TV, movie or documentary about the holy grail, the stigmata, shrouds, etc. I have always found that stuff fascinating! So, watching a movie about angels bent on the destruction of human kind and one angel who won't let that happen is right up my alley.
Legion follows the angel Gabriel as he casts himself out of heaven and cuts off his wings, to protect a young pregnant waitress at a desert truck stop. Of course, the truck stop is in the middle of a deserted desert. The waitresses unborn child is apparently going to restore God's hope in mankind. There are other folks in the restaurant as well - the owner, his son (in love with the waitress), a couple traveling with their obnoxious teenage daughter, the cook and a young man who is just passing by. The fun in this kind of thing is always guessing who is going to be knocked off first in some horrific way! And this movie does not disappoint! Dennis Quaid, as the restaurant owner and Paul Bettany, as Gabriel, lead the cast through lots of zombies, gore and high body count. This movie could have been corny but really has enough to keep it from going there. It is often predictable but has a few surprises. And wait until you see how the angels use their wings as weapons. It's wicked. Once again - not for the faint of heart or stomach.
MMM (out of 5 M's)