Thursday, December 28, 2006

Europe 2006

Here are just a few photos from our recent trip to France and Italy. I tried to include some that show us in front of recognizable landmarks, but I couldn't resist throwing in a picture of Wendy's absolute favorite European moment (feeding pigeons in St. Mark's Square in Venice). (Shhh...don't tell her that we have pigeons in the U.S....)
Here we are outside the Louvre in Paris... front of the Arc de Triumph (that's the Eiffel Tower in the distance)...
...standing on the Rialto Bridge in Venice...
...and in front of the Roman Coliseum.

It was an amazing trip; more fun than we could have imagined, and yet we were so glad to get back home. What did we miss most about the U.S.? Well, aside from the obvious (family, friends), I'd have to say free soda refills and public non-smoking ordinances. We're glad to be home!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"Deja Vu," "The Pursuit of Happyness" reviews

I haven't seen a ton of movies lately, but did catch up on a couple over the past week. Both were satisfying movies for their respective genres, but nothing that will make me hurry out and see them again.
  • "Deja Vu": I like Denzel Washington, and have enjoyed most of the movies I have seen him in. This movie falls into the twisty sci-fi subcategory of the suspense genre, and is for the most part effective, as long as you don't think too much about the paper-thin premise. Set in New Orleans, Denzel's character is called to the scene of an apparent terrorist bombing. Once on the scene, he is observed to have an excellent eye for detail by members of a secret government agency led by Val Kilmer's character, who recruits Denzel to be part of his investigative team. It soon becomes apparent that the secret agency has access to some mind-blowing powers; powers that essentially allow them to see into the past using some high tech gadgetry and some pretty big gaps in logic. This is where you'll either love or hate the movie: if you can believe in the idea of "time-travel" and ignore your mind's tendency to ask questions, you'll enjoy the ride. Otherwise, you'll come out scratching your head and asking yourself how the movie gets away with breaking its own "rules" just to come up with a happy ending. I personally forgave the movie for its inconsistencies (some of them are pretty big) because I was entertained the whole time, but I can definitely understand how some viewers might feel duped and disappointed. Plus, the idea of deja vu is never even explained or referenced, which bugged me a little (aside from interpretation of dreams, deja vu is one of my biggest curiosities...) Overall, it's not a huge waste of time, but probably not worth the full admission price. (**1/2 out of four).
  • "The Pursuit of Happyness": Now here's a movie with an appropriate title; don't plan on smiling much during this movie until just before the credits have started rolling. Will Smith plays a humble, hard-working man whose best efforts just aren't good enough sometimes, and he spends most of the movie just trying to get by with his wife and young son (played by his real-life son). Just like in the film's trailer, the movie really is all about Smith's character trying to get a decent job. While it is refreshing to see Will Smith in a role that genuinely seems challenging, the movie wears on you a bit for its sheer lack of joy! (When the movie ended, we decided that a Xanax would have helped us endure it better...). That said, Smith's performance is genuine and seems like a far-cry from the arrogant, tough-guy that he seems to always play, and in that regard makes the movie satisfying. Plus, his son really is great in the movie--they have a believable chemistry that makes the events feel all that more emotional. Though the film could possibly send the message that the pursuit of happiness is equal to the pursuit of money, I think the boy--who remains cheery and lovable through most of the movie--serves as a reminder that happiness can be found no matter what your financial circumstances are. In the end, I'm grateful I saw the movie, and feel a greater sense of gratitude for my own blessings (material and otherwise), but can't really see myself wanting to watch this one over and over again. Some journeys are best taken only once... (*** out of four).

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Where's J-Dawg?

Lest any of my loyal readers (thanks, both of you) think that I have died, I thought I would briefly post an explanation to my recent blogosphere absence. Back in November, I took some time off to travel around France and Italy with my wife. For the record, the trip was fantastic! While most of the trip was focused on the history and culture of those countries, I have to say that movies rarely left my mind completely. For example, while pacing the halls of the Louvre in Paris, I proclaimed to myself (with a great degree of pride): "I have walked where Tom Hanks walked!" And while I know that "Gladiator" was actually filmed in Morocco, I couldn't help but think to myself that Russell Crowe probably paid a visit the Colisseum in Rome to research his role. Magic!

It is my intention to post a few of our trip pictures here in the coming weeks, as well as to update my blog with the traditional movie/TV nonsense you have come to expect. Don't give up on me, bloggers; I live on in the hearts of those who believe...