Monday at the Movies – A Gasland In My Own Backyard

Gasland is a 2010 American documentary written and directed by Josh Fox. The film focuses on communities in the United States impacted by natural gas drilling and, specifically, a stimulation method known as hydraulic fracturing (or in Australia we call it Fracking).

sourced from imdb.com

This is a documentary that has been on my ‘to see’ list for months. Firstly because it was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary, secondly because friends of mine had seen it and told me it was a ‘must see’ movie, and thirdly because 15 coal seam gas mines have recently been approved for development near my house. So last week when I wandered into my local library and it was sitting on the shelf I took it as a message from the fates that it was time I got off my backside and watched it.

Let me set the record straight from the very beginning – this documentary is terrifying. If even a quarter of what is shown is true then the oil companies in America have some serious explaining to do.

The premise for the film is that Josh Fox (film maker) has just received a lucrative offer from an energy company wanting to lease his families land for natural gas extraction. Unsure of what to do he sets off across America to explore towns where the controversial technique of fracking has already been used. What he discovers will amaze you  – people with brain legions from exposure to unknown chemicals; contaminated water left in open pools to evaporate into the atmosphere; and even families that are able to set alight water flowing from the taps in their very own kitchens! This movie is about the contamination of water supplies by greedy companies only interested in increasing their bottom line.

sourced from treehugger.com

Josh Fox has created an entirely unique documentary. Filled with bitterly sad interviews with people affected by contamination from fracking processess, it overlays beautiful landscapes with more than a little banjo playing thrown in for good measure. The result is that you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

It is difficult to believe in a bureaucracy that allows companies to make ‘invisible’ pay-outs to avoid facing the music in a court of law. The only good news is that on June 23, 2011The United States Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will examine claims of water pollution related to hydraulic fracturing in Texas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Louisiana

This is is a ‘must see’ movie for anyone interested in… oh you know what… it is a must see movie for EVERYONE full-stop! I give it  my highest honour of 5/5 stars.

Have you seen the documentary? What was your opinion? Do you live in an area where hydraulic fracturing occurs? Have you seen first hand the contamination of natural water supplies? As always I would love to hear your opinion.

Jody Moller

For those of you in Australia there is a great GasLand Australia website here that collates all the most recent news articles and policy decisions regarding Coal Seam Gas Mining.

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Monday at the Movies – An Unexpected Journey

My memory of primary school isn’t great (for those not in Australia, Primary school is grades 3-6, so about ages 8-12). I can remember the day my Yr 3 teacher threw a chair out the window when a student upset her. I can rememeber the day my Yr 5 teacher slapped a student across the face. I can remember fainting in the middle of an assembly in Yr 6 and landing face-first on the ground. That is, mostly I remember the bad stuff! But, thankfully, I also remember a few of the highlights.

Amazingly, or perhaps not so amazingly, pretty much all of my primary school highlights happened in the one year. Yr 4. Perhaps it is also not so suprising to learn that my teacher that year was the best one I ever had. Mr Murray! He was a great teacher for alot of reasons (I won’t go through them all now) but the main reason I remember him as a teacher was that he fostered my love of books. He did something that no other teacher I have ever seen did – he sat the whole class down on the floor, every single day, and read to us (complete with funny voices and all). He probably only read for half an hour a day, but over the course of the year that adds up to alot of books.

It was during these story times that I discovered the amazing realm of the story – not the readers that you had to read for school, but proper stories that had amazing characters and complicated plots. Mr Murray introduced me to what would become some of my favourite authors – Roald Dahl and Judy Blume. But there was one story in particular that ignited my love of the written word. It was a book about a hobbit going on an adventure.

I can still remember hanging out each and everyday at school until ‘Storytime’ finally arrived and we could all sit down and find out whether Bilbo Baggins was ever going to make it all the way to the Lonely Mountain. And it is a testament to the story that I love it just as much at 33 as I did at 9.

So I am sure you can imagine that I could hardly contain my excitement a few months ago when I learned that principle photography had finally started on what will be two of the most anticipated movies of the decade. The Hobbit is being shot as two films. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again. The first will be released Dec 2012 and the second Dec 2013 (13/14 Dec in North America; in Australia it will most likely be Boxing Day, following in the footsteps of its predecessors LOTR).

As a fan I am totally chuffed that Peter Jackson is the one in the director’s chair. I have no doubt that Guillermo del Toro would have done a fantastic job, but simply for the sake of continuity between the Hobbit and LOTR, in my humble opinion Peter needed to be the one calling the shots.

But that is enough with the chatter – here are some pics to sink your teeth into…

 
 

Aidan Turner as Kíli, Dean O'Gorman as Fíli (sourced from newsfeed.time.com)

Stephen Hunter as Bombur, James Nesbitt as Bofur, William Kircher as Bifur (sourced from newsfeed.time.com)

John Callen as Óin, Peter Hambleton as Glóin (sourced from newsfeed.time.com)

Jed Brophy as Nori, Adam Brown as Ori, Mark Hadlow as Dori (sourced from newsfeed.time.com)

Ken Stott as Balin, Graham McTavish as Dwalin (sourced from newsfeed.time.com)

For all you real nerds out there I recommend ‘liking’ the Peter Jackson page on Facebook, he is regularly updating it with new photos, and there are already three ‘production videos’ posted on there that you can view. Awesome stuff.

What about you. Do you remember any favourite teachers or favourite books from school? Was there one in particular that sparked your interest? Are you looking forward to the Hobbit films? Are you a fan like me?

Jody Moller

Monday at the Movies – Harry Potter 7 Part 2 Review

Okay people – you had to know it was coming. Yes that’s right, last week I finally went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Now while I have been known to give JK Rowling a bit of a rough time, I am a fan of the Harry Potter series, while I don’t agree with all aspects of the books, or the movies for that matter (occulo repairo… really? and if the Dementors are not a straight up copy of the Ringwraiths I will give it away – but I digress) I think that what she has done to get young people reading in phenomenal.

sourced from imdb.com

As usual I will try not to give to much away, but if you are planning on seeing the movie and don’t want to know anything about it there will be some spoilers included here so you probably should click away now, but come on, hasn’t everyone read the books? I am guessing that you already know how it ends.

For the same reasons I am not going to give you a detailed synopsis. But here is the brief version: Harry, Ron and Hermione search for and destroy Horcruxes. Final battle takes place at the school – Voldemort + Death Eaters vs Harry + teachers + students. The End.

Overall, I have to say I enjoyed the film. If you are fan of the movies there are lots of long panning shots filled with familiar faces, which you will love. And all in all I think this movie was a fitting finish to the series. The action scenes were impressive and the survival of a particular character played better in the movie than it did in the book.

Okay, so now onto my gripes with the film. 

Gripe #1 – it dragged! I don’t know if it is simply because they split this book into two movies and therefore they had more time for long those long panning shots, or if it was just because I desperately needed to use the little girls room (I really shouldn’t drink diet coke at the movies) but this movie felt like it went for about 4 hrs. I must have checked my watch a hundred times.

Gripe # 2 – It was really not a kids movie. There were a couple of scenes in this film that had me cringing. I certainly would not have been comfortable taking any kid under the age of 10 to see it (and even over that age if they are a bit squeamish).

sourced from fansmaniac.com

Gripe # 3 – And this is the big one. They included the epilogue. I won’t repeat all of my problems with the final words of the Harry Potter books, you can read them here. I had hoped that they would leave it out (after all we have all read the book) but no it was there, larger than life. So why did I hate it so much? Well the epilogue is set 19 yrs after the end of the story which makes the main characters approx. 37. Did they look 37? No they looked like 22 yr olds playing dress-up (surely with the wonders of CGI they could have added some wrinkles or something). Also, I think that the scene before the epilogue provided a perfect end to the series, it was poignant and emotional (i even shed a tear) and then the epilogue ruined it!

(oh and a mini gripe – their was so little sexual tension in the kiss between Harry and Ginny that they would have been better off leaving it on the cutting room floor!)

In conclusion I give this movie 3 1/2 stars. It was good, but mostly because it was

sourced from imdb.com

 the end of a classic series, with characters we know and love.

 

Did you know? That both Griphook and Prof Flitwick were played by the fantastic Warwick Davis (think Willow). Imagine the honour of being in two of the most incredible series ever to grace the big screen – Harry Potter and Star Wars!

Have you seen it? Did you like it? Did you agree that it was overly violent? Did you like the epilogue? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Jody Moller

Monday at the Movies – Up and Coming Films

Welcome to another edition of Monday at the Movies. Today I thought I might talk about some up and coming movie projects that I am particularly excited about.

1. Roger Rabbit 2

sourced from imdb.com

As I have mentioned on here before I am a child of the 80’s (before you get your calculators out – no I wasn’t born in the 80’s but it was in the 80’s that I developed my love of film). One of my favourite movies of the 80’s was Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The film is a cult classic; a brilliant combination of live action and animation; great characters, including the devilish Judge Doom (portrayed by Christopher Lloyd) and the now infamous Jessica Rabbit;  a clever storyline; and some of the best acme products ever brought to life.

Now the rumours of a sequel to Roger Rabbit have been circling since the original was released in 1988. However, in recent months the buzz is back – big time! Apparently the film is FINALLY being made. Robert Zemeckis (original director) will be directing and at least one of the original writers is currently working on the script. The question on everyone’s lips though is WHAT FORMAT WILL THE FILM BE IN? For a long time there was talk of not only the cartoon portion of the film being animated but also the people via the wonders of CGI animation. Now I am sorry but – WHAT!?!?! The beauty of the first film was the ground breaking interaction between the live action characters and the animated ones. The humans NEED to be live action and Roger NEEDS to be handdrawn.

In my opinion (movie producers are you listening?) unless the plot for the story involves the rise and rise of the CGI animation, with up and coming CGI characters pitted against a collection well loved hand-drawn characters (which would make for an interesting story) keep the CGI stuff out of there.

Will Roger Rabbit 2 stand proudly beside its predecessor? Only time will tell.

2. One Shot

sourced from amazon.com

Yes that’s right the one and only Jack Reacher is going to brought to the big screen. Not familiar with Reacher? Well you need to change that. Reacher is the protagonist from all of Lee Child’s novels (Lee Child is the pen name of Jim Grant) – and he is a great protag. An ex-military police officer now drifter that carries nothing but a toothbrush and the clothes on his back, he is vigilant, stoic and deadly. Great character and great news that he is going to finally be in a film – or so you would think…

So why am I less than enthused about this film? Casting! Reacher is described in the books as 6’5″, 250 pounds, ice-blue eyes and dirty blond hair. He is strong, with a muscular physique and very little body fat. But most of all he is tall, really, really tall. So who is the number 1 actor that should NOT be playing Reacher? Well that’s easy, I hear you cry, that would have to be the exceptionally short Tom Cruise. Yes, that’s right he is only 5’7″ almost a full foot shorter than the character and yet somehow they have taken it upon themselves to cast him in this role.

I understand it is important to cast a big name in today’s hollywood to guarantee your movie will be a hit, but really when your dealing with well loved characters (I mean come on the 16th Reacher novel is about to come out) then you need to show a bit of intelligence, I am fairly certain that even standing on the box he uses to look taller next to his wife Tom Cruise can’t pull of 6’5″!

Also my ‘did you  know’ comment for this week is dedicated to my Mum, who after reading last weeks post informed me that I was a nerd of epic proportions; in her exact words ‘where on earth do you store all that useless information?’ Well Mum, this one is for you… Did you know that Reacher’s name came about when Jim Grant’s wife suggested that if the the writing-thing didn’t work out he could always become a ‘reacher’ (apparently what the British call people that stack shelves in the supermarket) – you learn something new everyday!

Looking forward to either of these movies? What do you think of the decision to cast Tom as Reacher? Any other up and coming movies you are looking forward to? Love to hear from you.

Jody Moller

Monday at the Movies – Inside the In-Joke

I love a good inside joke in a movie – you know the ones only the real movie geeks (yeah, geeks like me) get. Whether it is an ongoing theme in a series of movies, inserting lines or dialogue from movies of the same genre, or hilarious cameos – I love them all.

So I had an idea to list 5 of my favourite ‘inside jokes’. The 5 that I have listed below are not neccessarily my absolute favourites, to be honest they are just the first ones that popped into my head. So without further ado: 

  1. sourced from imdb.com

    Back to the Future: Seen it? Well I am sure you have. Back to the Future is full of clever tidbits. One of the best is when Marty McFly goes back in time. The movie theater in 1955 in playing two movies, “A Boy’s Life” which was the original title of E.T. and “Watch the Skies” which was the original title of Close Encounters Of the Third Kind. Also when Marty hitches a ride on the back of a pick-up while riding his skateboard to school the driver is producer Stephen Speilberg. [btw as a side note did you know that virtually the entire movie was filmed with Eric Stoltz playing the part of Marty McFly? They decided it wasn’t working and put Michael J Fox (who had been their original first choice) in the role. His parts had to be filmed entirely at night as he was filming Family Ties during the day – I know what a font of useless information I am]

  2. sourced from imdb.com

    Scream: Classic film (which I know I have mentioned before – you might guess that it is one of my favourites). During a scene in the school the janitor says to Principal Himbrey “Talking to me?” the principal replies with “Not you Fred.” The janitor is played by none other than the immortal Wes Craven (director of Nightmare on Elm Street and of course Scream) and he is wearing the famous red and green stripped shirt worn by Freddy Krueger (the shirt is also visible in Scream 2 in Sidney’s wardrobe). There is also a classic reference to the fictional director ‘Wes Carpenter’ which is an amalgamation of Wes Craven and John Carpenter (director of Halloween).

  3. sourced from imdb.com

    Enchanted: I think the reviewers gave this movie a rough time when it was released. This movie is gold – but perhaps only for people who love Disney films. The film is a parody of every Disney movie ever made. This movie is so full of jokes and movie trivia that I could dedicate an entire post to it – but I will just mention a few. Of course there are the obvious references to Cinderella’s slipper and the apple from Snow White, but it is the obscure references, that only movie nerds like me even notice, that I love the most. My favourite part of this movie (apart from the hilarious prince played by James Marsden) are the cameos. Patrick Dempsey’s secretary in the film is played by the fabulous Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel in The Little Mermaid (and Barbie in Toy Story 2 & 3). There is a scene in the movie where Timothy Spall is watching a soapie on television. In the soap the part of Angela is played by Paige O’Hara, who voiced Belle in Beauty and the Beast (the other characters names are Jerry and Odgen, the three of them named for Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach and David Odgen Stiers who voiced the Teapot, Candelbra and Clock respectively). Also when the prince is looking for Giselle in the apartment block one of the doors is answered by Judy Kuhn, who is the singing voice of Pocohontas.

  4. sourced from imdb.com

    Cars: All pixar movies have numerous references to other pixar films (and Disney do this aswell and I am sure I will go through many of these in later posts). Some of my fav’s from Cars include the use of Dinoco (as The Kings sponsor) which was the name of the petrol station in Toy Story. The tyres used by the cars are Lightyear’s (after Buzz). The number of Lightning McQueen is 95 after the year Toy Story was released. Both Mater’s number plate and the train that almost runs over McQueen contain the number A113, which is a room number for the animation room at California Institute of the Arts (this reference is in all pixar films). I could go on and on…

  5. Jack and the Beanstalk: This is actually the movie that made me think of writing this post in the first place and probably contains my favourite references of all time (this is the 2010 version of the story and to be honest the film was pretty ordinary but it is worth it just for this line). Wallace Shawn (who by the way plays two of my fav characters of all time Rex from Toy Story and Vizzini from The Princess Bride) plays the owner of the pawn shop and the man who gives Jack the Beans. At one point Shawn offers to trade Iocaine powder, the same fictional powder that kills his character in The Princess Bride. I love it!

I love in-jokes so much I have actually inserted some into my own novels. In each of my books there is a description of my kids at the age they were when I first drafted the scene. And there is at least on character in each novel that is named after someone that I know.

Do you have a favourite in joke or cameo? Are there any other in jokes you particularly like from the movies mentioned above. Do you have any in-jokes in your novels? As always would love to hear from you.

Jody Moller

Monday at the Movies – Cars 2 Review

When I first heard that Pixar were going to be making a sequel to Cars I had one of those internal cringe moments. I mean their last movie was a sequel (Toy Story 3) was it really wise to back it up with another? Surely Pixar (one of my fav production studios) were not going to succumb to the ‘Sequel-Cash-Cow’. Then when I learned that their 2013 release was going to be a sequel to Monsters Inc (currently titled Monsters University) I almost cried.

Just because I had reservations about the film didn’t mean I wasn’t going to go and see it – of course I was, at the first available opportunity, which just so happened to be yesterday.

Okay, so first a basic run down of the film.

In Cars 2 we find Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) heading back to Radiator Springs to spend time with his best friend Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) having just won his 4th Piston Cup. Lightning decides to participate in the inaugural World Grand Prix – heading off to Japan with Mater and his Racing Team in tow (pun not intended). When Mater is mistaken for an American spy by members of the British Intelligence Agency – Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) and Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) the insuing drama is undoubtly hilarious. Mater and his spy friends must determine who is responsible for attacks on the cars participating in the Grand Prix before Lightning meets his demise.

So was the film great or was it just a cash in? Well I think I need to split that question into two separate questions.

The first is did my kids (2.5 and 4.5) like the movie? I think the best way to work out if kids like a movie is not to ask them straight out (they always say yes) but rather to use what I call the ‘wriggle-factor’. When my kids are really absorbed in a film their butts stick to the seat and they don’t move. They don’t ask me every two minutes for more food. And they don’t find it neccessary to sit on my lap and have a conversation. Unfortunately all these things happened in this movie. The problem, in my humble opinion, is that while it was exciting and colourful and fun it was just too confusing for them. All of the jokes my husband and I laughed at the most went completely over their heads and they were left asking me if I had any lollies left. Older kids might well be more engaged.

Secondly, did I like the film? YES, YES and YES. As you may have worked out (given that pixar films have now starred on my blog two weeks in a row) I am a bit of a Pixar fan. And I can promise you that any Pixar fan will love this movie. First of all it has the best computer graphics of any movie I have ever seen – while the cars themselves still maintain their cartoonish appearance the backgrounds could almost be real (except for the fact that all the famous landmarks have been modified slightly to incorporate car-based statues – I am sure this will provide loads of entertainment for things not noticed on a first viewing at the cinema). The movie was funny, yes Mater can at times be a bit painful (which seems to be the most common complaint from other reviews) but I think Lightning McQueen is painful too and was quite glad he wasn’t the main protag in this film. The only thing you need to remember is that it is ultimately a kids movie so if you are expecting something other than the obvious moral ending – go and see something else!

So my favourite moments (don’t worry I won’t give too much away). There was a lovely moment where the cars mourn the passing of Doc Hudson, which I can only assume was meant in homage to the passing of Paul Newman who voiced Doc Hudson in the original movie – a touching inclusion in the film. There were the inevitable references to previous Pixar films my favourite of which was the existence of ‘Gastow’s Restaurant’ in Paris (no that’s not a typo by me either, it’s a joke – get it?) There were plenty of amazing new characters including the very cool Professor Z (as a scientist myself I always have a soft-spot for the mad-scientist) and the Italian F1 car Francesco Bernoulli (voiced by the very funny John Turturro). And far too many laughs to count.

So personally, I give this 4 stars out of 5. I liked it, my husband liked it. I would like to go and see it again without the kids distracting me – but I am sure there will be plenty more viewings once it comes out on DVD.

Also as a side note the short movie that preceeded Cars2 was Toy Story Hawaiian Vacation and it was awesome. Correct me if I am wrong but I think this is the first of the pixar shorts (the ones before the cinema releases not the ones included on the DVDs) to include dialogue and at first I was a bit dissapointed – I love seeing how the Pixar masters manage to get so much across without the use of speech. But the short was so funny that it made up for it (I mean come on it stars Ken how can it not be funny!)

Have you seen Cars2? Are you planning on seeing it? Do you agree with my review? Was their anything you loved/hated about the film? Don’t forget to leave me a comment.

Jody Moller

(The Exasperated Novelist)

Monday at the Movies – All Time Favourite

Welcome to the first post for Monday at the Movies. Choosing the topic for my first post was suprisingly easy – I am going to talk about my favourite movie of all time.

I, like most movie fanatics, have an endless supply of favourite films (as a child of the 80’s most of them revolve around Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Goonies, Back to the Future… you get the picture) and I am sure that I will expose you to many of them over coming posts but today I am talking about my absolute favourite movie.

Last week I was reading Bob Mayer’s Toolkit, where he speaks of being able to describe the idea for your novel in one short sharp sentence. I believe it is the same for movies. As Bob mentions in his book, the one sentence idea will probably have been done before but it is what you do with that idea that makes it great. I think this is more true for my favourite movie than for anything else I have ever read or watched.

So my version of the one line idea for my favourite film is – Two enemies must overcome irrevocable differences to find their way home. Cliche much? Sounds like a thousand other movies doesn’t it? But the way this movie deals with this cliched topic is the stuff of legend.

If you have worked out the movie already give yourself a gold star. If you haven’t I will give you a few more hints.

The first line of this movie is “This is a stick-up. Don’t anybody move.”

Got it yet? I could keep going (I am able to quote this movie from start to finish – I don’t know if that is an impressive achievement or just really pathetic!) but I won’t.

More hints required? The main characters are named Woody and Buzz Lightyear (and just a bit of trivia for you, he was in fact named after the astronaut!).

My favourite movie of all time is (I’m sure you have it by now) Toy Story.

Now try not to judge me too much, I know it is a kids movie (and no I wasn’t a kid when it first came out so I can’t even use that excuse), but I think the fact that it is a kids movie and still manages to top my list speaks volumes about just how great this movie is.

“You are a sad strange little man. You have my pity. Farewell” (input star trek hand signal here).

The reason this movie works, and moves beyond the cliche (in my mind at least) is the characters. And not just the two main characters, but all the supporting ones as well. Think of Rex and his self-esteem issues, and Hamm’s classic know–it-all one liners. Every character in this movie is crafted to perfection – we literally watch the toys come to life. I am not ashamed to admit that I cried at the end of Toy Story 3 (for about the first 10 viewings anyway) as saying goodbye to these amazing characters felt real – because THEY felt real.

 

This movie tops my list because it changed the way we watch film. It was the first full length computer-animated feature film (think about how many of these there are now!) and back in 1995 it was mind-blowing! There is a reason that Pixar are one of the few production companies that have not yet produced a dud movie – they spend months producing and outline and story boarding every idea to make sure that it works.

“A stranger, from the outside. Ohhhhh…”

Yes sure, this is a story about toys that come to life when noone is watching but it is so much more than that.

Obviously, given that it is my fav film of all time it gets the big 5 stars (*****).

Do you have a favourite movie? Do you have a favourite genre? Let me know your thoughts.

 

Jody Moller
(The Exasperated Novelist)