09 December 2012
Genre: Biography, Drama
Synopsis: Following the last three months of Lincoln's life, the film covers his undying resolve to pass the 13th amendment to end slavery. It reveals his family struggles, his inward conflicts, and his unique personality, as he also strives to reach peace with the Confederate States and a reconciliation of the union.
Positives: Lincoln is a compassionate and caring man, loving his young son and stubborn wife, and taking time to stop and talk to passerby's. He also is greatly concerned that slavery ends once and for all, speaking up for the slaves, stating that they are human and equal. Lincoln, his cabinet members, and many congress members have fought and continue to fight hard for the freedom of slaves, each of them individually carrying the heavy, caring burden.
Negatives: As a lawyer, Lincoln did twist truth and lie, and he struggles with what he's done, but he believes that the end justifies the means. There is some language, one battle that is not gory, but clearly displays warfare, and one hospital scene where a pit is filled with amputated limbs. There is also drinking and smoking throughout the film.
-It's worth fighting for life
-Take the time to care for the people around you
-Be quick to reconcile and forgive
Conclusion: This felt like a history lesson in a film, and a very well done film for that matter. It was excellent, and I truly appreciated the way the story dug into Lincoln's character, the good and the bad, and I have a greater appreciation for what he did during such a difficult time. It also makes me question what I would have done, if I would have twisted the law or stretched the truth. The film was not action packed or romantic, but it was thoughtful, like Lincoln. I would recommend it for ages 13+, boys and girls.
Rating: 5 (Loved it!)
26 August 2012
I figured I should post about why I'm not posting. I guess I've been really busy, and I kinda forgot I had this blog for a little while. I've started school for the fall, so life has been more demanding, but I'm still reading books and watching movies.
Some books I'm consuming at the moment are . . .
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (Fiction)
Writing Screenplays That Sell by Michael Hauge (How-To)
Against the Night by Charles Colson (Political from a Christian Perspective)
They are all very interesting books, and I'll have to review each one when I'm done!
Well, keep checking for updates, and at some point I'll have a real post up here!
30 July 2012
Title: Wuthering Heights
Author: Emily Bronte
Synopsis: When Mr. Lockwood rents Thrushcross Grange, just a little ways from Wuthering Heights, and decides to visit his landlord, Mr. Heathcliff, master of Wuthering Heights, his life is changed forever by one long story told by his housekeeper, Nelly. The story follows Heathcliff, his lover Catherine, her lover Edgar, his sister Isabella, her son Linton, Edgar's daughter Cathy, and Heathcliff's likeness, Hareton. All these characters are bound up in one large story of abuse, revenge, hate, romance, and love --- as some give into the odds and some defy the odds.
Positives: Nelly seeks truth, justice, and true love above all the revenge, hate, and grudges that gather thickly around Wuthering Heights. Nelly encourages Heathcliff to look to the Bible for truth, and she tries to instruct her young charge (Cathy) in the way she should go. Mr. Lockwood is only a curious onlooker, meaning no harm.
Negatives: This book shares the effects of abuse, hate, and revenge, which can be dark themes. There is a lot of abuse in this book, verbal and physical. There is some minimal language; marital unfaithfulness; and Cathy lies to and deceives her father multiple times.
-Someone else's hate can't destroy your love
-Hate destroys lives
-Forgiveness and reconciliation brings healing
Conclusion: I loved this book. I thought it was an excellently written story, engaging and interesting, and the way the author revealed the effects of abuse and later revenge and hate and more abuse, was powerful. The end I found a bit abrupt and somewhat confusing, but as I've thought about it more, I've liked it better. It is a dark story, and so I understand that some people may not like it. Finally, it's hard to describe, so you're better off reading it yourself. :) I recommend it for boys and girls ages 16+. It is definitely written for a more mature audience.
Rating: 4 (Liked it!)
13 July 2012
Genre: Drama & Sports
Synopsis: In years long past, Paddy Conlon was a drunkard and abusive, driving away his wife and one of his sons and creating enmity with his other son. During more recent years, Paddy has been living alone and has had a change in life. He no longer drinks, thanks to his "pal Jesus," and he is trying to reconcile with his sons (his wife has died), but one son, Tommy Conlon, is only interested in his dad as a coach, as a way back into MMA fighting, and Brendan Conlon is okay with forgiving his dad but can't trust him yet. Now, Brendan finds himself in need of a job and begins to take up MMA fighting again. Then, both brothers must face each other at a large championship, Brendan, following his father's footsteps in forgiveness, and Tommy bitter and angry and ready to hurt anyone who gets in his way.
Positives: There is an extremely subtle Christian message in this story. With Paddy leaving Church in the beginning of the movie, a bible sitting on a table in Paddy's living room, and Tommy briefly asking Paddy where Jesus was when his mother was dying. If you listen closely, you can also hear that Paddy has given up drinking due to the change Jesus made in his life, and at the end, some of the t-shirts read with very hidden Christian messages. Tommy is battling anger and bitterness and through Paddy and Brendan's witness he comes to the breaking point and accepts their forgiveness. Paddy attempts reconciliation with both sons, and Brendan is ready to forgive both his father and his brother. Brendan's wife, though unhappy about his choice to rejoin MMA, later supports him.
Negatives: Some language. The MMA fighting can be brutal at times, with the fighters breaking each other's bones, throwing each other across the arena, and Tommy is especially brutal, out there to win and not caring about the other person. An underdressed woman walks past the screen at one of the competitions (short but there). Paddy relapses to drinking at one point due to depression but when Tommy reaches out to him, he recovers. Paddy is definitely not perfect though he is changed by Jesus.
Conclusion: I watched this movie 2.5 times and understood things better the more I watched it. The message was touching, even if the end seemed abrupt, and I was surprised at the subtle Christian messages in a secular film. It was nice to see a film go deep, digging into anger and forgiveness, themes that most movies don't touch on. The acting was also very impressive. I would recommend this for ages 13+ boys and girls, though some girls may not appreciate the MMA fighting, but I think the storyline was worth it, and the fighting did lend to the storyline, as the director, Gavin O'Connor, told Plugged In, the title doesn't just refer to "guys in a cage beating the heck out of each other . . . the intention of the title had more to do with spiritual warfare."
Rating: 5 (Loved it!)
12 July 2012
Genre: Drama & Comedy
Synopsis: Following the first Sherlock Holmes... there are mysterious bombings taking place around Europe, and Holmes has decided to take on the case! Watson is getting married and trying to move on in life . . . but due to a series of life-threatening events, he decides to help Holmes. Now Holmes and Watson take on the case side-by-side. Holmes's arch-enemy Professor Moriarty is giving the two detectives a hard time . . .
Positives: It is a very light-hearted movie with a lot of clean, fun humor. Holmes and Watson care for each other and try to help each other out even when the other is being obstinate or annoying. Holmes is trying to save lives throughout the movie and succeeds most of the time.
Negatives: Some violence though none of it is very graphic. The bad guy poisons one girl and bombs quite a few buildings killing many people. There is one scene where a man is nude, and it is portrayed in a humorous light. Some minimal language. Watson and Holmes (among others) drink, and Watson gets drunk. Watson also gambles. There is a scene where Moriarty hooks Holmes up, enjoying watching Holmes in pain. Holmes is at first annoyed that Watson is getting married, but later either gets over it or learns the value of Watson's wife.
-Risking a life to save others
Conclusion: This movie was really just pure fun. There wasn't much meaning in it (at all!), but Holmes really does care for people and does his best to foil Moriarty's evil plans to plant bombs, but all-in-all, I can't say I got a lot out of it, but I would recommend it for a light, fun time, ages 13+ (it can be dark at times) boys and girls.
Rating: 4 (Liked it!)
20 June 2012
Title: Adopted For Life
Author: Russell D. Moore
Synopsis: This is a non-fiction book, written by an adoptive father. Moore steps through spiritual adoption and physical adoption, displaying God's mercy in adopting us as His children. He then continues to compare God's heart for orphans and the way we can tangibly reach orphans today with Christ's love.
Positives: I can't say enough about the positives of this book! Please just read it. He really touches God's heart for the lost and for orphans and reveals just how meaningful it is to display love to a child who has no family. Not only does he step through practical tips on money raising and paperwork, but he also reaches the heart of the matter, where we stand before God and our responsibilities.
Negatives: I really can't say anything bad about this book, my only thought (which he admits himself) is that he doesn't have much to say on domestic adoption because his experience was international adoption, but there is so much that could be said about the orphans locally.
-God's heart for His children and orphans
-love and compassion
Conclusion: I can't recommend this book enough. Please just read it! I recommend it for ages 12+ boys and girls, adults and teens!
Rating: 5 (Loved it! I would give it a 6 if I could!)
16 June 2012
Title: We Bought A Zoo
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Kids
Synopsis: Six months after the death of Mrs. Mee, her family is still mourning her loss. Teenage Dylan Mee is struggling in school and his father, Benjamin Mee, can't walk down the street of their hometown without painful memories rushing back. So, Benjamin Mee decides that it's time for some change . . . and buys a zoo.
Positives: As the family works through the stages of mourning their loved one they must (and do) work through conflicts. Father and son are at odds much of the movie but reconcile in the end. It was very neat to see the teenage son taking the lead in reconciliation, seeking his father out. The family works hard to bring a dilapidated zoo back up to standards, teaming up with the zoo staff. Benjamin Mee also encourages his son to have courage, to face his fears, and ends up facing his own fears in the end with the courage to revisit the place where he first met his late wife.
Negatives: With a single father and a teenage son on the set of the zoo, two of the zoo staff quickly fall into crushes for Benjamin and Dylan. The girl, Lily, who falls for Dylan is very flirtatious in her attitude towards him. There is some minimal language. As Dylan tries to deal with his mother's death he draws graphic pictures of the underworld (decapitated people, blood, etc.), but in the end he moves out of this stage and begins to draw nicer pictures. Dylan also steals at his school and is expelled, but he changes throughout the movie.
-Listen to each other (this leads to good relationships and reconciliation)
-Better to be around humans than animals even if relationships hurt
-Be thankful for the time you have with people
Conclusion: This movie (based on a book) was definitely interesting. I'm not much for goofy movies, so I wasn't sure how this would turn out, but it was rather funny though not at all goofy. It was an enjoyable movie with unique characters, good acting, and a light story line. I would recommend it for boys and girls ages 8+.
Rating: 4 (Liked it!)
15 June 2012
Title: Little Dorrit
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Romance
Synopsis: When Arthur Clennam returns home after his father's death abroad, he is faced with much mystery surrounding his household as his mother refuses to share family secrets. Little (Amy) Dorrit works for his mother as a seamstress, but soon Arthur finds that there is more to Little Dorrit and his mother than he ever knew.
Positives: Arthur Clennam, Amy Dorrit, and other main characters provide suburb examples as they lay down their lives for others, seeking to serve and not to be served. Even when he is continually pushed away by his mother, Arthur seeks reconciliation with her and cares for her well being. Amy has spent her entire life caring for her father and two siblings, giving all she has for them. In the end, secrets come out and some characters who were less than honorable repent and are freely forgiven.
Negatives: This story can seem dark and almost gothic at times and the "bad guy" is a murderer, leaving people dead in his path and appearing in some dark, creepy scenes. Overall, it isn't graphic, but could be frightening with scary music and weird characters. One man kills himself and is seen dead with blood covering his neck and upper body. A dog is found dead by poison.
-Don't judge by appearances
-Charity without love is meaningless
Conclusion: Based on Charles' Dicken's book, this seven and a half hour BBC TV series was very well done. It kept the attention of boys and girls in our family, but I would not recommend it for young ages. While it was slow at times it moved fast enough though it seemed to end somewhat abruptly. It followed the book almost exactly which was fun! I would recommend this movie for boys and girls ages 12+.
Rating: 5 (Loved it!)
05 May 2012
Title: Hope Was Here
Author: Joan Bauer
Synopsis: When Hope and her aunt, Addie, move from New York City to Mulhoney, Wisconsin, changes are expected. Thankfully, Hope has grown up adapting. Left by her mother to be raised by her aunt, Hope is attempting to personify her name in life. When she first arrives in Wisconsin, she doesn't know what to expect but soon she is wrapped up in waitressing at the Welcome Stairways and assisting in a political campaign as G.T. Stoop (the restaurant owner who has leukemia) runs for mayor. A lot of people are hoping in Mulhoney...
Positives: Hope is fighting to give herself and others hope. She is a selfless teen who wants to brighten people's days and is an ideal waitress. She enjoys waitressing because she isn't thinking about herself when she does it. There is a message for teens in this book, declaring that they can make a difference, no matter what society says about them, as stated in the book, "You think all teenagers care about are musicians and movie stars? Spend some time in Wisconsin. We'll blow your socks off" (122). Furthermore, because G.T. Stoop has leukemia, he is looking to make his days count, living every day like it is his last and enjoying the time he has been given. G.T. Stoop displays an exemplary attitude even when he loses in situations, "Losing . . . isn't anything to be ashamed of" (163). Hope struggles throughout the book with her mom not loving her, and the fact that she's never met her dad. Yet, when she is adopted in the end of the book, she states, "Last week I looked up the word father in my dictionary: Here's the definition: A man who has begotten a child. But I think Mr. Webster didn't get it quite right. A father isn't just woven from strands of DNA. A true father is dedicated and unshakebly there for his kids every single day" (175). Telling the truth is also an important aspect in this story and is encouraged, with people looking for politicians who will tell the truth even amidst all the political corruption. As G.T. Stoop states, "Politics . . . isn't about power, control, or manipulation. It's about serving up your very best" (176).
Negatives: The preacher in the town uses scripture towards political ends, so that while he is speaking truth, he at one point manipulates someone into feeling guilty and therefore helping the political campaign. Some violence (a boy gets beat up, some other guys harass Hope), but justice and honor win out in the end.
-Don't fight evil with evil
-Honesty and justice must prevail
-Hope is always present
-Live every day like it's your last
-Fight for what is right, even when it's hard
-Your "real" parents aren't necessarily the biological ones, your "real"parents are the ones who fulfill the parental role of guidance and love
Conclusion: An excellently put together story that deserves its Newberry Honor award, Hope Was Here drives home some very good points and is a fun story with entertaining and unique characters. A light read, I recommend it for ages 12+, girls and boys.
Rating: 5 (Loved it!)
20 April 2012
Title: The Tale of Despereaux
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Synopsis: Despereaux Tilling is born a very small mouse with very big ears. As he grows, everyone begins to realize that he is not a normal mouse. He likes to read fairy tales, listen to music, and is eventually caught talking with the human princess! When he is sentenced to the rats, Despereaux's life is changed forever. When there is trouble with a princess, an evil rat, a poor peasant girl, and a grief-striken King, Despereaux seeks to save the day, in the meantime bringing healing and forgiveness to those around him.
Positives: Despereaux is an honorable character, seeking to save the princess when she is in danger and forgiving his father's wrongdoings. The princess also chooses to forgive her enemies and has mercy on a poor peasant girl who is lonely and hurting. A rat learns that revenge is not the way to find happiness, and a king learns that he is destroying his nation with his grief. A very thought-provoking piece as the author asks unique questions and brings up interesting points throughout the story.
Negatives: This story, like the movie, can have some dark spots in it, including mention of the skeletons of dead mice and people, the cruelty of the mouse government as they send Despereaux to his death, the cruelty of evil rats, and the cruelty of Despereaux's brother who informs on him. The peasant girl is abused by her uncle and goes deaf because of it. The rat Roscuro makes some evil plans of revenge. Nevertheless, the author doesn't ever go into too much detail.
-Mercy on those who are hurting
-Don't hurt others with your grief or anger
-You can make a difference even if you're small
Conclusion: The Tale of Despereaux was a very thought provoking and interesting book that is also an enjoyable tale. I would recommend it for ages 8+ for boys and girls alike.
Rating: 4 (Liked it!)
15 April 2012
06 April 2012
Title: Catching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
Synopsis: A sequel to The Hunger Games, Catching Fire follows Katniss Everdeen’s life after returning to live in the Victor’s Village of her District. Her’s and Peeta’s last act of defiance in the Hunger Games has lit a spark in the districts of Panem, and rebellion is immanent. Katniss must be cautious how she treads, lest the government come after her and those she loves, but is it worth pleasing the government at the cost of freedom?
Positives: Catching Fire continues to portray the amazing sense of self-sacrifice evident in The Hunger Games. Indeed, multiple people give their lives for Peeta and Katniss, some who do not even know them, and Peeta and Katniss continue to give their lives away for the welfare of others. Collins also supports modesty and purity in this book, paralleling Katniss’s virtue with that of others who are not so virtuous. Collins continues to portray the value of human life, and when Katniss is faced with the choice of running away from Panem with her family and close friends or staying to help the citizens under the persecution of the government (even if it means her death), she chooses the latter. Katniss truly gives herself away in this book: to her friends, her family, and her country.
Negatives: The 75th Hunger Games occurs in this book, and so the violence does continue, though not worse than the first book. While she doesn’t describe these deaths in detail, there are a few slightly disturbing facts included. Also, Katniss has almost resigned herself to the idea of killing in this Hunger Games, though she does all for the sake of saving Peeta, but does that really justify her actions? There is some immodesty and nudity throughout this book. Katniss does kill with her bow and arrows. In the end of the book, Katniss attacks a man’s face, scratching it (though it is doubtful if she is completely sane at this point).
-Human life is precious
-To die for another is an honorable thing
-We should face our troubles, and attempt to bring change, not stand by or run away
-Man can kill the body, but they can’t claim the spirit or soul
Conclusion: An adventurous and entertaining story with some thought-provoking pieces; the novel ends with a cliff-hanger. I enjoyed many parts of this story more than the first one. I would recommend this book for 13+ girls, though some boys may enjoy it (the concern here would be some of the content given for girls, from a girl, probably more so in this book than the first one).
Rating: 4 (I thought parts of it were slightly more engaging and thought-provoking than the first one)
04 April 2012
Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Synopsis: In a futuristic North America, a totalitarian government has control, and every year a people oppressed by their government must deliver up a boy and a girl (between the ages of twelve and eighteen) from each of twelve districts, to fight in The Hunger Games, an event broadcasted live nationally. The government has chosen this as a harsh reminder that resistance doesn’t pay, due to the rebellion by District 13 which the government subsequently destroyed. Each year, the people of Panem are painfully reminded that they can’t even hold onto their own children. When the 74th Hunger Games arrives, Katniss Everdeen’s little sister Prim, only twelve years old, is selected to enters. Katniss immediately steps up to take her place and finds herself faced with the prospect of almost certain death.
Positives: Collin’s portrayal of self-sacrifice in the acts of her characters, Peeta and Katniss, is impressive, as they choose to lay down their lives for each other and others. She also portrays bad as bad (including the Capitol’s cruel pleasure in the Hunger Games, the blood-thirst of some members of the games, and the government’s injustice) and self-sacrifice, love, modesty, and friendship as good. The book also supports the idea of active care, self-sacrifice, and love, rather than standing passively by and watching. Katniss and Peeta spend most of the Hunger Games evading people and are not looking to kill, only killing in self-defense.
Negatives: Often cited for its violence, the Hunger Games does include the deaths of twenty-two teens. While most of the deaths are not descriptive, a few are, with the last death of the Hunger Games being an unpleasant ordeal. There is also some mention of immodesty and nudity in the beginning of the book, during the prepping for the Hunger Games. There is the possibility that Peeta kills a girl, and Katniss kills, though always out of self-defense. Katniss and Peeta threaten to eat poison in defiance of the government. There are people excited to see the Hunger Games: Katniss is troubled by this as she states, “Everything is about them, not the dying boys and girls in the arena” (p. 354).
-Human life is precious
-We should be active protectors of human life, not passive
-To die for another is an honorable thing
Conclusion: A very engaging book (though it could have used a better editor)! The story ends in a cliff-hanger, leaving the reader with a desire for more. In fact, Collin’s made many good points throughout her book, and I was upset to see how she dropped them in the end, but I found out that she picks them back up in the next book. The story is written in first-person, present-tense from Katniss’s perspective. I would recommend this book for 13+ girls, though some boys may enjoy it (the concern here would be some of the content given for girls, from a girl).
Rating: 3.5 (because I liked the story, but I realize it is not for everybody)
27 March 2012
26 March 2012
Caution! This outlines the story and spoils the ending!
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and healing are relevant in real life, but how often do they permeate the realm of fiction?
In Sutcliff’s The Outcast, main character, Beric, experiences what it is like to live after facing life-changing abuse. Once an ordinary boy in his British tribe, enjoying the pleasures of hunting, learning to throw spears, and making friends, Beric’s life is turned upside down when his clan begins to call him a foreigner, stating that his blood is different and therefore, he doesn’t belong. So begins Beric’s fight for survival. He is not one to easily back down and stands up to the village elder as a nine-year old stating, “What have I to do with the Red Crests, that I should go to them now? You are my people, my own people, by hearth fire and bread and salt, and I will not go . . . I will learn to be a hunter and a warrior with the rest of my kind. . . Oh, elders of my Clan, I have not done anything wrong, that you should cast me out!” Beric’s plea continues throughout the rest of the book: what wrong does he ever do to be an outcast from society?
Nevertheless, at fifteen years of age he is cast out from his clan and left to fend for himself. Meeting his first “friend” from the outside world in a Roman city, he blindly falls into a slave ship. Now, enslaved by his own people for no crime but perhaps that of ignorance, Beric is left thinking he has nowhere to belong. He struggles through the life of a slave, not too discontent until in a moment of rage, he throws wine in his master’s face and is sentenced to the salt mines where he will die a slow, painful death of hard labor. So, in a moment of desperation, Beric runs away and finds shelter the following night in a house in the hills. Sadly, he was uninformed that the house was a thieve’s hideout, and the thieves escape leaving a group of Roman soldiers to find only Beric remaining. Unaware that in the meantime, a kindly gentleman has bought his freedom, Beric is afraid of returning to slavery and the salt mines, and accepts the punishment for thievery: lifelong service on a galley ship.
After two years in the galleys, experiencing abuse at every turn, without enough to eat, wear, or time to sleep or rest, Beric sees his only friend (and his galley partner) die. A cord snaps in Beric, and he attempts to kill the overseer, the one deed that should really result in his outcast from society. He is scourged and dumped overboard as dead, later to be found by the kindly gentleman who had bought his freedom.
The end of the book may be considered by some uneventful and slow, but for Beric it is a time of healing, and for the author, a revelation of an abused person’s return to normal life. He exhibits certain strange behaviors due to his past including: working hard one moment and then sitting staring for the next; taking long walks lost in thought; cringing from everyone he sees; nightmares; a fear that all mankind is evil (so he plots to escape to the woods and live by himself); a belief that he doesn’t belong anywhere in the world. It is at this point that Beric truly feels an outcast. He believes that all men are evil and abusive, and that no one can care for a prior galley slave. He lives in constant fear that he will be returned to the galleys or slavery. But slowly, as he is adopted by this kindly Roman and cared for like a son, Beric’s trust returns. He can see the good in his dreams; he can look back at the galleys without fear and pain; he can find joy in working and doesn’t feel ashamed at who he is; he can work alongside Romans, and in the end, he can look one of the master’s of the galley ship in the face and speak without regret, without fear, and without pain.
Sutcliff is declaring that there is hope and healing for someone who has faced years of abuse and neglect. Beric’s healing occurs, slowly and painfully at times, but his physical and emotional scars do fade, and there is a place for him in the world, a place where he is loved and wanted.