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Movie Review: The Book Thief

d326e3e8deb69479ae2a56a451ab07e8Based on the book by Markus Zusak.

Version: 2013; starring Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson

Genre: drama, WWII

Plot Summary: Liesel Meminger has been orphaned by the circumstances of WWII and adopted by a new set of parents in a different town.  She is also new at school and ashamed to admit she cannot read.  But Papa helps to educate her as he learns to improve his schooling as well.  Meanwhile, there are other things to be learned while living in Germany during the time of the Third Reich.

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.  

This was a film that had my interest from the first, but I didn’t have a chance to watch it until a little while ago. The trailer looked so intriguing, and I guess I get my interest in WWII history from my mom.  Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it included the actor Geoffrey Rush in a major role.  His voice is one of my favorites (he played the voice of Nigel the Pelican on Finding Nemo).

The Book Thief was interesting in that it followed the story of a German civilian (Liesel) throughout the duration of the WWII.  Because of the perspective, it sort of reminded me of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, another film I would recommend.  Liesel is involved with the Hitler Youth and other activities just like many other young people her age.  Her adoptive parents aren’t too particularly anti-Hitler, but aren’t entirely for him, either.  However, they go with the flow as many do and keep the peace.

That is, until a young Jewish man enters their home and they are compelled to hide him in their basement. Liesel doesn’t completely understand what is going on, only that Max is her friend and she wants to protect him.

1ea864bc74e07178ed875aaca980711bI really did enjoy this movie, but I get a sense that the book was probably better. There were parts (mostly at the beginning) that I didn’t understand.  Why was Liesel’s mother taken away?  What exactly happened to her brother?  What was the burgermeister’s reasons for banning Liesel?  What’s the deal with the abstract narrator called Death?  Although the story was called “The Book Thief”, that really wasn’t so much of the plot.  It was hard to suspend disbelief when several years go by, yet Liesel and her girlhood crush Rudy don’t appear to get any older.  But I did get a kick out of the Christmas scene in the basement, where the family smuggles in snow, has a snowball fight and builds a snowman.  “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done!” Rosa states.  😀  I also really liked the scene where Liesel enjoys a good book at the burgermeister’s library.  The colors, mood, and design are something I would like to replicate someday for my own personal library.

Another thing I appreciated is that the end of the story takes a different twist that I did not expect, as real life sometimes does. It was sad, but not altogether so.  There is not really ‘content’ issues.  This film is based on a YA book and I was glad to see it kept age appropriate.  But there is what you would expect in a story that takes place during such a time as 1940’s Germany, and there are beatings, bombings, etc.

I would recommend this, but parents will probably want to watch it with their kids and decide what age it’s appropriate for.

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Posted by on July 27, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Christian Fiction for the Summer!

Happy Summer!!

Need a beach read?  The CBD catalog of Christian and Inspirational fiction has been out for a few months and I have a new list of books I’m looking forward to reading.  I was a little disappointed that it seemed thinner than usual (I don’t know why), but at the same time I found more titles for my list than I usually do so it evened out.  🙂  Here they are if you’re looking for some TBR inspiration…

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Posted by on June 22, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Movie Review: Les Miserables

928283ab6e774bf98c29d851f4efc1ddBased on the book by Victor Hugo.

Version: 2012; starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Eddie Redmayne

Genre:  drama, musical

Plot Summary: In the times between post-Revolutionary France and the Paris Rebellion of 1832, an inconsequential criminal -Prisoner 24601- is set free from penal servitude.  Can a thief receive grace and have another chance in life?  Some would think not, particularly a strict, tow-the-line, “black & white” law enforcement officer like Inspector Javert.  But others, –like the trusting little girl Cosette and the idealistic activist Marius,– choose to open their hearts to the man remade into the new Jean Valjean.

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.  

Yeah, I’m a little late to the party on this one, but a good story is a good story in a book or on film no matter when one happens to experience it. I’ve never read the book (somehow never could convince myself to begin a 2,783 page opus [see recent post]), but I have seen the earlier 1998 version with Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean.  I’m not sure I enjoyed that one.  But I’ve also listened to the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre’s excellent audio production of the story and highly recommend that.

Les Miserables is a classic tale that contains so many human elements that speak deeply to us—love, hatred, forgiveness, compassion, revenge. That’s why it’s a classic.  The drama, the pathos, emotion pull us in and won’t let us go.  I found myself being deeply engrossed in this newest film version of Victor Hugo’s epic story.  Believe it or not, I’d never seen or listened to the musical, although a few songs sounded familiar because of how they’ve infiltrated our pop culture (I Dreamed a Dream, Bring Him Home).  At first I wasn’t so sure this story could be presented seriously as a musical, but I was proved wrong in one of the earliest scenes (when Jean receives the gift of forgiveness from the priest).  And by the end of the movie, I was blubbering away into a soggy Kleenex.

I had avoided watching it when it first came out because of watching the trailer and hearing others’ reviews. I’d heard that so and so shouldn’t have been cast in this role because somebody else would have done so much better…  Another person was snubbed for not being cast…  This actress completely ‘ruined’ the movie… That person couldn’t sing… etc. etc. etc.  I’d heard the film was too ‘gritty’, too ‘gorey’, too ‘indecent’.  I watched the trailer and saw too much skin.

untitledI’m not a musical aficionado. Maybe so and so could have sang the part better.  All I know is Fantine sang as though her life was at the bottom of a sludge pit and Valjean sang through weary tears.  Cosette sang like a bird in love, and Marius like he’d found the treasure of his life.  If I could be so thoroughly convinced this story was real, I think somebody was doing their job supremely well.   Probably the only one who didn’t have me convinced of his role was Russell Crowe as Javert.  He felt uncomfortable and limited in the part.

Gritty? Yes.  Gorey?  It was a reflection of the time and era in which real people lived.  Not all of humanity has lived in pristine Downton Abbey.  Indecent?  Yes. Humanity is messed up.  But we live in a  place where true love shines like a jewel amidst the dirt and grime of a perverted world.

Yet, there are some indecencies I would prefer not to expose myself to, and there were some content issues I’d warn about. I have better things to do than count swear words and describe raunchy scenes, so you can read a more detailed review here if you are in need of one.  But I will say that there were at least two places I wanted to be careful about: 1)  Fantine gradually falls deeper and deeper into the backalley ways of the underworld, not out of any desire on her part but out of pure desperation.  As she sings her song, she is led into a dark room where one gets the idea of what will happen next without having to see it.  I didn’t watch, but continued to listen to her heart-rending song.  I wouldn’t fast forward through it if it can be helped because the music is some of the best of the musical and it’s well acted.  2)  The Thenardiers are the picture of the world taking delight in degradation.  The rowdy song that takes place in their inn, where they celebrate the pleasures of sin is one that can be skipped (IMO).  It is definitely NOT a family scene!  I got half way through and decided I was too sick to watch the rest and clicked through to the next scene.

Only one thing I wish could have been improved upon and that is I would have liked to have seen more of the beginning developing relationship between Jean Valjean and the little girl Cosette.  This is a weakness in the original story itself I think, and that is that Cosette’s character is too trusting.  This could have been strengthened in the movie, and their getting to know one another was rather missing.  It would have helped to cement my emotional attachment further.

But for all of that, I wish I had not waited so long to watch this wonderful story illustrated with so much emotion, music, color and drama. The sets and the details blew my mind.  I don’t often like to rewatch movies, but this is one I will want to have in my collection to go back to every so often.  I truly thought it was a good piece of art, though I know there are enough who debate me there.

What are your thoughts on this film version of Les Miserables?  I’d like to know what you think!

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Do you read long books?

Do you read long books? I confess that I tend to shy away from them.  I think it just seems like too big a commitment for me.  I prefer variety or else I get bored, and tackling a 400+ page novel leaves me exhausting just thinking about it.

It’s ironic but I think I had more patience when I was younger (teenage years). I had more time and I attempted just about any classic in the quest to say I’d read them all.  My tastes and goals have changed over the years.  But some of the longer fictional books I have accomplished in the past include “Little Women (age 12); “Ivanhoe” (which I converted into a 75 page play for my sister and myself); and more recently, “Titus Groan,” by Mervyn Peake.  There are a few others on my TBR that I don’t know when I’ll get to.  “The Maid of Sker,” by Richard D. Blackmore, “The Cloister and the Hearth,” by Charles Reade, and “Glastonbury,” by Donna Fletcher Crowe.

I think some of the reasons why I often shy away from the longer tomes these days is because I don’t feel I have the emotional or mental energy to undertake it. A couple of years ago I ordered a book on interlibrary loan, and then promptly sent it back upon seeing how thick the book and how tiny the print was.  I was going through a rough time and needed something lighter and faster paced.  Recently I also passed on an Edward Rutherfurd novel, when 15 years ago I probably would have checked it out.  Another plausible theory could be due to the fact that I have more eyestrain than I used to and it taints my desire for long, involved reads.

When searching out new additions for my TBR on goodreads, I try to thoughtfully evaluate whether I will realistically want to read a particular title or if I would just feel burdened and dread opening the cover. That sounds sort of funny now that I have that typed down.  Why would I want to read anything I’d dread?  Am I such a glutton for self-torture?  I want to read good, meaty, beneficial books.  But the word and page count of a book does not necessarily make it beneficial.  A proverb can be more wisely read than a full assortment of “Grey” romance.

Yet some of the world’s best epics have been told through long-drawn out prose. (Those French and Russian novels for instance…)  But usually their stories are too familiar told through other mediums for me to care to devote so much time to reading.  Maybe one day my interests will change again and I’ll be a reader of “Moby Dick” but I’m not so much a fan of whale blubber right now.

What does constitute me attempting a big fiction book? Just like any other book, it is usually a creative plotline and the adventure that draws me in.  If it has my attention in these areas, I can perhaps forget I’ve spent the last 3 months in this world.  It’s what kept me going through “Titus Groan”, and is what has me interested in someday trying “Shogun,” by James Clavell.

I came to ponder all of this after reading this article entitled “Never Ending Stories.”

What about you? If you’re a reader of long tales, what attracts you to them?

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2017 in Reading Habits, Uncategorized

 

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Movie Review: Arthur & George

a132774421c11e3ae8cb67a56f895dcdBased on the book by Julian Barnes.

Version: 2015; starring Martin Clunes; Hattie Morahan; Michael Gregson

Genre:  mystery; period drama; biographical

Plot Summary: George Edalji is the son of a respectable vicar from India, under suspicion of murder.  Sir Arthur is a famous mystery writer grieving the death of his wife.  The two are fatefully connected and the latter takes it upon himself to clear Edalji’s name so he and his family can live in peace.  But things are not so clear cut and simple as they seemed at the beginning.  The details of the case get weirder and weirder, and the body count rises.  Can Arthur Doyle solve the mystery in time, or is George really guilty of the crimes?

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

I’d been seeing the book at the library lately, and was itching to watch something other than Downton Abbey on PBS, so I gave this movie a shot. I’m so glad I did!

Atmosphere, suspense, historical period setting—all the ingredients for the perfect mystery are present in this Masterpiece film! Everything from creepy music, tweed suits, Clunes’ Scottish accent, the glow of candles, and the crunch of autumn leaves contributed to the mysterious atmosphere that pervaded throughout all three episodes of the story.  It kept my attention well, and although I had to rewind to catch certain details and may not have followed the plot/motives entirely, I still highly enjoyed watching it. I’m not sure how much was based on actual truth or if it was pure fiction, but I found the actors believable, and Martin Clunes especially so in the role of Dr. Doyle.

During the course of the story, we discover that Sir Arthur is filled with remorse over the fact that he had an admiration for another woman while his wife was still living. I appreciated this element.  Later, Doyle pursues a relationship with the woman he loves, and when accusations are thrown against it, he insists he had never used her as his mistress.  The rest of the film is pretty clean, except for perhaps mild swearing, some unsightly animal killings and a rather gruesome death at the end.  Probably the most unsettling is the pervading sense of unease throughout, which I found to be quite fun!

If you’re in the mood for a spooky-strange mystery, I’m sure you will enjoy this Victorian-era flick!

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Interview w/ Aaron Fullan

music-1970040_960_720Greetings all!  Are you fan of Heirloom Audio Productions’ G. A. Henty audio dramas?  I confess I have yet the privilege of getting my hands on them, but I can’t wait until I do; they look like great quality stuff.  I came across this on Facebook this evening and wanted to pass it along to anyone else interested.  HAP’s Associate Producer Aaron Fullan will be on Facebook Live on Feb. 24 at 10:30am (CST) answering viewer’s/listener’s questions.  You can find out more here.

Sorry for the lack of posting lately.  I hope to get more free time soon!

 

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Looking Forward to Early Spring 2017 Christian Fiction!

A new year of Inspirational fiction is upon us, and I love being able to peruse the early spring edition of CBD’s latest fiction catalog right in the middle of January!  This time around, I was impressed by the diversity of genres and quality it appears is on the market.  Of course, there’s still the usual sappy romance novels, but there weren’t quite as many Amish stories this season and I was able to find several ones that look highly interesting.  The cover art is getting more scrumptious all the time!  Take a look-see:

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What are you looking forward to reading?

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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