Australia (2008): Thoughts from the Couch (Potato)

Australia movie posterA British aristocrat, Lady Sarah, inherits a cattle ranch and unwillingly engages the help of an Australian cattle drover (cunningly named ‘Drover’) to protect her property.

Usual love story ensues.

This takes place around WW2 and is cleverly interwoven with the mystical story of Nullah, a half aboriginal boy who is trying with some success to avoid being separated from his tribe and sent to Mission Island to join the rest of the ‘Stolen Generation’.

This film is beautifully rendered with the usual breathtaking cinematography that is associated with Baz Luhrmann. There are plentiful scenes of Hugh Jackman doing all sorts of sexy things in slow motion (walking, riding, getting doused in water/dust/mud, gazing thoughtfully into the horizon etc etc).

In comparison, there are precious few beauty shots of Nicole Kidman, though. Very few closeups. She may be over 40 in this film but she is still gorgeous and it would been nice to see her beauty celebrated just a teensy weensy bit, Mr Luhrmann!

Debs G recommends: Watch this movie with Moulin Rouge! for more beauty shots of Nicole Kidman to balance out your Baz Luhrmann evening!

P.S. Get Australia here

P.P.S. Check out the rest of the Couch Potato series here.

Hairspray (2007): Thoughts from the Couch (Potato)

HairsprayMoviePosterI must admit that I was very reluctant to watch this musical, simply because the title sounds vapid (Hairspray? Really?) and because I am utterly resistant to the charms of Zac Efron.[1]

However, John Travolta, James Marsden AND Christopher Walken in a musical together? DANCING?

THIS IS MOVIE GOLD!

And yes, Movie Gold it is indeed. Apart from the catchy tunes and snazzy dance numbers and the fact that John Travolta looks fetching in a dress, the storyline is both relevant and uplifting.

(And…Christopher Walken totally rocks.)


[1]During my first pregnancy, I was rather sickly, so The Barn Owl, in an ill-conceived attempt to alleviate my symptoms, borrowed High School Musical from the local video library. Needless to say, I spent most of that day staring down the U-bend.

P.S. Get Hairspray (2007) here

P.P.S. Check out the rest of the Couch Potato series here

 

Preparing Kids for Change: Top 10 Books and Movies about Moving and Travel

During my growing up years, my dad went abroad for post-graduate studies and our whole family would follow him to support his education.

Although this meant that my sister and I had the awesome opportunity to travel, live and study in a different country, we also had to learn to adapt to a new environment and culture.

When my parents told me that we were going to move far away from my friends and extended family for a whole year, I went through a whole string of emotions. I was sad about leaving my friends and schoolmates behind, as well as my precious dog, but I was also very excited about embarking on a whole new adventure with my family.

I think my parents were quite relieved that both my sister and I chose to see this Big Move as a start of a new chapter in our lives, and I think that is partly due to the fact that we grew up on a steady diet of books and movies that encouraged exploration.

I’ve put together a list of books and movies that I think will really help kids who are preparing for a big change – from the littlest ones starting school to the big ones going off to college. So here’s

Owls Well’s Top 10 Books and Movies about Moving and Travel


1. Augustine by Melanie Watt (Recommended for Preschoolers)

Little Augustine the penguin moves with her family from the South Pole to the North Pole, and it isn’t easy saying goodbye to her grandparents, friends and her old room. Being a shy penguin, adjusting to her new school and making new friends is a challenge, but with the help of her colouring pencils, Augustine finds that she can still be herself even if her surroundings are different.

This is a very good book which definitely covers both the physical and emotional journey involved in moving to a new place. I also love the beautiful pictures in this book, most of which are inspired by famous paintings and artists – also a very good way to introduce kids to art!

2. Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy World (Recommended for Preschoolers)

This was one of my favourite books when I was growing up, and it has a load of ridiculously funny stories taking place around the world. I loved seeing the various animal characters dressed up in traditional ethnic costumes and learn about great landmarks from the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Spanish Steps in Rome to the Blarney Stone in Ireland.

I remember being so excited to see the Eiffel Tower for the first time, just because of the story about Pierre the Parisian Policeman chasing a robber all across the Paris and through a French restaurant, blowing his police whistle, “Breeeeet!”

3. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr Seuss (Recommended for Emerging Readers)

In this book, a little boy heads out and explores the world, encountering many new things – some of which are sad or scary or boring – but in general, the book takes a very positive view of being brave enough to step out of one’s comfort zone and embrace the adventure that is life and growing up.

It’s opener out there, in the wide open air

– Dr Seuss

4. Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” Series (Recommended for Confident Readers)

This is a wonderful series of chapter books for encouraging young readers, especially little girls who will love reading about Laura and her sisters as they grow up, moving from their Little House in the Big Woods to the Prairie and beyond.

In general, despite the fact that the Ingalls family appears to be constantly on the move and always facing new challenges, the fact remains that the concept of ‘home’ for Laura is not a physical place, but an emotional one. This is a good series for teaching kids to understand that as long as a family sticks together, they can make a home anywhere and weather any changes that life throws their way.

Everything from the little house was in the wagon except the beds and tables and chairs. They did not need to take these, because Pa could always make new ones.

– Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie

5. Terry Pratchett’s Bromeliad Trilogy: Truckers, Diggers, Wings (Recommended for Confident Readers)

In this hilarious book series, a group of tiny 4 inch high Nomes who have lived for generations in a departmental store find out that their home is soon to be demolished. They embark on an epic journey to find a new home, bringing with them The Thing – a  mysterious black cube which has been the Nome tribe’s totem for as long as anyone can remember.

I remember that the main struggle that the Departmental Store Nomes had was meeting other Nomes who were from different cultures and challenging long established beliefs. The way the Nomes had to deal with drastic changes in their societal structure and family values is beautifully handled by Terry Pratchett, who writes about these issues with humour and sensitivity. A very good series to help kids keep an open mind about change!

The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.

― Terry Pratchett

6. J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” Series (Recommended for Confident Readers)

Although I have many issues with the Harry Potter series (I still think Harry Potter is rather a jerk. The underdog Neville Longbottom is my favourite guy in this series), the fact remains that this book series is often about having the gumption to seek out adventure.

Harry Potter’s life only really begins because he’s brave enough to leave behind everything that he knows and understands about the world – exchanging a life that is safe and predictable for one that is unstable, painful, and even dangerous. However, because of his willingness to embrace change, he finds faithful new friends, a new family and a welcoming home. Definitely a good one for a kid who needs encouragement to be brave and bold!

Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect

– J.K. Rowling

7. My Neighbor Totoro (1988) (Recommended for Preschoolers and above)

This is a very sweet film focussing on two sisters who have moved to a new home with their father in order to be closer to the hospital where their mother is recuperating from a chronic illness. In their new home, they make friends with all of their neighbours, including the woodland spirits from a nearby camphor tree.

I love the way the family is depicted in this film, and the sibling relationship between the sisters is well scripted. I also like the positive attitude that the two little girls have towards moving to the countryside and exploring their new surroundings.

8. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) (Recommended for Preschoolers and above)

13 year old Kiki has to complete her training as a witch by spending at least a year away from home, so she flies off on her broom with her black cat Jiji in search of a town in need of her services. She moves into the port city of Koriko and has to find a way to fit in whilst earning a living – it’s not always easy but Kiki makes it work.

What I find particularly good about this film is Kiki’s vulnerability and self-doubt which is so common to many children, especially when faced with what seems to be an insurmountable challenge. Kiki is able to learn more about herself, become more independent and take control of her own life without sacrificing her open-hearted personality or sweetness, and without anger or rebelliousness.

9. The Karate Kid (1984) (Recommended for Tweens and above)

Daniel LaRusso, a spunky teen, moves from his New Jersey home to California, and he has a very hard time fitting in until he befriends a kooky old man who teaches him the ancient art of car detailing Karate.

I mean, who doesn’t love this film? Stick with the 1984 version though.

*Mummy warning: Some swear words, juicy insults and kids beating each other up.*

Wax on, right hand. Wax off, left hand. Wax on, wax off. Breathe in through nose, out the mouth. Wax on, wax off. Don’t forget to breathe, very important.

– Mr Miyagi

10. Legally Blonde (2001) (Recommended for Teens and above)

Sorority girl Elle Woods moves from California where she holds a degree in fashion merchandising to begin her postgraduate studies in Harvard Law School, in order to win back her ex-boyfriend. This very silly comedy deals mostly with a girl who appears to be out of her depth in a new environment, but manages to defy all expectations (including the expectations she had for herself).

I particularly like the way the heroine stays true to herself whilst also discovering talents that she never knew existed until she made the decision to leave her comfort zone.

*Mummy warning: Some swear words, sexual jokes and gay stereotyping.*

I’d pick the dangerous one, ’cause I’m not afraid of a challenge.

– Elle Woods

Deep Conversations with a 5 year old girl (or, Little E understands pop culture)

Wavy-curly-hair-toddler-girl-hakone-japanDebs G: Okay, Little E, get in the car and buckle up.

Little E: Mummy, I need to go to the bathroom.

Debs G: Can you hold it? We’re almost home.

Little E: Yes, I can wait.

Debs G: Okay good.

Little E: (with some urgency) Mummy, can you go a little bit faster?

Debs G: I’m going as fast as I can but there’s lots of cars on the road today.

Little E: (louder now) Go faster please, Mummy!

Debs G: I can’t, it’s too dangerous!

Little E: (yelling now) LUDICROUS SPEED! GO!!!!!!!

Debs G: (also yelling) My brains are going into my feet!!!!

Debs G achieves a SPACEBALLS trophy!

ludicrous_speed
Picture Credit: TV Tropes

Expanding a child’s worldview : Part 1 Inspire Them (or Tomorrowland 2015 – A Spoiler Free movie review)

There are so many movies around now that revolve around a dystopian future or cynical view of the ugliness that surrounds us in the world.

While I think it’s necessary to jolt people out of their comfort zone by exposing the problems in our society, most of these movies hardly ever show us a solution, and I quite often leave the cinema feeling disillusioned, thinking that all efforts to reduce worldsuck are pathetic and completely futile. All the complaining and finger-pointing about how terrible things are and who is responsible for it, well, I think that it accomplishes nothing except to add to the hate and negativity that is already out there.

If we want our society to improve, we have to act in whatever way we can, not just stand on a soapbox and scold.

It’s very rare to come across a movie that focusses on the possibility of making an effective, positive change to our world. Which is why Tomorrowland has got to be the best film that I watched last year. The movie brings a very important message: that it is possible to make a real and lasting difference to our society by finding out how things work and then persistently making efforts to improve humanity.

Everyday is the opportunity for a better tomorrow – Tomorrowland (2015)

Seriously, if you haven’t watched this movie yet, you really should, because it is awesome. After watching it, you should show it to your kids, because if there is any movie that galvanises a child to action, this is it. After watching this movie, J and Little E were ready to go out and change the world.

During this beautiful movie, a teenaged optimist and a mysterious young girl work together to drag a jaded, world-weary grownup out of his rut in order to save the world. The movie is chock-a-block full of thrilling action sequences, some of which involve instant disintegration so if you have a particularly sensitive child, it can be a little scary.

I felt a personal emotional connection to the characters in the film and their journey, and I am not ashamed to say that our entire family (the Barn Owl included) were in tears before the end!

The kids loved this movie so much that they even insisted on making it into the theme for their birthday party this year! More about this in another post, I promise.

wheat-field2

The front of their birthday invitation card

For now, just enjoy the trailer – and watch the movie! You won’t regret it, honest.

P.S. Buyer’s note: We bought our copy of Tomorrowland from Amazon here.

Is there a movie, book or TV show that inspired you or your children to act positively to change society? Share it with me in the comments!

Midweek Break: Whoa…that’s heavy

It’s October 21, 2015 everybody!

We’ve done it!

Where’s my hoverboard, Mr Zemeckis?

We’ve travelled to the future from 1985!!!

High fives all round!

We may not have hoverboards or flying cars in general circulation yet (although the technology is getting there), but we do have flying camera drones, facial recognition technology, biometric door locksSkype video conferencing, Kinect handsfree gaming and Google Glass, amongst other things. Yay technology and the future! I mean, the present.

In other news, I’m really looking forward to the Back In Time: Back to the Future Documentary. Yeah!

Also…

Here’s Back to the Future 2 readjusted to the the actual future. I mean, present.

P.S. Here’s a link to The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinsons’ Research, currently the world’s largest non-profit funding body for research into Parkinson’s disease.

Update: GREAT SCOTT! Will you look at this?!

Midweek Break: Funtimes with the official Star Wars App

Okokokokokok so it’s clear from our previous posts on Owls Well that we are all Star Wars fans here, which is why I got really excited by this new Star Wars app from Lucasfilm and Disney Interactive that just launched this week.

This is the app you are looking for

This is the app you are looking for

It’s basically a customisable news aggregator that updates daily (and in real-time) bundled in with exclusive digital media content like sound clips, emojis, animated GIFs and behind-the-scenes videos.

What I am most excited about are the interactive features such as the augmented reality camera feature that allows one to unlock 3D characters from the upcoming Star Wars film Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well as the Star Wars “Selfie”.

Although the app is compatible with both iOS and Android interfaces, I was not able to download it on my Sony Experia smartphone (even though I have Android version 4.4, and this app should work on Android 4.1 and up).

Fortunately, I managed to get it on the Aged P’s iPad, which led to an afternoon of fun taking Star Wars selfies!

Little E-Leia, Debs G trapped in carbonite and J channelling Anakin Skywalker whilst wielding Mace Windu's lightsaber.

Little Leia E, Debs G trapped in carbonite and J channelling Anakin Skywalker whilst wielding Mace Windu’s lightsaber.

We took lots more of these selfies and I had far too much fun trying to imitate the expressions of various Star Wars characters, much to J’s horror and delight.

“Argh, Mummy, you are so embarrassing!” he said, grimacing at me in between chuckles, “I feel so embarrassed!”

Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen

Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen

Tip of the iceberg, baby. I haven’t even got started being embarrassing yet! Just wait until you hit your teens.

Download the official Star Wars App FREE from the Apple App Store or Google Play