The Last Jedi – Movie Review

No Spoilers

My husband was the person who got me into Star Wars and ever since I set eyes on that hairy beast – Chewbacca, I was in love.

Summary: “The Last Jedi” is a continuation of “The Force Awakens” and tells the story of Rey and her new mentor Luke Skywalker. We also find out more about the back story of Kylo Ren and his turbulent relationship with the Dark Side. We are introduced to a new Star Wars cutie – The Porg – a cross between a penguin, owl and puffin. BB8 also doesn’t fail in perfectly expressing his feelings allowing us to think we understand his language – which I recently found out is called 27th generation droidspeak.

I was glad to see a little more of Princess Leah in this episode. Both Daisy Ridley (Rey) and Adam Driver (Kylo) gave great performances. I was a little disappointed in Chewy not getting a lot of screen time, but where he did show up, he was funny, witty and just plain loveable.

If you are a Star Wars fan, you will love this Star Wars episode.  It has the struggle between good and evil, the tug and pull of fear and it’s repercussions, and the grey line between right and wrong. And Star Wars has done something unique – it has brought three generations together to enjoy good, clean American fun. Along with my in-laws, my husband and I, and my kids, we all can appreciate this movie. Where R2-D2 and C3P0 bring nostalgia to my in-laws, seeing BB8 brings fun memories to my kids. Where my in-laws remember the apprenticeship of Luke by Yoda, I remember Yoda’s extraordinary light-saber duel against Count Dooku. Where my children see the hesitancy of Luke teaching Rey, I remember Obi-Won’s same reluctance in teaching Anikan, and my in-laws recalling Yoda’s enigmatic advice to Luke. It’s all there, for all of us to ponder and enjoy. And of course, how can Chewbacca not bring all of us together? What is not to love about all of this?

Although I do love these movies, this one did seem a little redundant. There were some new characters introduced, but it is basically the same general scenario. The First Order, along with Snoke (The Empire with Darth Vader in previous episodes) wants control of the universe, but a few in The Resistance (The Rebellion) are fighting against them. Rey (Luke in previous episodes) is the first of a long lost band of warriors. Throw in a cute droid like BB8 (R2D2) and a love triangle – Rey, Finn and Rose (Leah, Luke and Hans) and we have a basic remake. So the whole story is a little anti-climatic. Nonetheless, I am watching all Star Wars movies that come out.

I am still look forward to the last installment of this series, Star Wars Episode IX, to be released December of 2019. I am also pleased to let you know that a stand alone episode called Solo: A Star Wars Story will be releasing May 25, 2018. I am assuming there will be a lot more Chewbacca in this episode!

 

 

Alias Grace – Netflix Review

The movies produced by Netflix are getting better and better visually. I remember the days when a mini movie series would come out and it was nothing compared to what we would see on the big screen. Times are changing.

“Alias Grace” has beautiful cinematography. It is a story about a young woman and the hardships she faces as an Irish immigrant. She is charged with murder and the movie goes back and forth from the past to the present as she re-tells her story.

This series is rated mature for its adult themes and gore. Thankfully, there wasn’t any blatant nudity. There are several times Grace is molested and one sex scene involving fully clothes people.

Sarah Gadon did a great job in portraying the very complicated character of Grace Marks. I did find the acting of Dr. Simon Jordan a bit sub-par. I am not sure if they were trying to portray him as a bore, but he was rather dull and his voice was monotonous.

There have been many who say this movie shines a light at the horrible plight of women in a man’s world and how we still have to suffer these prejudices today. As a woman, I really don’t see it today. I am not naïve to the misogyny against women in the past, but today? I just haven’t experienced it. I can not think of one person or institution that has oppressed me solely based on my sex.

To me, this series wasn’t advocating for women’s rights today, it was speaking of the horrors done to a woman in a time when women had to endure so much because of the lack of resources given to them.

“Alias Grace” is a somber movie. The colors are dark and grey. It is not a thriller but a true mystery. The end is what I had guessed about half way through the series, but it was still a great story.

I recommend this movie to those who like gothic period movies or historical fiction.

Same Kind of Different as Me – Movie Review

Summary: This movie is about the lives of a very wealthy art dealer, his Christian wife and a black homeless man. As their lives fall apart, they then come together in a beautiful picture of Christian love, community and co-operation.

I will quickly admit this is not my type of movie. I am not really into emotional dramas. I read the book years ago and knew the plot, and from what I read, I knew the tears would tumble down if I saw the movies. They did. I was “forced” to go with a group of women (13 of us) from my church and as tears cascaded down the steps of the movie theater I vowed never to watch these kinds of movies again.

“Same King of Different as Me” is a very well made movie. The acting is superb and so is the story line. I was afraid they would make it too secular, but they didn’t. It is not overly religious either. Of course, like in any movie that was a book first, there is so much more I wish they put in, but I realize that directors are limited by time and money.  I did gasp when I realized I recognized Rene Zellweger’s voice, but not her face! I do remember reading somewhere that she had her uniquely beautiful, squinty eyes made larger. Pity. Either way, she did great in portraying  Deborah Hall and captured her humble and compassionate spirit. Djimon Hounsou is a tremendous actor, but he did struggle a little with Denver’s southern accent.  Other than that, the movie does inspire the Christian to get into the darkness and be a light to those who struggle being on their feet.

I recommend this movie to any drama or tear-jerker-movie lover. There is a brief scene where the couple deals with the pain of adultery, other than that the movie is very clean.

Here is my favorite Denver Moore quote: “I found out everybody’s different – the same kind of different as me. We’re all just regular folks walkin down the road God done set in front of us. The truth about it is, whether we is rich or poor or something in between, this earth ain’t no final restin place. So in a way, we is all homeless – just workin our way toward home.”

 

 

The 4th Monkey – Book Review

 

Summary: This book is about a serial killer who was hit by a bus on his way to deliver a package in the mail. His latest kidnapped victim has only days to live before she dies of dehydration. The investigation unfolds jumping between the present and the found journal of the serial killer.

My take: I didn’t like the book too much. The plot really intrigued me and I liked the idea of the killer already being dead and the tension of finding the girl he had planned to kill, but I figured a lot of it out before the end. The serial killer’s journal did seem childish, maybe that was the author’s intentions, but because of the language that was used, it lost it’s effectiveness in being serious and frightening. I did like the story of the lead detective, Sam Porter. His pain and humanity was really well portrayed, but I saw what was going on way before he did.

There are a lot of great reviews about this book, and frankly, because of those reviews I bought it. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the hype. It was okay and kept me entertained. There is a lot of foul language, sexual references and gore in the book. I would only let my adult children read this book, but would probably stir them more towards the Steven James series if they prefer these kinds of books. They’re better stories and not near as crass.

These kinds of thrillers that delve into the cesspool of humanity always remind me of man’s depravity.  Romans 3:10-18 says: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one. “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;  “The poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

You can buy this book here.

Woman in White – Book Review

Reading Challenge: Read a book over 100 years old.

The Woman in White is a book about the lives of several people affected by a mysterious woman who seems to appear out of nowhere. The book is written as a collection of several narratives given by the main characters and their testimonies about their time spent at Limmeridge House or around Laura Fairley – one of the main characters. This book was written by Wilkie Collins and was published in 1859.

Like most 19th century books there are a lot of long monologues in this book. I also found a lot of the characters expressed an emotional hyperbole I couldn’t quiet relate to, even as an emotional person, these impassioned rants just seemed over the top to me. This was the same problem I had with Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray.

Although the story is a very long one, it is a really good one. The book is considered one of the earliest examples of English detective novels, but there is just so much detail and over dramatic passion that some of the characters get annoying. Laura Fairley was one of them. Her over sensitivity about everything and the love shown to her by Walter Hartright seemed to enable Laura’s irritating weakness of mind. The plot twists though were exciting and they left me guessing until the several mysteries were finally revealed towards the end of the book.

I did use Audible for this book and the reader did an excellent performance as he read and acted out the scenes.

The book is about 672 pages long. And I recommend it to anyone who likes Gothic romance,  mysteries and books written in the 1800’s.  Because of the length and long-winded explanations I do not think any of my children would enjoy reading this book. I did enjoy it mostly. There were even some times when the book was a bit spooky, but it did drag on in some places.

You can buy this book here.

Magpie Murders – Book Review

Summary: The last book Susan Reynold is set to publish changes her life forever in this classic British whodunnit mystery novel. Magpie Murders is a mystery book within another mystery. This book covers the mystery of what happened to the missing pages of a detective novel written by Alan Conway – Ms. Reynold’s most famous client.  And within this is the actual manuscript of Mr. Conway’s latest novel which is left incomplete. The endings of both the manuscript and the book are stupendous! I kept guessing until  the end!

I got this as an audio book and both readers did a magnificent job in portraying the characters, but when I saw this book available at my local library and we had an 11 hour road trip coming up, I decided to get the book and finish it by reading it myself. Anthony Horrowitz is a tremendous author. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that he also is a writer for ITV’s Midsommer Mysteries and Foyle’s War. I love both those series! And like these series, the manuscript part of the book doesn’t have any obscenities. The actual book part does though. The author of the manuscript – Alan Conway – is gay and there is a brief interview with his live in boyfriend that does get a little informative, but not much. Besides that brief interview, there is no other sexual content.

If you like classic mysteries, you will truly enjoy this book. The two stories are very well developed and they both left me guessing until the very end. For a moment I thought that I would never know what happened at the end of the manuscript because it leaves the reader hanging for about 200 pages, but thankfully the end was revealed. I read through that last part voraciously – my patience had waned!

The book is almost 500 pages because of the two stories in it. Because of its length and some adult themes I would only let my older teens read it.

You can buy the book here

 

 

Dark Places – Book Review

This book is about a little girl (Libby Day) who survives her family being slaughtered  by her brother. After 25 years she finds herself without money, without friends and still battling the demons of her past. In order to get some much needed money, she teams up with a group of lay true crime enthusiasts called the Kill Club. The people from this group are eerily obsessed with what happened to Libby, her family and specifically to her brother – Ben Day.  Ben was found guilty based on the testimony given by Libby and is now going to spend the rest of his life behind bars. Because Libby is the only other survivor, the Kill Club decides she can find out more about what happened 25 years ago and hopefully get Ben out of prison. Libby is sure that Ben is her family’s killer but soon vacillates back and forth as she investigates.

This book is dark. The author – Gillian Flynn – does a wonderful job developing some of the most worthless characters I have ever read about. I hated most of them, including Libby, but that’s not really a bad thing. The characters in this book were flawed and broken. The depravity of humanity and the emotional and financial struggles of life was very real in this book.

Saying this, the book does contain a lot of profanity. There are sex scenes and they are short, tenderless and thankfully not violent. This book delves into the cesspool of humanity. And the dignity given to them by God, is practically snuffed out by their degradation.

As a Christian, I forget that there are people like this. I try hard to get out into the world and be a light in dark places, but admittedly I am surrounded mostly be people like me. Although, I don’t grimace when people who aren’t saved cuss or act like unbelievers. It’s the “saved” Christians that make me cringe when they unrepentantly act like the world. – Don’t worry, I also cringe at myself. I don’t often read these kinds of books because my mind sometimes feels assaulted, but the whole time I was reading about Libby’s struggles I just wanted her to know the true freedom found in Christ. I wanted that for all of these unfortunate characters. They were very real and very hopeless.

This book is for adults only. All the cussing aside, the book is very well written and the unfolding of the mystery of who killed the Day family is thrilling. When I got to the end of the book and the true crime was revealed, it was perfect! Mrs. Flynn had given the reader a hint and I failed to see it and put it together. It was excellent! I recommend this book to the person who likes dark thrillers.

 

 

War for the Planet of the Apes

Summary:

War for the Planet of the Apes is the third installment of this phenomenal movie franchise. Humans have banded together and their forces are strong again, but it seems the Simian virus has mutated and is now affecting humans in a different way. Caesar and his troop have made the decision to move farther away from the humans and this decision has dire consequences. Along the way, they meet several different characters and the end is sad and satisfying.

My take:

I just can’t get over how detailed the CG was! It is shocking at just how real these apes look! There is a particular scene where Maurice (the orangutan) is trying to communicate with a human and the close up is amazing! For lack of a better word, the CG is beautiful. Overall the story line was okay. The title is a bit misleading – I would have considered Dawn of the Planet of the Apes more worthy of “war” in the title than this one. War of the Planet of the Apes was more of “Escape” of the Planet of the Apes.  The movie does explain more about the devolution of the humans and has hints of a continuation with the introduction of Nova.  There are several humorous scenes that my younger children enjoyed. The movie is not graphically gory, but a lot of apes are killed.  There is a lot of gunfire, arrows shooting and explosions. There are no flagrant bad words in the movie. The movie is moving and Caesar the suffering leader continues to suffer. Andy Serkins, who plays Caesar, does an incredible job as an animated actor. The scenes where Caesar is in emotional pain deserve recognition.

Recommendations:

If you haven’t seen the first two movies I would recommend that you see them first before watching this movie. If you liked the first two movies, you will also like this one. I personally liked the 2nd one more, but all my children preferred this one more. My two 8 year olds were entertained throughout the movie, my older boys (12, 14, 19) loved it! I don’t think tween girls would really like this type of movie, mine (11 years old) didn’t care much for it.

Going Deeper:

Throughout the movie I had an underlying thought about what if this was real, how would I react to these apes? More and more science is crossing over into areas like human DNA manipulation, cloning, IVF, gene manufacturing, and other areas quicker than I can form opinions. Then encompassing all this, our country is becoming less religious and more opinionated. Everyone has something to say about what is right and wrong and most have no moral standard except for their own thoughts and opinions. My hope though is when I come upon something scientifically new, that I may test it and hold on to the good and detest was is evil (Romans 12:9)

 

The Woman in Black – Book Review

I don’t ever want to see a movie first and then read the book. Ever!

This book is about a young attorney who has to travel to a marshy castle to put in order some legal paperwork from a recent death. There, he encounters some very spooky and frightening sounds and sights.  And also some very sad news about the deceased and its other “residents”. The ending is different from the movie and I just can’t believe the movie strayed so far away from the book!

The book is beautifully written and dark, but not in a gory way, but more in a sad way. The moments of brightness or light-hardheartedness are enveloped by the overall sadness of Mr. Kipp. When I finished the book, I closed it and almost cried. Not because of the last scene, but more because of the abrupt ending of the book. But it was perfect. The author was able to pull me into Kipp’s world and it took me a while to come back to my happy cheery self. I love it when books can do that. When words draw out emotions and thoughts. Like I always tell my children, “Words are very important”.

Susan Hill is an extraordinary author. I was surprised that the book was written in 1983. She does an excellent job in capturing the feel of the late 1800’s early 1900’s. It is only about 140 pages and can be read in one sitting.

I recommend this book to Gothic romance readers. If you like the Bronte sisters, you will love this book. The book is not sensual, but there are some adult themes like children being born out of wedlock and the consequences of that. The book is also scary and chilling, and because of this I would only let my teenagers read it. This would be a great read for high school English class and I do hope it becomes a classic if it isn’t already.

Warning: If you have seen the movie, you will be annoyed at how they butchered the book.

 

The Pawn – Book Review

On long trips I really enjoy listening to books. I prefer thrillers because they keep me awake, especially during night time driving.

The opening scene of this book gripped me and I found myself a little nauseated. I’m not sure if it was due to the lack of food in my stomach and some motion sickness or if it was the details of what was being read out loud. I think it was a little of both.

This book is dark. Thankfully it is not sexually dark though. The characters are also very well developed. Towards the middle of the book, I thought I had figured everything out, but found that I was way off. I love it when I am wrong in murder mystery thrillers! I really think I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if I had read the book myself instead of listening to it on audio. I didn’t like the voice of the reader and Agent Bowers sounded a little whiny for my taste, but I really think it was the voice of the reader that didn’t help me like this character. The nasally voice given to the villain also didn’t help in making him sound particularly chilling. I think I would have used a better voice for both characters using my own imagination, and probably would have been more scared.

This being said, the twists at the end were great! I actually gasped when it was all figured out! I had no clue! The author, Mr. Steven James, did an excellent job in leading me exactly where he wanted. I usually try to avoid being led when I read a mystery, but rest assured I was led and I enjoyed every minute of it!

Recommendation: I recommend this book to the mystery and thriller readers. If you like series, this would be a good one to start. I read that that there are 7 books in all, and each book has a title of a chess piece. The series ends with the book titled “Checkmate”.

To the Christian: I was pleasantly surprised to hear that this book was written by a professed Christian. I believe that Christians should be good at whatever secular work they do. There is a quote that was attributed to Martin Luther, but may not have been him after all, but either way it is good nonetheless that says:  “The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” In other words, whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord (Col. 3:23). The book does not contain any cuss words and neither is it overtly sexual. There is a lot left to the imagination, and that is what I think makes for a good book or even a good movie. The mind can conjure up so much if it is allowed to. It is an art to lead the reader/watcher through a scene and then turn off the “lights” leaving them to imagine the unimaginable all on their own. Mr. James does this superbly. There is a roughneck character that cusses every other word, but Mr. James does not write down a single word. There are sex scenes, but Mr. James describes not a single one. He writes very well and I believe does not violate his conscience even though he writes about some horrifying villains. Because of the violence, I would only allow my adult children to read this book.