Archive for the ‘review’ Category

>The Adjustment Bureau: Sci-Fi Thriller or Chick Flick?

>The commercials I’ve seen for The Adjustment Bureau all seem to show Matt Damon and Emily Blunt running at top speed away from someone. I’ve seen it billed as a sci-fi thriller in the vein of Inception. I haven’t actually seen Inception, but from what I heard it really kept you on the edge of your seat and left you somewhat confused about what was real and what was just a dream. I’m here to tell you that The Adjustment Bureau is NOTHING like that.

On Tuesday night I was provided with the opportunity to see an advanced screening of the new Matt Damon movie thanks to my being a crazy Twitter addict and having a pretty high Klout score. The invite was a Kloutperk, and I was very excited because I really love movies but I only get to see them about once every six months. Mike is not a big movie fan so going to the movies is not his first choice of date but The Adjustment Bureau looked like a guy movie from the trailer so he agreed we could get a sitter and go. It was nice getting the VIP treatment too, showing up and bypassing a huge line of people hoping to get in and being seated in a specially reserved row.

The tag line for the movie is “Do you believe in fate or free will?” which had me very curious given my bent for the theological study of Calvinism verses Armenian doctrines. So The Adjustment Bureau turned out to be almost exactly that, a discussion about whether or not all of human kind really makes their own choices or whether we are all just following some big plan written by a higher power. So yeah, the movie was in fact deeply theological. It was also extremely romantic, so much so that I’d classify it as a chick flick before I called it a thriller. An action movie it most definitely was not. There was a bit of suspense and plenty of mystery, but not enough for me to call it a real thriller. Yet I found it highly entertaining, if for no other reason than the lead characters are really nice to look at.

The most interesting part for me was the big philosophical question about fate or free will. Most people will instinctively believe that of course we have free will, we make our own choices all the time. I’m one of those on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, believing everything that happens is part of God’s plan. I wrestle with the details of that philosophy all the time but it is comforting when thing happen that beg the question, why? The Adjustment Bureau mostly just raises the question but provides a very shallow look at the possibilities and gives no satisfying answer. It’s not meant to be a movie that makes you think very hard, the theology is just a slightly provocative plot device.

The Adjustment Bureau is not going to win any Oscars and it’s not going to leave people talking about it for a long time afterward, but I think it has a little something for everyone to enjoy and I do think it’s worth two hours of your time for entertainment value. It opens in theaters everywhere tomorrow, March 4th.

So tell me in the comments, do you believe we have free will or that our lives are controlled by fate?

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>Review: The Verizon iPhone

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A lot of my friends think I’m way more technologically savvy than they are, so they were always shocked when I would tell them I didn’t have an iPhone. The reason was pretty simple, I’m a diehard Verizon fan. I got my first Verizon mobile phone before I had kids, when my job required me to be on a plane every week traveling to big cities, tiny towns, and very remote locations nationwide. My regular, full-time, salaried job is designing wastewater treatment plants and those are everywhere and often placed as far away from the population of a town as reasonably possible. I needed a phone that worked, that got service everywhere, that didn’t drop calls left and right. If there was anyone that truly tested Verizon’s network, it was I.

When we founded my company in 2004, my two partners and I were using Verizon and at the time we could make unlimited calls to each other and given our budget that was important. Of course competition has changed all that and now with affordable unlimited plans it doesn’t matter that we stay on the same network, but I have seen how bad the service is for both AT&T and Sprint at my house. I can even remember standing in the middle of downtown Houston on more than one occasion, talking, texting and tweeting with my Verizon Blackberry while all around me AT&T iPhone users ranted about not having service. Calling is still the most important thing to me when it comes to my cell phone and I can’t remember the last time a call dropped from my end.

Of course I was envious of all the cool stuff my iPhone using friends could do with their phones. Angry Birds? Words with Friends? Easy to navigate driving directions? Not to mention the inspiring iPhone photography from Chase Jarvis, author of The Best Camera Is the One That’s With You. My phone camera sucked, and as a photog that was a big deal to me. Plus my husband complained about the sound quality of my Blackberry. When my time came to upgrade my phone last June I seriously considered getting a Droid Incredible or X. But I kept hearing more substantial rumors that the Verizon iPhone was coming, so I waited. Last week I was handsomely rewarded.

Let me shout it from the rooftops, I LOVE THIS PHONE. The network is still incredible and the sound quality is WAY better than my Blackberry. So far I’ve downloaded the Twitter and Facebook apps, the Best Camera app and Instagram, which I am totally loving. I thought typing would be hard, but it has rapidly adapted to my typos to correct them instantly. I love the way texts are set up in little bubbles, shown as a conversation! Most of all I love the camera. The things I can do with it are mind blowing to me. So check out what I’ve got in just the past couple of days.

I still can’t believe I took these AND edited them with my phone. I may never pick up my DSLR again! (Kidding, that would never happen.) 
My husband and I have not yet been out to dinner or on a date since I got the phone, but I am going to need to have it surgically removed from my hand before we do because he used to complain about me checking the Blackberry too much. I’m trying, really I am, but if the old phone was like crack, this one is like heroin…far more lethal. 
So now I need to know what apps to download! Tell me your favorites in the comments, pretty please? 

>The Curse of the Good Girl

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So I know a lot of us have seen the movie Mean Girls that Lindsay Lohan did before her life fell apart. And I’m sure you’ve heard the many news stories about girls bullying other girls in school, unfortunately even causing some to go to extreme measures. So how do we address these problems with our own daughters?

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I don’t have a daughter, but I am a strong, independent and some would say successful woman, and I’m all about helping steer younger girls in the right direction and empowering them to reach their full potential. Which is why I want to tell you about a great book and an event going on here in Houston I think you should attend if you do have a daughter.

The book by Rachel Simmons is called The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls With Courage and Confidence. She talks about the pressure on girls to be perfect, nice, smart but not opinionated and successful but not ambitious. Rachel argues that this pressure causes these good girls to disconnect from their true emotions and desires and that they never really learn the important life skills of conflict resolution or how to accept criticism. This hurts them down the road personally and professionally.

Rachel’s first book, Odd Girl Out, talked about the problem of female bullying and how the inability of these girls to handle conflict resolution often leads to indirect and viscous acts of aggression.

Now, if you’re local to Houston I’d encourage you to attend a workshop for parents and daughters (age 8 and up) coming up on September 30th.

Thursday, September 30
HOUSTON, TXSt. Agnes Academy
9000 Bellaire Boulevard
Time 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Sponsored by Blue Willow Bookshop

  • Admission fee $15.00 per parent/daughter
  • Includes one copy of The Curse of the Good Girl
  • Tickets on sale in August from Blue Willow Bookshop, by phone at (281) 497-8675 or for more information visit Blue Willow Bookshop.

The topics that will be covered in the workshop include:

•    How to break the Good Girl Glass Ceiling and develop an Inner Resume
•    The Myth of Girls’ Emotional Intelligence
•    How Good Girlspeak May Limit Your Daughter’s Potential – and What You Can Do About it Today
•    As a Good Girl, Your Salary Was Probably Set in the Seventh Grade
•    Good Girls and Criticism: With less and less exposure to honest feedback, girls don’t develop the thick skin they need to weather challenges and take healthy risks.
•    The Curse of the Good Mother: How trying to be a perfect mother sets a destructive example for your daughter.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book for review, but no other compensation. I just think this is a good thing for girls and parents. 

>WMFW – Shutterfly Photo Printing {Giveaway}

>works for me wednesday at we are that familyIf you know anything about me at all, you know I take a lot of pictures.  I keep my camera within reach most every day, and I try to capture the changing faces of kids often. At least weekly.  But I am not a scrapbooker…at all. I don’t get into cutting and gluing and making pretty albums. However I do print the vast majority of my photos and put them into albums, because they don’t do anyone any good sitting on my harddrive. 

I happen to love Shutterfly.com for printing my photos. I learned early on that printing at home is just not economical, especially in the huge quantity of photos I take. Not only do I love Shutterfly’s print prices, I love creating photobooks and calenders and holiday cards as well. I started creating an annual family calender in Shutterfly about four years ago and we give out fifteen of them every Christmas to our family members. My grandmother, in particular, freaks out over it.  She has never used a computer and can’t comprehend how I could make such an amazing thing. I put faces over birthdays and anniversaries, which makes it easier for me to see what’s coming up.

I also create our annual holiday cards, which get mailed to more than fifty friends, in Shutterfly.  I’ve done a lot of price shopping and I always come up pleased with their selection of holiday designs and prices.  Last year we switched from the glossy photo Christmas cards to a beautiful heavyweight card and I adored it.  They always have specials and discounts on various things like photobooks and notecards.

Since I love Shutterfly so much, I have decided that my FIRST EVER GIVEAWAY on this here six year old blog will be for ten free Shutterfly 5×7 flat stationary cards.  And since you all rock so much, I’m giving these away to THREE random commenters.  All you have to do is leave me a comment.  I’d love it if you’d share whether you’ve ever created something cool in Shutterfly or not. Contest closes at midnight Tues. I’ll draw three winners from Random.org on Wed.

Disclosure: In exchange for this post I will also be receiving the free notecards. But seriously, I have used this service extensively.

>Flying with Kids on Continental Airlines is Great

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So we flew Continental airline into Philly on Friday to begin our big summer adventure.  I would like to mention here that I’m very sad that United will be taking over Continental.  I’m familiar with United and their level of service and timeliness is not good.  Even though I still prefer to fly Southwest when I can, sometimes I have to take Continental and on this flight they were fabulous.  Our flight attendant, Darius, had possibly the best personality of any flight attendant I’ve met, and I’ve met  A LOT.   He welcomed my children, asking their names and ages, and then addressed them by name many more times during the three and a half hour trip.  He addressed me (and every woman) as “young lady”, which at my current age wins bonus points with me.  At one point he said to a girl about my age behind me, loud enough for everyone to hear, “I don’t know which is more beautiful, this day we are  having or the way the sunlight is coming through that window and hitting your eyes.”  In a completely charming, non-sleazy way. 

Also on the flight everyone had screens at their seats and the option to purchase Direct TV.  This is like pure gold for kids on a 3.5 hour flight.  I paid $6 for the screen in front of Alex, and I had a two sets of headphones with a splitter so both kids could watch and listen the same screen.  Also they fed us a tasty hot pocket type thing with Doritos, carrots and M&Ms.  We loved that. We took off on time and arrived a few minutes early, despite the plane being overbooked. 

The difference in my overall stress level between last year’s flight north and this year’s is night and day, all because Alex is now three.  We no longer need a stroller or carseat, and he can verbalize his needs.  He didn’t cry, yell, whine or even kick the seat in front once during the whole flight. He managed just fine without his usual three hour nap.  If flying weren’t so expensive, I would now feel brave enough to take my kids on airplanes more often.   

>Movies and Marriage

>This weekend we had zero plans, so with my ample free time I ended up watching three whole movies.  I do LOVE movies, but I rarely get to see them anymore.  We have Netflix, but I am bad about keeping my queue up to date, and I keep forgetting about the whole instant play feature.  We had gotten Syriana and United 93 in the mail and I sat on them because they both looked so depressing.  So Friday night I popped in Syriana, and I was right, it was awful. Not only was it incredibly slow, with intricate plots and tons of subtitles, it had multiple scenes that were so disturbing even my jaded eyes turned away.  Blech.

Then I remembered the whole Netflix instant download thing, and I found The Proposal was available.  I definitely had been wanting to see that, since I love Sandra Bullock AND Ryan Reynolds.  This movie really was entertaining, with a great plot, great dialogue, and breath-taking scenery to boot.  But as is typical with most Hollywood movies, it makes a mockery of the sacred institution of marriage.

Then I found that Julie and Julia was also available for instant download, so I spent my Sunday afternoon watching that while everyone napped.  I had heard it was very uplifting, and indeed it was.  Unlike any secular movie I’d seen in ages, Julie and Julia is a true celebration of marriage.  It follows the lives of both the blogger Julie Powell and Julia Child.  Both women had husbands that were strong, supportive of their wives and deeply in love.  For the first time in a movie, no one cheated on anyone else, the men were not doormats and the women were not either, and their relationships portrayed exactly the kind of interdependency and conflict resolution I believe God intended for married couples.  Both the men and the women give ample public credit to their spouses.  I absolutely LOVED this movie and highly recommend it to anyone.

I’m really blessed to have the strong and happy marriage that I have, but of course it takes work to keep it that way.  We keep our focus on the Lord, work on keeping communication constantly flowing, and we brush up on our skills with seminars, books and Bible studies about marriage every now and then.  One of the best things I think we ever did was attend a Family Life Weekend to Remember back before we had kids.

I picked up two pieces of advice that I have never forgotten.  One is, always remember that you are on the same team.  A good practice when conflict arises is to take a pillow, throw it across the room, and remember that the pillow is whatever issue you are arguing about, but you two are battling the pillow together.  On the same team.  You verses the universe, so to speak.

The second thing I took to heart was the “Marriage is not 50/50” advice.  Everyone in our society thinks marriage should be fair, a partnership of equals where each partner does their “fair share”, or 50% of the chores, etc.  That’s exactly the  WRONG way to look at it.  Marriage is 100/100…give everything for you spouse. If you are waiting around for him/her to pick up the slack and do their fair share, you will never be happy.  If you are willing to do it all, give 100%, your spouse will see that and give back.  Before we heard that advice we often talked about who wasn’t doing “their fair share”.  Now that never comes up anymore, and we are MUCH happier.

Got any good movie recommendations or marriage advice to share?  I’m sure we would all benefit!

>Sex and the City 2 Soundtrack: Fashionably Feminine

>One of my guiltiest pleasures is the TV series Sex and The City 2.  The love story of Carrie and Mr. Big has fascinated me since Season 1 (which I have on DVD…all of the seasons, in fact). He was always my favorite of her boyfriends, so you can imagine my joy when the first movie came out and they ended up getting married at the end.  It was a delightful movie, with the exception of the gratuitous sex and nudity.  Of course I’m a huge fan of fashion too so when I heard that SATC2 had a fashion budget of 10 million dollars, it only piqued my interest even more. 

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to review the movie soundtrack for Sex and the City 2.  I knew it featured Alicia Keys, a favorite of mine.  Described as the perfect CD to listen to while getting ready for a night out with the girls, it reminded me of another soundtrack I absolutely loved, My Best Friend’s Wedding.  SATC2 had the same combination of catchy pop, reworked standards, and some arabian themed instrumental thrown in for good measure. Here’s the track listing:

1. Alicia Keys “Rapture”

2. Dido “Everything to Lose”

3. Cee Lo “Language of Love”

4. Erykah Badu “Window Seat”

5. Natacha Atlas “Kidda”

6. Michael McGregor “Euphrates Dream”

7. Liza Minnelli “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)”

8. Ricki-Lee “Can’t Touch It”

9. Alicia Keys “Emire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down”

10. Jennifer Hudson and Leona Lewis “Love Is Your Color”

11. Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon “I Am Woman”

12. Sex and the City Men’s Choir “If Ever I Would Leave You”

13. Sex and the City Men’s Choir “Sunrise, Sunset”

14. Sex and the City Men’s Choir “Till There Was You”

15. Shayna Steele, Jordan Ballard, Kamilah Marshall “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”

16. Liza Minnelli with Billy Stritch “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”

17. Cyndi Lauper “True Colors”

18. Aaron Zigman “Divas and Dunes”

Alicia Keys is spectacular as always. Combining that SATC music with a great Blondie cover works well on the first track, and her song Empire State of Mind is superb.  I love the arabian feel so many of these songs have incorporated, fitting for the awesome setting of the movie, Abu Dhabi.  Rikki-Lee’s song totally made me get up a dance, which is fitting for a girls night out.  True Colors is one of my favorite songs.  And I have always loved the standard “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and this remake is very well done. 

The only problem I have with this CD is Liza Minnelli.  I cannot stand her singing.  It is especially dreadful to hear her butcher such a fantastic Beyonce song.  So I will be skipping her tracks, as well as the cast singing I Am Woman…blech.  But the rest is great.  I can even see practicing some uptempo yoga to the instrumental Divas and Dunes. 

Overall I think this CD is a good buy, a really fun compilation from what will hopefully be a really fun movie.  Also you can enter to win a phone call from Sarah Jessica Parker!

Full disclosure: I received a copy of the CD to review, but no compensation.