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Tag Archives: children’s-literature

Movie Review: “The Jungle Book”

Based on the Rudyard Kipling.

Version: 2016; starring Ben Kingsley; Bill Murray; Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken

Genre: adventure; children’s classic

Plot Summary: [from goodreads:] After a threat from the tiger Shere Khan forces him to flee the jungle, a man-cub named Mowgli embarks on a journey of self discovery with the help of panther, Bagheera, and free spirited bear, Baloo.”

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not by comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

Alright, an amendment: as a teenager I did try to read the Jungle Books, but did not get very far because it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I remember watching the Disney animation a few times as a child though, and I would also recommend the Masterpiece classic “My Boy Jack” based on the true story of author Rudyard Kipling and his son during the Great War (starring Daniel Radcliffe).

Even though reading the book escaped me, I was excited to see the live action version. I think the most fun for me was listening to all the great voice actors (obviously, we see only one human throughout the whole film, except in distant portrayals of the villagers).  I did not know beforehand who was playing most of the characters, so it was fun guessing.  I absolutely loved Ben Kingsley’s noble sounding voice as Bagheera.  What a perfect match for one of my favorite actors!  Another favorite was Christopher Walken as King Louie.  Although it took me a little bit, I soon recognized his famous voice and I thought it was hysterical!

It was genius to change the voice of Kaa the Python to a woman’s. For one, it provides more female roles to the story, and also the thought of an alto voice can be very hypnotizing.  However, Scarlett Johansson just didn’t do it for me (I don’t know why this is).  It also did not seem to make sense why this villain was in the story in the first place.  It didn’t flow connectively to other parts.

Is this live action a musical? Not really, though it does include some snippets of songs from the cartoon, but this primarily weighs in favor of the drama.  The characters who do sing are not exactly noted for their musical capabilities.

The special effects were great and there was an appropriate atmosphere of fear throughout, balanced by Mowgli’s faithful and loving friends. Raksha, Mowgli’s mother-wolf, is nurturing and Baloo the bear provides cute, comic relief.  My personal favorites were the little wolf cubs.  🙂

Despite all of this, I disliked how this movie ended. In both the book and 1967 version, Mowgli the boy goes to live in a human village where he is adopted by parents.  Baloo and Bagheera sacrifice and do what is best in their friend’s interest, making for a bittersweet but satisfying ending.  In this newest adaptation, after all of the struggle for keeping Mowgli safe, the boy stays with his animal friends.  Perhaps this is a bridge to a Jungle Book II?  Who knows.  But one has to wonder what the purpose was in Mowgli living isolated from his own kind.  In the earlier version Bagheera shows wisdom (and joy) in seeing Mowgli off to a home among people who can nurture him better than the animals can.  In version 2016, nature seems elevated above the benefit of human love and relationships.  Man is evil, and Shere Khan cannot really be held responsible for his actions because man *made* him what he is.  It all boils down to your world view.

Most will probably find this movie family friendly, though it is sad to see a tiger kill a wolf (not graphically), and there are some scary parts (snakes, teeth, etc.) that may bother little children.

*Of interest, I find that another live-action version of The Jungle Book, directed by Andy Serkis is due in the near future.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Characters That Remind Me of Myself

This is a “Top Ten Tuesday” exercise…

 

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2019 in Top Ten Tuesday

 

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Book Review: “The Valiant Papers,” by Calvin Miller

Genre: inspirational Christian fiction

Playlist…

Plot Summary: The angel Valiant has been sent to Muddyscuttle again to guard a person called J.B. Considine.  To be honest, there were tons of other assignments he would have preferred.  For one thing, his charge seems to show no interest in the things of the Lord High Command.  Feeling that a Hittite princess would have been an easier job than this contemporary man, Valiant writes faithful reports back home detailing the frustrations- and even small triumphs- of his daily efforts.  Time is running out… Valiant knows J.B.’s expiration date, but not his final decision.  Will he be able to turn him around before it’s too late?

My Book Review:  I recognized this author’s name in the church library because of a children’s book of poems my sister and I had when growing up.  There were so many great rhymes in When the Aardvark Parked on the Ark and we even dramatized a few on audio.  I highly recommend that book!  I was curious to see what his adult fiction was like.

This book has been compared to Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.  In a sort of way, I can see the similarity of themes on angels writing epistles.  Unfortunately, I think the similarity stops there.  The version I read was published in 1988 and felt very dated.  The pictures felt too childlike for a novel for adults.  I was hoping for some great quotes and deep insight among spiritual things, but didn’t come away with much.  I didn’t always care for Valiant’s shortsighted perspective, but did appreciate that he was portrayed as a created being who had things to learn from humans.

Feeling a little disappointed over this one, but I plan on reading at least one more from this author.  I understand he’s written a few other books of poetry which I have begun collecting because I so enjoyed him as a kid.

I would also recommend…

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Fairy Tales Retold

Listen on BBC Radio 4 for a limited time to free short story readings of various fairy tales!  The retellings are slightly different, and the narrator Lia Williams is interesting to listen to.  I recommend “The Gingerbread Business” (Hansel and Gretel), but there is also “Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up,” and more to be released within the next couple of weeks.  Have a fun holiday season!

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2018 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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Movie Review: “Charlotte’s Web”

Based on the book by E. B. White.

Version: 2006; starring Julia Roberts; Oprah Winfrey; Robert Redford

Genre: children’s classic

Plot Summary: Everyone thinks the phase won’t last when a runt piglet is adopted by a young girl.  Obviously, pigs are raised for one purpose only… consumption.  Wilbur won’t last a chance unless his friends can do something.  One brave and intelligent spider sets out to save him.

My Review: It’s hard to believe this movie has been around for 12+ years now.  I remember when it came to theaters and I was so excited to see it!  But our family couldn’t go to the movies very often, and so I never got the chance.  My friend saw it with her family though, and I heard her tell all about it while I harbored feelings of envy.  It was so good, she claimed that even her dad cried over it!

Finally I found this movie at my local library bookstore for $1.  I’ve been saving it for sometime special and watched with family over New Year’s.  But actually, this movie is quite an ordinary type of story.  No, not ordinary in that it lacked creative entertainment value.  Rather, I mean the story is about noticing and enjoying the ordinary miracles we encounter daily.

Perhaps it might sound like a worn out theme– this one of mindfulness.  But one we need to be reminded of over and over again until we get it and even then refuse to ‘get it’ because then we will close ourselves off from discovery.  I’m very familiar with the story of “Charlotte’s Web.”  I read the book in 3rd grade (the first one I ever cried over), and watched the old ’70’s animated version countless times.  But I’m not sure I ever picked up on this message in the storyline.  I appreciated this newer version for the quiet simplicity with which they mined the story, and staying true to the spirit of E. B. White’s tale.  One reason this story seemed to jump out at me so is because I spent a lot of last year struggling with contentment with my time in life.  I finally came to the conclusion that there are things I enjoy and also things I do not enjoy about now, but my business is to seek out the joy of the present things that God has for me in today.

For Wilbur, this is his natural born gift.  Being a young spring pig, he marvels in sunrises and sunsets, he treasures the gift of a carrot and every silvery wisp of web.  The other barnyard animals have been around for a time or two and have become complacent in their everyday living.  But by the end of the story, they too have fallen under the magic of everyday-ness.  It was a beautiful transformation to watch.

I also noticed how it was of great significance to Wilbur what things were named.  And Charlotte searched for just the right word to describe something.  It was important that it be correct and true.  Somehow, naming something affirms that that person or event in time (no matter how small) has value.

Charlotte lived and used her life to save her friend, and then died. As the narrator (the late Sam Shepard) said at the end of the film, “…but she lived on in the hearts of those who knew her.”  It was ironic because my pastor had just said that morning that our Savior Jesus is alive– “not just in the hearts of those who remembered Him, but as a real scars and eating-grilled-fish alive.”  Because of that, we can truly live too.  And we can enjoy abundant life and all of the beautiful gifts He blesses us with.

I always wondered how life-like animals would work for Charlotte’s Web.  When it came out in 2006, it was one of the first successful of it’s kind.  Of course, animation and cgi has made great leaps and bounds since then.  I was relieved to discover they didn’t churn out a hokey production.  Voice actors were chosen with care.  I’m not always a big fan of choosing big name celebrities for projects just because of their name.  They have to earn the voice acting role in my book.  But I have to say they were all pretty good, even the young actor who played Wilbur (cute as all get out).  The only exception where I’m not sure I was 100% convinced was Julia Roberts as Charlotte.  She has a splendid, proper voice, both stern and soothing when need be and suitable enough.  Yet she didn’t seem to “fill out” all the colors of her character.  My personal favorite was the voice of Templeton.  I encourage anyone to watch the special features (if available) to see the behind-the-scenes casting decisions and recording studio.  That stuff always fascinates me!

I know this was a successful adaptation of the book, because it made me tear up just like the story did when I was 8 years old.  Definitely a family movie I wouldn’t mind seeing again!

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2018 in Movie Reviews

 

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A Post Full of Audio Dramas

I came across something entirely new to me– the ATC Seneca Awards, which recognizes the best in family audio dramas.  The Awards are presented by the Audio Theatre Central podcast which you can check out here.  I thought it would be fun to dredge up trailers for as many nominations as I could find and collect them all in one place on this post.  Audio dramas are a great source of favorite family memories and long car trip entertainment.  Have fun!

Captain Bayley’s Heir – (Heirloom Audio Productions; John Fornof (writer/director); starring John Rhys Davies, Finty Williams)

The Trials of St. Patrick – (AIR Theatre; Paul McCusker (writer/director); Philip Glassborow (producer); starring John Rhys Davies)

Ode to Saint Cecelia – (AIR Theatre; Paul McCusker (writer/director); starring Derek Jacobi, Hayley Atwell)

The Giant Killer – (Lamplighter Theatre; John Fornof)

Wulf the Saxon (couldn’t find a trailer) – (Heirloom Audio Productions; Todd Busteed (writer/director); John Campbell (score))

*You can find reviews of all of these audio dramas and more on the ATC podcast.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2018 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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Book Review: “The Phoenix and the Carpet,” by E. Nesbit

Genre: classic; children’s fiction; fantasy

Playlist…

Plot Summary: Four siblings- Cyril, Anthea, Robert, and Jane- experience magic adventures once again, as they happen across a unique egg that hatches into a beautiful Phoenix.  Along with the egg comes a magic carpet that will take them on one wild ride after another, and that is only limited by their imagination.

My Book Review: One of my most popular posts on this blog has been my book review of E. Nesbit’s “Five Children and It.”  I’m glad to know these children’s books are treasured by new generations of readers.  The very definition of a classic is that it is timeless- it’s relatable, a standard, and often imitated.  Nesbit really did break the mold in children’s fiction.  Her stories tell of ordinary children who happen across magic in their daily life.

I did not grow up with Nesbit.  Instead, I became interested in her works after I discovered Edward Eager’s Tales of Magic series in the young adult section of my library in my late teens.  After reading several of his novels (in which he always pays homage to Nesbit), I decided to try her books as well.  To be honest, I wasn’t all that enthusiastic over Five Children and It.  Maybe there’s something wrong with me but being spoiled with Eager books, the Nesbit children felt bland in comparison.  However, I decided to keep trying because I don’t give up that easily.

I have to say I liked this second novel in the Psammead series much better than the first.  I believe these were both early works of hers, but she had a little more writing under her belt by the time she wrote this one.  One reason it appealed to me more was the exotic locales the children travel to on their magic carpet.  All the around the world we go- from India, to Persia, and a remote island in the Pacific.  Such fun!  But there are local adventures, too, such as when the Phoenix demands to be taken to his holy temple—the local fire insurance company!

The chapters are long, and I still find these four children boring and unrelatable compared to Eager’s children.  Perhaps that is because Eager wrote his books fifty years later.  I’m not sure.  And of course, there are different opinions out there and some may like Edith Nesbit much better.  To each his own.  But I still plan on continuing with more Nesbits…

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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