Forgive my blogging silence – life has been crazy this summer! I’m just three tests away from being finished with college, one week away from a local-authors book festival, halfway through a very complicated quilt, one day away from a friend’s wedding and I’m also getting back in the swing of my part-time job. Nevertheless, I don’t want to completely neglect my blog. So here’s a type of post that I’ve never done before, but I hope will be fun as well as useful. I’ve seen several new movies lately, as well as reading several new books. Instead of writing a separate, long post for each story, I’ll write a little blurb about each one, all in one post. Here goes!
This movie was based on the fascinating real-life story of the men who banded together to protect masterpieces of art from Hitler. I had no idea that the Nazis had gone around Europe stealing paintings and sculptures for Hitler’s personal museum! Although the story was intriguing, I felt that the movie itself was rather poorly done. With such a cast (including George Clooney, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchet and Matt Damon), the film should have been excellent. Instead, the acting was wooden and the story very choppy. Each individual scene was fairly good, but the movie as a whole felt like a string of clips meshed together. Toward the end, the story flowed better and I became more attached to the characters. Violence was minimal; language was very frequent; there were a few inappropriate remarks, but nothing terrible. Overall, Monuments Men was a bit of a disappointment, I was really thankful that it exposed me to the real story of the MFAA.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
I’m usually not one who goes in for spy movies – often, they’re full of violence and minimal character development. But this one was an exception in many ways. Although Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit had a good bit of violence, it was a very good movie. I’m pretty much clueless about Tom Clancy stories, so I was thankful that Jack Ryan was self-explanatory – I didn’t have to know anything about Clancy’s books. What I really loved about this film was the character development. I was so excited that the main duo was played by two of my favorite actors: Chris Pine and Keira Knightley. They were fantastic actors and truly endearing characters; I was amazed at their ability to pack so much depth and feeling into each scene. Kenneth Branagh (whom I’ve only ever seen play as a goofy character) was a truly blood-chilling bad guy, as well as a fantastic director. Although the chase scenes and explosions were very suspenseful and the story intriguing, I was impressed that the movie makers didn’t go overboard with action. Character development seemed to be the primary objective. Like I said before, there were quite a few violent deaths, but I was almost always able to tell when a death was coming and close my eyes in time. There was a good bit of language and some sketchy situations, but thankfully my dad previewed the film and “cleaned it up” as we went along. Overall, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit far exceeded my low expectations, giving me hope for the genre of spy films.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
I have been dying to see this film for months, ever since I saw the trailer last autumn. It was worth the wait! The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was such a whimsical, unique (almost bizarre) movie, but excellently done. Ben Stiller both directed and starred as the quirky, lovable Walter Mitty. Although it was a very calm, slow-paced film, Mitty always kept my attention. I honestly don’t think that I have never seen a more beautiful, imaginative, brilliantly-composed movie! It was nothing short of awesome. The acting was great, the music was very interesting, and the camera-work was mind-blowing. And the scenery – ah, the scenery!! To make it even better, apart from a couple of words that we had to mute, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was a movie that my entire family could enjoy together. We all laughed until our sides ached, yet there were many scenes of real feeling and depth as well – it was not merely comedic. If I were to find one word to describe it, I believe that the word would be “sweet.” Just a sweet story, focused on everyday people doing everyday (and not-so-everyday) things. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was a light-hearted, imaginative masterpiece of cinematography, with a very touching, poignant message.
Saving Mr. Banks
It seems as if everybody in the world (or at least in the blogging sphere) has already seen Saving Mr. Banks, so I won’t say too much about it. I’ll just say that I really enjoyed this film, both for its own sake, and for the glimpses that it gave me into the real world of Walt Disney. Fascinating story, wonderful acting, great music… Although my family was sharply divided over this movie, I give Saving Mr. Banks two thumbs up. 🙂
And now for the books that I’ve been reading lately:
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
After reading Jane Eyre, I have decided that Charlotte Bronte is the female equivalent to Charles Dickens. That woman could write. I always scoffed at Jane Eyre (thanks to watching the movie before reading the book, and understanding nothing of the story), but after reading the actual book, I was happy to admit that I was wrong. Jane was such a fantastic character – I loved her confidence, her wisdom and her continual reliance on Christ. Rochester kept swinging from Complete Creep to Lovable Hero – I never quite knew what to think of him, although I did pity him a great deal. Although I wouldn’t say that it’s my favorite book of all-time, I was floored by Bronte’s way with words, as well as filled with admiration for Jane herself.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
Ah, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. What a sad, yet amazing story. I hardly know how to describe it! The back of the audiobook that I listened to didn’t even contain a synopsis. It read: “We think that telling even the slightest description of this story would completely ruin the story, so we’re not going to tell you anything about it. Just listen to it for yourself.” In keeping with this line of logic, I won’t give a synopsis either. So much of the appeal of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas comes from figuring things out along with Bruno, the 8-year-old main character. I will say, however, that this book (while very, very tragic) was flawlessly written, and extraordinarily powerful. As John Boyne described his story, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is intended to be a sort of gentle introduction to the Holocaust: a way that children, as well as adults, can be exposed to the things that went on in WWII. By writing completely from the perspective of the innocent, naive Bruno, Boyne totally avoids going into any sort of gritty details about Nazi Germany. Yet amazingly, it is one of the most powerful stories about the Holocaust that I’ve ever encountered. I would definitely recommend it – more specifically, I would recommend the audiobook read by Michael Maloney. Prepare to be sad, but know that The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is definitely worth the sadness.
Matched by Ally Condie
I was biased against this book before I even started it. It contained three elements that I consider highly-overused in modern literature: the use of first person present tense, a dystopian setting and a love triangle. But even though Matched had three strikes against it from the beginning, I was hooked from Chapter One. Condie has a beautiful writing style: very engaging and poetic. I loved that she relied solely on characters and setting, not action, to keep me turning the pages. (I also love that it’s completely clean – I didn’t read a single word that made me flinch.) Toward the middle, I grew tired of the love triangle and the slow pace of the story, but the end, Condie picked up the pace and redeemed the story. I was left itching for the sequel. I’m reserving judgment about the story until I finish the trilogy, yet I am quite definitely intrigued so far. Matched has succeeded in combining elements from stories such as The Hunger Games and The Giver, yet with (in my opinion) better characters, better messages and a more solid, realistic dystopian society. I’m looking forward to the next books in the series!
That about sums up the stories that I’ve been enjoying over the past couple of months! I’m grateful to have found so many new, great movies and books. Isn’t amazing that there are an absolutely endless number of stories in the world? They all boil down to a basic formula, of course, but the results are almost always unique and exciting. It never fails to blow my mind. 🙂