Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Parent Trap -- 1998

The Parent Trap

PG for mild mischief
My Rating 5 Stars

Lindsay Lohan
Dennis Quaid
Natasha Richardson
Elaine Hendrix
Lisa Ann Walter
Simon Kunz
Ronnie Stevens
Joanna Barnes

The first time I watched this movie was during a difficult time in my life and it made me laugh so hard. Ever since then, it's been my in my top ten list of movies... along with Fiddler on the Roof, Miss Potter and Narnia.

When Hallie Parker (Lindsay Lohan), cool girl from California, and Annie James (Lindsey Lohan), prim miss from England, meet at summer camp, they promptly become worst enemies. So what that they both look so much alike that no one can tell them apart!

“The difference between us is that I have class and you don't.” [insert British accent]

But after a round of pranks played on each other and the two are sent to the isolation cabin, they can't help but notice the similarities in their lives... such as, they both love Oreos with peanut butter on them, they each have one parent missing (Hallie only has a dad and Annie only has a mom) and their birthdays are on the same day.

It's then that Annie begins to wonder... she asks Hallie if she has a picture of her mother. Yes, Hallie says, but only one and it's only half a picture, torn down the middle. Annie's eyes widen. “My picture of my father is half a picture, too!” And when they show each other their pictures, it's clear that Annie and Hallie look alike for good a reason: they're identical twins.

The girls immediately become inseparable. The time they have together seems very short, now. As the precious moments pass and the time draws ever nearer to part, they come up with a scheme so hair brained that it might just work. They were going to switch places. Annie would pretend to be Hallie and go to California while Hallie would pretend to be Annie and go to England. The purpose of said plan is two-fold:

1: They each get to know the parent that had missed.
2: Get their Mom and Dad back together.

What ensues is hilarious and incredibly sweet. My entire family loves this film!

What I Liked:
1: The score... from the first until the last, it's perfect!
2: The acting. Everyone is incredibly gifted... I love Lisa Ann Walters and Simon Kunz. :-)
3: Lindsay Lohan. She's a big reason the movie is a success.
4: The story. I love the evil girlfriend. But I wish they hadn't used the name Meredith. Lol. I like that name.
5: The pranks. They didn't seem outlandish or impossible.
6: Elaine Hendrix was a great pick for the girlfriend. ;-)
7: The scene where Hallie meets her mom for the first time never fails to tear me up.
8: The Elizabeth James character is probably my favorite. She is so graceful.. gentle.. beautiful and I love her smile! Shy... demure.

What I Didn't Like:
1: Meredith is fairly seductive, which is quite necessary for the story, but some of the outfits are... well, less than modest.
2: One part, Nick touches Meredith inappropriately. We always put a pillow over the t.v. at that point. It happens when “Hallie” (Annie) is first home and is watching them out the window through her camera.

I highly recommend this film. :-)

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Mightiest Heart -- Lynn Cullen

The Mightiest Heart

By Lynn Cullen
Illustrated By Laurel Long

My Rating: 5 Stars

There are times that I find greater pleasure in a truly well told and illustrated children's book. This is one of them. I hope to purchase a copy someday for my library.


In Snowdonia, there was a young prince named Llywelyn who lived in great stone castle and he... “...was the luckiest lad in Wales... He had strong ponies to ride; servants to grant his every wish; a table set with jellied eel and roast peacock. But what made Llywelyn truly lucky was his dog, Gelert.”

A legend of a dog and his boy that lives on through the woven words of Lynn Cullen and marvelous period illustrations of Laurel Long. There really is a place called Snowdonia... “If fairies exist, they live there.” And there truly was a Prince Llywelyn and a dog Gelert.

Be prepared to be taken back in time and inspired by true devotion.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Tale of Two Cities -- Charles Dickens

The Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens

My Rating: 4 Stars

“...every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. ....every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!... In any of the burial-places of this city through which I pass, is there a sleeper more inscrutable than its busy inhabitants are, in their innermost personality, to me, or than I am to them?”

When I think of Dickens, I am transported back to an attic with four sisters lounging about reading aloud from their homemade paper. Each sister had adopted a character from Dicken's Pickwick Papers and what ensues is hilarious to read about. Yes, I'm talking about one of my favorite books of all time, “Little Women”.

Dickens comes to mind as humorous when in fact, he wrote much serious work. I have only been able to read one book and some excerpts by him but I have been impressed with what I have read. I am looking forward to reading more of his work before long. Reading classics has made me appreciate authors of all genres because I hear echoes in all work. But aside from that, what we can learn from Dickens in all areas of life is something to take into account.

As you may have already guessed, the book I read was “Tale of Two Cities”. While reading it, I kept notes of what I liked and disliked and how I felt about the work. It was very dry at first. I believe I was in chapter five or so before I finally felt a connection with the author. I believe it was about this point that Dickens actually began to enjoy his story and wasn't just writing it for the money.

The character notes and excerpts are from when I read the book. The rest, from memory. :-)

When it begins, the rumblings of the Revolution are beginning to sound more loudly in the streets of Paris. We find that a certain Dr. Manette had been locked away in a cell for many years and he has almost lost his mind from the isolation and conditions to which he has been confined. Due to certain circumstances, his daughter Lucie and good friend Mr. Lorry come and free him from his captivity, taking him back to Britain. There, he lives in peace for awhile with his darling and they are happy.

But Charles Darnay arrives on the scene. He's a good man. There is such a believable quality of character to him. He falls in love with Lucie and Lucie with him and they get married. But the day they are married, he tells Dr. Manette who he is, for Charles Darnay was not his name. The shock almost sent Dr. Manette to madness but his friends gathered around him and wouldn't let him go. Instead, they brought him to a higher plateau of sensibility than had been his before the shock. The good man wanted his daughter happy above all else. And he knew that regardless of Charles Darnay's heritage, the man was innocent of wrong doing.

Happiness is but for a time. As the years fly by, the noise of the Revolution increases and due to his heritage and his morality, Charles Darnay must go to France. And in doing what he feels is right, he nearly gives up his life.

All through this story is a delightful sense of mystery, romance, history, adventure... and characters you thought were good and exciting turned to be villains or vice-versa. And the humor! Ah yes. There is some. :-) And when it comes, it's very effective.

“The faintness of the voice was pitiable and dreadful. It was not the faintness of physical weakness, though confinement and hard fare no doubt had their part in it. Its deplorable peculiarity was, that it was the faintness of solitude and disuse. It was like the last feeble echo of a sound made long and long ago. So entirely had it lost the life and resonance of the human voice, that it affected the senses like a once beautiful color faded away into a poor weak stain....”

Character Notes:

Here is a list of characters I had formed an opinion of throughout the book. As you will see, some changed for me the further I read.

Charles Darnay:
Indefinite... he was simply in the story. Then, he became more and more noble. I admire his obedience to what he feels is right.

Sweet, kind, very much the lady. Two separate times she surprised me with back bone and good sense: both were when a certain Sydney Carton was involved.

Doctor Manette:
Very noble, very strong; someone who suffered much and came out marked for life but overcoming. This world needs more men like him.

Sydney Carton:
From the first, Sydney Carton surprised me. His sudden stand in the courtroom to defend Darnay, his tender love for Lucie, his apparent worthlessness, then, his willingness to give up his life. I love the opposites of his character. I love how unpredictable he is. I love how I can't quite figure him out. :-)

John Barsad:
I should have known he was involved somehow. Good ol' Solomon. :-P

Miss Pross:
I still love Miss Pross. Predictable, loyal, strong, womanly but very sudden. And very deaf! What a lady!

I thought this man was rather noble and clever. Then, I found out what little backbone he had and my good opinion of him is on the verge of going opposite. There was some good in the man but...

Madam Defarge :
I knew she was dangerous. But I thought it was a controlled dangerous... and for most of the book it was. But when she had a power, you feel that she is on the verge of insanity. I breathed a sigh of relief at the ending. Very fitting.

I found this man very funny. I love his quote about how Mrs. Jerry is supposed to honor and obey him and how religiousness ruins his “business”. His resurrection-man humor is to die for and the conversations he has with Young Jerry never fail to make me laugh out loud. Young Jerry is all boy and Old Jerry is... well, he's Telson's Bank odd-job-man who has a distinct aversion to all things connected with 'flopping'. :-)

Mr. Lorry:
The story begins with him and he is there, faithful, to the end. A true friend, noble, honest, level-headed and a “man of business”. :-) He was a very comfortable character because you always knew what he was going to do and it was always very correct. Amusing but I never laughed at him in a mocking way, as I did Mr. Stryver. :-)

I think that this book should be on the list of books that make a person well read. It's a classic for a reason. If you haven't read any other works by Dickens, you may find it a little dry at first. But hang in there! By the time I was half way through the book, I was completely interested. The ending is phenomenal. And if you can't get into the story, then read it for a study of characters. :-)

“Father,” said Young Jerry, as they walked along: taking care to keep at arm's length and to have the stool well between them: “what's a Resurrection-Man?”
Mr. Cruncher came to stop on the pavement before he answered, “How should I know?”
“I thought you knowed every thing, father,” said the artless boy.
“Hem! Well,” returned Mr. Cruncher, going on again, “he's a tradesman.”
“What's his goods, father?” asked the brisk Young Jerry.
“His goods,” said Mr. Cruncher, after turning it over in his mind, “is a branch of Scientific goods.”
“Persons' bodies, ain't it, father?” asked the lively boy.
“I believe it is something of that sort,” said Mr. Cruncher.
“Oh, father, I should so like to be a Resurrection-Man when I'm quite growed up!”
Mr. Cruncher was soothed, but shook his head in a dubious and moral way. “It depends upon how you develop your talents. Be careful to develop your talents, and never to say no more than you can help to nobody, and there's no telling at the present time what you may not come to be fit for.” (The Honest Tradesman)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Star Trek -- 2009

Star Trek

Rated PG-13 for Sci-fi action and violence, and brief sexual content
My Rating: 4 Stars

Chris Pine
Bruce Greenwood
Simon Pegg
John Cho
Zachary Quinto
Winona Ryder
Zoe Saldana
Karl Urban
Anton Yelchin
Eric Bana
Leonard Nimoy

I've only seen a few of the original Star Trek shows and that was years ago, so I cannot compare this film to them. In spite of that, however, I must say this movie was very enjoyable to watch. Even though I'm not versed in Sci-fi, I was able to understand the story and whys and wherefores. Terrific acting, little language and amazing special effects all went towards my 4 Star rating. Sci-fi people, if you haven't seen this movie, you should. :-)

When his mother was in labor with him, Jim Kirk lost his father to the Romulan Hero named Captain Nero... and the Starfleet lost a brave and selfless man. They also lost Captain Robau and their ship, The U.S.S. Kelvin to Nero. It was a rue day when the StarFleet crossed paths with Nero and they never hoped to again.

Well, except maybe one. But he wasn't even part of the Starfleet. He was a bit of a playboy. Reckless. Angry. Arrogant.

James Tiberius Kirk.

One day at a bar, he tried hitting on a girl who was cadet in the Starfleet and her fellow cadets ganged up on Kirk, leaving him smeared with blood. It wasn't until Captain Pike stepped in and whistled that they left Kirk hanging over a table, seeing double through the red. When the Captain heard who the young man was, he recognized in Jim the same great spirit that his father had. It was just hidden under a facade of 'devil-may-care'.

Captain Pike played all the cards he had: Jim's father and his record. And the feeling that Jim had tried to squelch by playing bad boy: he was meant for something better than being a genius repeat offender.

“Enlist in Starfleet.”
“Enlist? ::laughs:: You guys must be way down in your recruiting quota for the month.”

But last minute, he's on the ship. And, although he hasn't any intentions of becoming so, James Tiberius Kirk is on his way becoming a heroic, mature, sensitive leader to whom everyone looks up to. And he's also on his way to see his father's murderer, Nero.

What I Liked:
1: 99% of this movie is clean.
2: Great acting. There wasn't one scene in which this movie wasn't well acted.
3: I love Scotty. Really and truly. That guy makes me laugh.
4: Spock. There's something about watching him fight his way through life and still remain that sweet sensitive man...
5: Winona Ryder. Bravo.
6: The music. :-)
7: Bruce Greenwood. I've seen this man play in several movies and he's always impressive. It doesn't matter if he's playing family man, President or Captain, in the end of the film,you wish that all men could have at least some of his character traits.
8: The special effecs are very good. If you have a chance, watch how they put this movie together and you'll be amazed at how far they went to get the details just right.
9: I have watched a few movies in which J.J. Abrams was director of and have always been impressed.
10: The humor. Low clearance was a good one. Chris Pine pulled it off very well. “I might throw up on you” was also funny. Oh... and the Russian accent! I loved the Russian accent. :-D

What I Didn't Like:
1: The almost sex scene between Kirk and Gaila (the 'green girl' as my sister calls her)... it didn't help the movie in the least. In fact, it took away from the story and made it seem more common.
2: The language. There wasn't much, thankfully. :-)
3: I found that Kirk's character was too immature, then mature, then immature... and finally, mature. I couldn't really relate to the extremes.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rebecca -- Daphne du Maurier -- 1938


Daphne du Maurier

My Rating: 5 Stars


“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again...”

An inexperienced, naive young girl hired as a companion for the wealthy and despicable Mrs. Van Hopper meets and falls in love with recently widowed Max de Winter, owner of Manderley. They marry and go to the estate to live. In doing so, Mrs. de Winter is thrust into a world she knows nothing of... a world in which everyone and everything is tainted by the former Mrs. de Winter: Rebecca. It is a dead woman she must fight to gain her place. It is Rebecca she is expected to imitate . It is Rebecca she fears her husband loves still. And it is Rebecca who is her greatest enemy.

How dreadfully abrupt that sounds. The problem is this: I cannot write a good review for “Rebecca”. It is a work of art. Each word molding against the next; each sentence it's own unique flavor in the paragraph; each paragraph a blaze of color that lends itself to the perfection of the rainbow.

I have never read another book like “Rebecca” and as bittersweet as that is, I hope I never do. “Rebecca” deserves to stand alone. Oh, it has what other books have: good style, good story, unique characters, wonderful mystery, romance, intrigue... but “Rebecca” has something else other books don't have: Daphne du Maurier.

“Rebecca” is a mixture of styles, one of them being abstract; another being bold. You feel the dreamy quality of consciousness not being quite there but every word pricks it's own place into the readers mind. The story fills your senses and takes you with the characters as you journey through the pages. You know their love and pain and frustration; you feel the rain and the sunshine; you smell the roses in the gardens and the air of the sea.

The author leaves the reader with many questions about themselves. The one that impacted me the most was this: Why should we try to emulate others when we were created uniquely as ourselves?

What I Liked:
1: The basics: plot, style, mystery, details, the colors (you'd think for a book so morbid, it would be dark but instead, it ranges... most of it bright), characters, Manderley...
2: A realization: When we feel we are at the end, it is time for a new beginning. Do not act in haste. Wait. God has something better for you.
3: How the young Mrs. de Winter makes mistakes... and learns from them. In the end, she has become a mature woman.
4: Even though this book is long and there isn't much action (until the end, of course ;-)), I never felt the details were excessive. Each was there for a purpose.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Monsters Inc. -- 2001

Monsters Inc.

A Pixar Film
Rated G
My Rating: 5 Stars

John Goodman
Billy Crystal
Mary Gibbs
Steve Buscemi
James Coburn
Jennifer Tilly
Bob Peterson
John Ratzenberger

This is probably my 2nd favorite Pixar animated film. I can't even begin to list why I like film so well... there are just too many reasons.

There is a place out there called Monstropolis where monsters live. They look a little different than humans, but actually, they're not that different than we are. They have cities like we do, with electricity, cars, radios, factories, etc, etc. But they power their cities a little differently than we do. They power them with children's screams. Remember that monster that was in your closet when you were a kid? Well, it was real.

James P. Sullivan (Sulley) is Monsters Inc.'s best scarer. In fact, he and his wise-cracking buddy Mike Wazoski (you think he was a Pole?) are on their way to beating the all time scare record when the unthinkable happens: a child escapes from her bedroom into the factory. It wasn't poor Sulley's fault but he happened to let her in. And since he and Sulley share a place and are best friends, poor, poor Mike is pulled into an adventure that he didn't ask for.

Together with Boo (Sulley named her after her favorite expression), the two uncover a plot that stuns them and will hurt the world and ethics of Monstropolis if they can't stop it time. And while doing so, can they save Boo? (“And what about us? Doesn't that matter?!” asks Mike.)

“I don't know but it's been said, I love scaring kids in bed.”

What I liked:
1: 100% of this film.
2: The story... very unique, clean and sooo sweet. :-) I love Sulley! I love Boo! I love Mike Wazoski!
3: The voices/actors are fantastic... but I have a special affection for Billy Crystal after watching him play Miracle Max in The Princess Bride. ;-)
4: The score is a mixture of jazz and klezmer. I can hear a faint echo of Fiddler on the Roof, but not enough to be irritating... it's very nice. :-)
5: The humor is “laugh out loud funny”... it was just my type. Brightens my day whenever I watch.
6: The romance. It made me laugh and smile... because it's slightly realistic. Lol.
7: How Mike and Sulley both mature and broaden their horizons.
I am so buying this movie when I get a chance. :-)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hancock -- 2008


My Rating: 3 Stars

Will Smith
Jason Bateman
Charlize Theron
Eddie Marsan

“I'm afriad I'm gonna have to say 'no' to dat. I'm really trying to turn over a new leaf.”

Ever get tired of those perfect, eye candy super heroes? Look no further! Here is a guy who is definitely not your typical Superman.

Hancock is a completely misunderstood hero. Well, he is a little sarcastic. And a drunk. Oh... maybe reckless and arrogant. But regardless, the poor guy is hated by the public and if they had the chance, they'd kill or incarcerate him.

And then, he saves Ray Embrey's life. Ray is not only thankful in word but in deed, and as a idealistic publicist, he thinks he can help Hancock change his life.

“Don't break the building, don't break the building, don't break the building!”

What happens next is heartwarming as the superhero learns to be polite, gentle ... and basically, more like Superman (but infinitely more human [therefore, more lovable], of course). Then, just as life seems to be turning around, Hancock finds a woman that has similar powers to himself. And not only that, she alone has the key to the past that Hancock cannot remember.

What I Liked:
1: The twists in this story. It kept me sitting on the edge of my seat. :-)
2: The humor. I laughed out loud over this movie.
3: The acting. Will Smith and Jason Bateman are like comedians together... but there are also some very sweet friendship moments that I found endearing.
4: The parts in the jail seemed very realistic (my limited knowledge is books and films).
5: When they did have a sex scene, it was pretty low key... you didn't see anything.
6: Hancock is such a perfect mixture of superhero/human with struggles that you really find yourself liking him.

What I Didn't Like:
1: The sex scenes.
2: The language.
3: At one point, Hancock does something to two guys (they rather deserved it, I suppose) that I will not tell you about but was disgusting. I didn't think it helped the movie... although it kind of furthered what his personality was like.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Gladiator -- 2000

Directed by
Ridley Scott

Rated R for violence and gory images and some sexual references
My rating 5 stars

Russell Crowe
Joaquin Phoenix
Connie Nielsen
Derek Jacobi
Djimon Hounsou
Richard Harris
Spencer Treat Clark

There is a stream of things entering into being,
and time is a raging torrent; for no sooner does
each thing enter our sight than it has been
swept away, and another is passing in it's
place, and that too will be swept away”
-- Marcus Aurelius (A D 121-180)

“Today, I saw a slave become more powerful than the Emperor of Rome.”

“My history is a little hazy, Cassius. But shouldn't the barbarians lose the battle of Carthage?”

I love period films. And I love them especially when every detail, great or small, has been attended to. But I have not watched a movie before “Gladiator” that brought me into it's world so completely, not even Lord of the Rings. In fact, it was so intense and my interest was so drawn that at one point, I suddenly realized my face was wet. I didn't even remember crying. Lol.

Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe) is Rome's most famous general. Not only has he fought and won many battles for the empire, he is a loyal subject to Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris), who loves him like a son, and is a man of great virtue, valor and honor.

Commodus (Joaquin Pheonix) is the son of Marcus Aurelius. If anyone can be the complete opposite of Maximus, it is he. He knows that Maximus is loved more by the Emperor and is very jealous of him but he has high hopes for being named his father's successor. In actuality, he is willing to do anything to bear the title of Caesar. So when Marcus Aurelius comes to him with the news that he has chosen Maximus as the next Emperor of Rome, Commodus wastes no time ensuring certain people's demises and his personal success in becoming Emperor.

But Commodus did not realize that Maximus was more than a soldier and a good man. As Marcus Aurelius underestimated his son, so Commodus did not reckon with Maximus and his fierce dedication in his duty to perform the request of a dying ruler. 

Through it all is the presence of mysterious and lovely Lucilla, the daughter of Marcus Aurelius and sister to Commodus. Is she victor or victim?

What I Liked:
1: How every detail, from story, sets, acting, score, to make-up and dress, leads the way to perfection.
2: The massive feeling of the scenes. For instance, the battle sequences, Commodus' entrance to Rome, the marketplace, the Colosseum...
3: The romance between Maximus and Lucilla is very pure and very believable.
4: Spencer Treat Clark's performance as “Lucius” was excellent. Good children actors are hard to come by.
5: I've watched several films that starred Joaquin Pheonix (my favorite being the first one I watched: “Walk the Line” as Johnny Cash) and I've never seen him act so well. He was the pure evil you need in a character like Commodus... well done.
6: The idea that even in a country so evil as Rome, there is some good... some wish for righteousness.
7: How, in the end, justice prevails no matter how slim the chances are for it.

What You Should be Warned of:
1: There is a lot of gore and violence. It's very realistic, which I appreciate, but not for young children or someone who is not comfortable with it.
2: There is some mention of idol worship. Definitely down played, which makes it a little more acceptable to more audiences. Not very realistic, but I suppose one can't have everything.
3: Commodus desires his sister Lucilla and there are a few suggestive comments... and one scene that made me a bit uncomfortable. However, it was dealt with tastefully and since I know for a fact that sort of thing happened many times in the history of royalty, it didn't shock me.
4: When Commodus is taunting Maximus, he refers graphically to the murders of Maximus' son and wife.

I highly recommend this film for excellence.

If you get a chance to watch the extras, make sure to check out the interview with composer Hans Zimmer. He's an inspiration.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fantastic 4 -- 2005

Fantastic 4

Rated PG Violence not recommended for children
My Rating 3 Stars

Ioan Grufford
Jessica Alba
Michael Chiklis
Chris Evans
Julian McMahon
Kerry Washington

This is a fairly clean film that has Ioan Grufford in it. So if you like superheroes and Ioan G., this film is for you. :-)

Reed Richards. Genius scientist. Nice guy.
Ben Grimm: Reed's 'body guard' and fellow scientist.
Sue Storm: Beautiful. Smart. Scientist. Reed's ex-girlfriend. She doesn't know it but she's still in love with him.
Johnny Storm: Sue's younger brother. Playboy. Doesn't take life seriously. Also a scientist.
Victor Von Doom: The Dutch take it again! Dangerously handsome. Jealous of Reed Richards.

After four scientists are exposed to cosmic radiation, they find themselves endowed with some extraordinary abilities. Shocked at this sudden change in themselves, they try to find a way to become normal again... but little do they know that the very thing they were exposed to also created an enemy who is now seeking for revenge. And they are the target.

What I Liked:
1: The romance. ;-)
2: Ioan Grufford. He's the best thing about this film.
3: I love how Johnny grows up.

What I Didn't Like:
1: The story seemed very ordinary. No twists. Nothing surprising.
2: Jessica Alba's space suit is ridiculously low. How practical is that? :-P Unrealistic. The entire purpose of the suit was to be sexy. However, other than one or two references, it is ignored.
3: little bit of language.
4: It was action, action, action. I simply didn't find the story smoothly told.
5: It did help the story, but there are a couple parts where the characters are undressed (Johnny's clothes burn off) (Sue turns invisible and her clothes don't... and to be honest, Reed's comment at that point is very funny. Just like a man. “Wow, you've been working out.” ::snort::).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Blood Sisters -- Melody Carlson -- 2001


Melody Carlson

My Rating: 5 Stars

There are not many Christian novels that I can recommend, but I've read two of this author's books and was impressed with both of them. Plot, characters, spiritual lesson. It was all there and it was good.

Judith Blackwell is at the end of her hopes and dreams. Her son had died of cancer years before and more recently, her beloved husband had been killed when the small plane he was traveling in crashed in the mountains. She was alone and there was no reason to prolong a miserable existence.

Her fingers picked at the pills the doctor had given her. He had meant for her to take two at a time but Judith had other intentions in mind. She divided the pills into rows of ten and filled her glass with water. But just as she returned to the table, she saw that week's mail and out of habit, began sorting through it. She found the envelope. No return address; no letter. Simply a newspaper clipping of an obituary.

Jasmine was dead.

Jolted back to the land of the living, Judith's mind slips back to Cedar Crest and Jasmine. When they were young, the girls had listened to the story of Tom Sawyer and when they had heard the part about blood brothers, they immediately went out and pricked their forefingers, mixing their blood for eternity: blood sisters.

Something about this untimely death seemed unbelievable to Judith. Images of the young, merry, beautiful Jasmine dance through her head until she simply had to know more... and that was when she called Cousin Polly. Cousin Polly owns and runs a beauty salon in Cedar Crest and is probably the biggest gossip in town. She's also probably the jolliest, happy person Judith had ever known. But even with her reputation, Cousin Polly becomes reticent and cool when Jasmine's name is mentioned. No matter what Judith says, Cousin Polly is mum on the subject.

When Judith puts down the phone, she realizes that there is only one thing to do: go to Cedar Creek and discover the details of Jasmine's death for herself. But she isn't going there for herself. She's going for Jasmine... for the sister she never had.

What she finds shocks her.

What I Liked:
1: The story was well told. Lots of talent and experience there.
2: The romance. Pretty sweet... and pretty subtle.
3: The mystery. I like.
4: How difficult issues, such as racism and suicide, are addressed and the reader is made to think.
5: Judith realizes that she was never alone, even in her darkest moments. God was always there for her.
6: This story showed how people can come from all circumstances and find the grace to succeed at whatever God has in store for them.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Transformers -- Revenge of the Fallen -- 2009

Revenge of the Fallen

Rating PG-13 for violence, language, crude/sexual references and one drug reference
My Rating: 3 stars

Shia LaBeouf
Megan Fox
Josh Duhamel
Tyrese Gibson
John Turturro
Ramon Rodriguez
Kevin Dunn
Julie White
Isabel Lucas
John Benjamin Hickey
Rainn Wilson

“What you're about to see is top secret. Do not tell my Mother.”

I must say, for everything I didn't appreciate in this film, I want to rewatch it. It has a nice quality to it and loads of humor. The line above is my absolute favorite. This is next in line:

“Do you live with your mother?”
“No, Mama lives with me. Big difference.”

I haven't watched any other Transformer movies so I have missed out on a lot of the introductions and story that would have helped me understand this movie better.

Summary: Transformers have coexisted with humans since the earth came into existence. They have always helped mankind. But there was a rebel who hated humans and he wanted to destroy earth entirely. The righteous Transformers had no choice but to banish the rebel. They called him The Fallen. He was not alone in his hatred and had gathered many followers as he tried to work his evil plans. They were called Decepticons. There was rarely a time of peace between Transformers and Decepticons. The one always fighting to protect the human race and the other to destroy it.

Sam Witwicki is a teen with a special power and he has been on many missions with his other gifted friends (including his beautiful girlfriend), fighting with the Transformers and soldiers. But he is tired of not being normal. He wants to settle down to a safe, sane life, enjoy his loved ones, go to college and basically, grow up the regular way.

But once he gets to college, strange things begin to happen. First off, there's this creepy girl who won't take 'no' for an answer. In fact, she basically molests Sam whenever she's in the room. Sam knows something is terribly wrong, but being the gentleman he is, he doesn't know how to stop her advances without being brutal. As it turns out... No, I won't tell you.

Suddenly Sam and his friends and family are all thrust into another adventure that involves death and pain and great sacrifice... and plenty of action!

What I Liked:
1: That Sam's parents were still deeply in love... and found each other physically attractive.
2: How strong Sam and Mikaela's relationship seemed.
3: The clear sense of good and evil. (I wish it were always so clear in real life...!)
4: Shia LeBeouf. Good acting.
5: The humor... when it wasn't crude... was really, really funny. It even made my very reserved sister lol. Good job, guys.
6: Military scenes. I love 'em. Seemed very realistic.

What I Didn't Like:
1: Lots of sex talk. It was excessive and didn't add anything to the story.
2: Crude jokes.
3: The molestation scenes. They did add a lot to the story, however.
4: How ridiculous and immature Sam's mother was on campus. That was embarrassing. She was a different person later on in the movie... so why did they have to make her like that? If they did it for the humor aspect, they failed miserably.
5: It was 96% action. Way too much. I need breathers!
6: Some language.
7: While Sam and Mikaela's relationship seemed strong/good, at the same time, I really wish they would have waited to have sex until they were married. I know it isn't often that people wait but there are still some people out there who are committed to sexual purity and would appreciate movies that encourage such a commitment.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Superman Returns -- 2006

Superman Returns

Rated PG-13 for intense action/violence
My Rating: 3 Stars

Brandon Routh
Kate Bosworth
James Marsden
Frank Langella
Eva Marie Saint
Parker Posey
Kal Penn
Sam Huntington
Kevin Spacey


Superman is back and just in time! Lex Luther has a plan to destroy most of the population of the world and get filthy rich in the process.

But life on earth has changed tremendously since Superman (alias Clark) disappeared. Lois Lane has a fiancée, son and a Pulitzer Prize for “Why the world doesn't need Superman”. Lex Luther is out of prison because Superman didn't come to testify against him... (and a rich old widow was deceived into giving him all her money). The only thing that hasn't changed is Superman's mother, her love for him and the world that needs his help more than ever.

After a stunt that saves Lois from death, Superman's is face and deeds are all over the media. Lois, Clark and everyone else at their newspaper company is commissioned to do stories on Superman. Due to conflicting emotions, Lois fights the orders and her boss and anyone else who says that Superman is a good thing. Clark suggests that if she will investigate and write the story she wants (a power surge that nearly caused a major catastrophe), he will do the Superman story for her.

What seemed like an innocent power surge (they should have guessed with Lex Luther out of prison, seemingly innocent major catastrophe starters are never what they appear to be) turned into a very dangerous situation and it will take Superman and all of his friends to save her and her son... and the rest of the world.

What I Liked:
1: Acting was good.
2: Story kept me interested to the end.
3: How sweet Clark/Superman was. Nice character.
4: The story left Lois Lane with her fiancée.
5: How Lois' son protects his mom. :-)
6: Kevin Spacey as Lex Luther was a great choice. He made a wonderful bad guy... in some ways he seemed very normal, almost kindly; so when he pulled out his really nasty card, it was very effective. I have seen Kevin in one other movie and loved his performance. He's a phenomenal actor!
7: That being said, I thought his end was very fitting.
8: My favorite humor in the movie is when his girlfriend asks, “What are we going eat?” and Lex looks at the dog. Lol!

What I Didn't Like:
1: With the score, Clark's glasses/demeanor and stunts, it felt like they were trying to create an echo of Indiana Jones. Bad, bad, bad...
2: Sexual implications... they really didn't add anything good to the story. Superman, when I was a kid, seemed very innocent. Why couldn't they have continued on?
3: The fact that the Superman character replaces God. I liked Batman very much because it was all 'natural' stunts – no supernatural abilities.
4: Clark's friends and associates seem less than smart. Right after Clark arrives in town, Superman starts saving the world from major disasters again. Hm. Imagine that. But do they put two and two together? Nope.
5: I suppose that in the end, what really bothered me about this movie was how much of it was 'stolen' ideas. Everything from God to Indiana Jones... :-P

But if you're a Superman fan, you will probably enjoy this movie. I must admit that I liked parts of it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Prince Caspian -- 2008

Prince Caspian

Rated PG for battle scenes and PG frightening images
My Rating: 5 Stars

Ben Barnes
Georgie Henley
Skandar Keynes
William Moseley
Anna Popplewell
Sergio Castellitto
Peter Dinklage
Warwick Davis

This is sequel to “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” and it is just as good. It's not often that a sequel is as good as the original but in this case, I'm happy to say that Prince Caspian is an exception. Once again, the director and his crew outdid themselves. This film is beautifully orchestrated.

Prince Caspian is an orphaned young man who lives in his castle with his uncle, aunt and subjects. Caspian's uncle rules the kingdom and it is understood that he will do so until the young prince is old enough to take the crown. But no steps have been taken towards this end and Caspian is generally ignored by his Uncle.

He spends the majority his time with his professor, a kindly old man with much wisdom. He teaches Caspian many things... among them tales of the strange land called Narnia. But those only in secret. Caspian's Uncle has forbidden the old man to even mention the name Narnia, let alone fill Caspian's head with tales of it. But the Professor is a wise man and he knows when knowledge will be necessary for his Prince's existence.

And now, his careful tutoring will bear fruit. A son has been born to Caspian's uncle and the only one between the Uncle, his seed and the throne is Caspian, the rightful heir. But never has said Uncle let rightful heirs stand between him and anything he wishes for. Sensing what is about to take place, the Professor wakes Caspian in the dead of night, hurrying him from his bed into his wardrobe, where the Prince watches in disbelief from a crack in the door as the soldiers empty their crossbows into his bed. Dazedly, he follows the Professor down the secret set of stairs in the back of his wardrobe into the armory, then the stable. The Professor hurriedly instructs Caspian that he is to flee to the forest of Narnia, where he hopes Caspian will safe. Just before he slaps the horse into motion, the old man hands the young prince something wrapped in a burlap sack.

“It has taken me years to find this. Use it only in the hour of your deepest need!”

What follows is a spectacular flight, from castle, river and meadow to dense forest that not even the bravest soldier cares to enter. There Caspian finds more adventure and better friends than he ever dared dreamed of. His character is tested and tested again until it is clear to all who know him that this Prince is a worthy ruler of his people.

What I Liked:
1: The wonderful story. I was challenged in my own life by watching the characters mature as they were challenged.
2: The acting. Once again, wonderful.
3: 99% of the movie. :-)
4: The score. Bravo to all who were involved!
5: The allegorical ring to the story.

6: Very rich in details.
7: The battle sequences/use of weapons. Susan and her bow were my favorite.
8: Costuming. Beautiful!
9: I love how Edmund is so mature and capable. It's a testimony that lessons once learned can stay learned.
10: The humor. I love how they incorporate humor into an otherwise serious story.
11: How Caspian becomes a man. It was very realistic and a good example for any boy who is watching... and for girls out there who haven't seen what a real man looks like. ;-)

What I Didn't Like:
1: When Caspian's greatest challenge comes, the witchcraft seemed very detailed... maybe too detailed. It bothered me somewhat in that it seems a little intense for the kids. However, sometimes children only get the impression of what is happening and not the details. It really depends on your child and your situation.
2: Peter seemed a lot less mature in this film than in LWW. I found this odd... they could have toned it down a mite.

Do I recommend this film? Yep! It's another great family film that is super clean and very well done to boot.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Nativity Story -- 2006

The Nativity Story

Rated PG Mature Theme
My Rating: 4 stars

Keisha Castle-Hughes
Oscar Isaac
Hiam Abbass
Shaun Toub
Alexander Siddig
Ciaran Hinds
Shohreh Aghdashloo

Probably the best biblical film I've seen.

Who doesn't know the nativity story? You will fall in love with a beautiful Hebrew girl named Mary who is a normal girl in her small town in Judea. Carefree, kind and loving... a joy to anyone she comes in contact with. The Hebrew culture at that time, 14 and 15 year old girls were married and Mary was no exception. Her betrothed is Joseph. He is a good man; a highly respected man. Mary does not love him but it will come with time.

Suddenly, an angel appears to Mary and tells her that she is with child. She asks how can it be, since she is a virgin and has never been with a man. The angel tells her that the child is of the Holy Ghost and the Child is the Holy One. The Messiah.

In that time, if a girl was found to be pregnant, she was stoned to death... at very least, she was divorced from her betrothed and looked upon with great disfavor in her town. Mary was well aware of this, so when the angel told her that her cousin Elisabeth was also pregnant in her old age, she determines to go visit her and seek wisdom.

One of the sweetest moments in the movie is when Elisabeth greets Mary, saying the babe she was carrying in her womb leaped when Mary first spoke. Elisabeth did not judge Mary. She had faith that the angel had spoken to Mary just as Mary had said.

Three months later, Mary goes back to her own town. By this time, she is showing and the uproar in her village is exceeded only by the gossip that followed Mary wherever she went. Her parents did not believe her story and neither did Joseph. But, being just and upright, he decides not to go to the elders about Mary. She will not be executed. But being a just man, he cannot marry her, either.

One night, while he slept, an angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him that Mary was telling the truth when she said her child was God's. And not only that, he was to take Mary as his wife. With a trusting heart, Joseph arose and did as he was commanded. In doing so, he claimed the child as his and forever stained his reputation with his kinfolk and neighbors. But in God's and Mary's eyes, he was forever a righteous man.

What I Liked:
1: I appreciated the amount of research that went into this film. We see some of the effects of the Roman rule in Israel and the society in which Jesus was born in.
2: The great acting. Everyone was great. Ciaran Hinds did another phenomenal job as the bad guy in the story. :-)
3: How biblically accurate 95% of the story was. That's a huge stickler for me whether movie or book.
4: The love story. I love a good love story. :-D Joseph and Mary were forced to act against every society rule in the book but God blessed their faith and what seemed impossible was wonderful.
5: The realization that everything about Jesus' earthly life, from beginning to end, was a violation to the Jewish society. That was an amazing moment... but why should it be surprising? We serve an amazing God.
6: This movie was 99% solemn. Lots of sorrow and grief... and sweet and amazing moments but very little humor. However, when it did come, it was so funny that everyone laughs out loud.
7: Even though there are two childbirths in this movie, there is nothing improper shown.

What I Didn't Like:
1: The only thing I really disliked about this film was the purely fictional dip in the Jordan that Mary and Joseph had. It accomplished nothing for the story, except that Mary was beginning to really love and trust her man. That I did appreciate. :-)
2: I would have appreciated more details about Israel at that time. I suppose this would have made for a long movie but I love the details!!
3: One other thing that bothered me was the fact that right after Elisabeth had John the Baptist, they show Elisabeth and Zechariah sharing a bed (singing the baby to sleep). The Law said that after a women bore a man-child, she was unclean (therefore, anyone else who touched her was also unclean) for seven days... and for three and thirty days after that, she continued her purification, in which time, she was not allowed to touch any hallowed thing. I'm not sure this included her husband, but I suspect it did. ???

Does anyone have a good film to recommend set in that era in Israel... Rome... Egypt? I'm interested in that time period.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Narnia -- The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe -- 2005

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Rating PG for battle sequences and frightening scenes/images
My Rating: 5 Stars

Georgie Henley
Skandar Keynes
William Moseley
Anna Popplewell
Tilda Swinton
James McAvoy
Jim Broadbent
Kiran Shah

I was never interested in fantasy until I watched the Narnia movies. I found this to be one of the best movies I have ever watched. In some aspects, I would say that the movies are better than the books.

During WW2 in Britain's Blitz, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are sent to the country to be safe. Their benefactor is an old professor who's immense home is filled with all manner of antiques. The children are given strict instructions from the Professor's housekeeper to keep their hands 'off the artifacts!' and behave themselves as good, obedient children would. The four children spend their time playing word games with dusty, old dictionaries on rainy days in their stiff sitting room or sedate ball and mallet games on sunny days.

One especially dull rainy day, Lucy begs to play Hide 'n Seek. Peter began counting and off they all went, running to find a hiding place before he comes looking. You'd think in such a large house, there would be lots of hiding places but Lucy is having trouble finding one. After almost giving up, she finds a door unlocked with an immense wardrobe sitting in the back of an otherwise empty room. When she gets in it, she finds a new world awaiting her and a special friend. (He's my favorite character... with Aslan and the beavers coming up next. :-))

But this isn't just a children's movie. Adults can enjoy and learn from it, as well. It is a story about four children and how each of them is given a special gift... and a special burden. It's a story about sinning and repenting. It is a story about the greatest sacrifice. It's a story about forgiveness. It's a story about righteousness and wickedness... and which one wins at the end.

What I Liked:
1: 100% of the movie. :-)
2: The story.
3: The acting. The children are amazing. They really seem like siblings of that era. It's as if they had known each other all of their lives.
4: Each detail was very well thought out.
5: The musical score. Lovely!
6: The lessons the viewer learns with the children.
7: The allegory of this story. My favorite line is, “It is finished.” I nearly got tears in my eyes.
8: How clean the film is. One of the great family films of the century.
9: The battle sequences... Amazing special effects.

Do I recommend this film? 100%... for children and adults alike!