Sunday, March 31, 2013

Book Review: Mr. Blue

Title: Mr. Blue
Author: Myles Connolly
Genre: Fiction*
My Rating: ****

Age Group: 16+ just because it's hard to appreciate. Nothing bad in it though.

My Summary: Where to begin? Mr. Blue is, according to the back cover of the book, "a young man who decides to take Christianity seriously, not as a chore but as a challenge". He's crazy--but way more sane than anyone around him. He lives in a packing box on the top of a roof for the sheer enjoyment and thrill, painting the box and kites, which he flies from time to time. He also loves letting balloons fly off with musical scores written on them. And yet he's not the least bit immature and has a very well-developed mind. Who is this man who spends a huge inheritance so quickly and with so little regret? This man who appears here and there, leaving impressions on the people he meets and then disappearing?
He is Mr. Blue. And he's awesome.
The narrative is done in first person, and such a beautifully honest first person it is. The narrator admires Mr. Blue at the same time as thinking him insane, but he struggles with ever admitting his admiration to Mr. Blue himself. Don't we all struggle like that at times? He sees the beauty of what Mr. Blue has, does, and is, and yet he cannot help but see the negative side, often only negative from worldly perspectives.
Could Mr. Blue actually survive? I highly doubt it. But he's that person you meet once (or twice) in your lifetime who's a true breath of fresh air. He has such a different way of looking at life that you are taken aback by what he suggests, reacting on instinct and drawing away, yet also seeing the beauty in what he is and has.
Mr. Blue is balance. He is joy, not happiness. Joy. He is Catholic.

Word of Warning: one must have patience. One must not be in any hurry. One must savor every word. Only then can you enjoy the book. At least, that's what I found. It's a great book, but I found that I really had to choose to pay attention to it in order to actually get anything out of it. Once I did that, I was utterly amazed.

Note on the Author: Myles Connolly wrote screenplays, 40 in all, but Mr. Blue is his  most famous work. It has been suggested that he was influenced by G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy which was published just a few years before Mr. Blue. Indeed, many of the themes are similar, or so John B. Breslin, S. J. says in his introduction to my copy of Mr. Blue. I wonder if Chesterton ever read it.
I think he would've smiled.

*It was so well done, and so out there but still so possible, that it took me forever to figure this out. I actually had to go back and read the introduction to find out whether it was fiction or not. It is, right? Correct me if I'm wrong :)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Movie Review: The Count of Monte Cristo

Title: The Count of Monte Cristo

Author: N/A

Genre: Action/Adventure

My Rating: ****

Age Group: 17+

Official Rating: PG-13

My Summary:

One can never be too trusting in the world of guns, swords, and Napoleon. Sometimes, one can't even trust one's best friend. "Kings to you."
And such is the case for the Count of Monte Cristo. Framed for a crime he did not commit, he is sent to a terrible prison and flogged each year as a sort of anniversary "gift". Slowly, he goes crazy. Until the stones in the floor move and out pops a crazy priest who has been in prison for a very long time. He manages to reverse the insanity of the Count, even teaching him to read and do all sorts of science and math problems. Together, the two work on an escape, their work light by lanterns contained in the skulls of the rats they catch for extra food.
When he escapes, the Count runs into more trouble. He almost loses his life, but then becomes incredibly rich and creates a rather unique name for himself. All this time, he is driven by one thing: revenge on the man who destroyed all that he had.
He uses people, plans things carefully, and finally sets up two epic scenes where he faces those who did him wrong. Then, it is concluded.
But not without great action. Beautiful sword fights and even a few guns are involved in this movie. And the acting: very very well done.
Catch Phrase: "Kings to you."
Memorable Quotes:

"God has everything to do with it. He is everywhere."

"God. Can I never escape Him?"
"No. He is everywhere. Even in a kiss."

Word of Warning: There are, I believe, three awkward scenes in all.
1) In the beginning of the movie a man asks a girl, who is courting the man's friend, if she will "make love" with him, assuring her that the man she is courting will never know. (She refuses.)
2) Later, the man she was courting becomes her fiance and they go swimming, presumably with no clothing on since she was wearing a dress and it is not visible in the shot that gives only the detail of two people's silhouettes swimming in an ocean. In a scene soon after that, they are seen on the beach, girl barely visible behind rocks and the man leaning over her with no shirt on, kissing her. Then still later they seem to be in a cave of some sort and have clothes on (though they might be undergarments. it's hard to tell as this is semi-medieval) and are talking. Somehow they get distracted and kiss. The kiss doesn't end and the girl leans back, falling to the ground, with her fiance not a centimeter behind. SPOILER: it is revealed 16 years later that the girl gave birth to her fiance's son (presumably resulting from this beach scene).
3) Still later, a married woman (former girl-on-the-beach) finds her old fiance and kisses him. He pushes her away (wanting to continue with his plan, which did not include her), but she manages to get into his house and ends up spending the night in his bed--with his most willing consent. The scene closes on them kissing while standing near a window, then opens with her sleeping in the bed next to him. Later, the butler comes in and it is clear (though not shown) that she has no clothing on.

The interesting thing to note is what Stacy told me. She told me that the actor for the fiance was Catholic and refused to do some scenes that the directors had originally planned. The directors worked around it and so even the scenes we see are not all that graphic and we have the assurance of knowing that it is not the case that we didn't get the right camera view, but that nothing really "happened". Perhaps they only seem graphic because of the time period.

A man is arrested and given a gun. He sticks it in his mouth, shuts his eyes, and pulls the trigger. Nothing happens. It was empty. Nonetheless, that does not take away from the fact that the man did try to commit suicide.
A married man openly admits to his wife that he has other mistresses, remarking that "Paris and me is not a recipe for fidelity".

My Thoughts:
The reason for a rating of four instead of five is all the content in the "Word of Warning" section and the slightly weak ending. Because as great as the epic is, the man who drives the whole thing is driven by something dark: revenge. Not justice, but revenge. And it is this revenge that causes the end to be so weak. For a man who has been driven by revenge for 16 years, or 2:30 hours of our time, how is he supposed to just reorder his life suddenly? With a wife and his 16 year old son and a great friend for a butler, sure, but something is missing. It's hard to swallow, but in defense of the film the Count's last words on screen are "You were right, Priest."

Still, if you're looking for a great story full of action, determination, twists and turns, set in the Napoleonic time, you would find it very hard not to like this movie.


Kings to you, Count.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Movie Review: Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker

Title: Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker
Author: Alex Pettyfer plays Alex. Good actor. English accent. Nuff said.
Genre: Adventure
My Rating: *** (four if there hadn't been so many head-desk cheesy parts)

Age Group: 12+ (people do die, some in explosions, one by jelly fish, and a few by gunshot)
Official Rating: PG

My Summary: Alex is a normal kid--aside from the fact that his legal guardian is his uncle (parents died long ago) and he has an American "nanny" named Jack. But, you know, normal. And his uncle? Incredibly boring and extremely normal. Works for a bank, always on business trips, but does somehow manage to take Alex mountain climbing and all sorts of other fun things. He is, of course, a careful man.

So when the police show up and say that Ian Rider died in a car crash, and a man at the funeral comments, "It's a pity he wasn't wearing a seat belt", and the preacher says that Ian was a patriot, well, Alex gets suspicious enough to notice that the graveyard seems to be surrounded by men in black suits who have guns on their belts. What? A cool twist, no doubt, but the way he discovers it is incredibly, painfully, cheesy.
But jumping forward a bit, Alex is a boy with very dangerous levels of curiosity and self-defense skill. The MI6 recruits him for a job his uncle has been preparing him for all his life.
And that's where the fun begins. Aside from the super cool gadgets and the awesome action scenes (very few of which were computerized), there is of course the Stormbreaker computer, the orange-haired bad guy, and the pet jelly fish. We also have a motor bike chase, a car chase, a crazy helicopter ride, and lots of other action sequences.

Words of Warning:
Mr. Grin is a man who used to be in the circus as a knife thrower, got distracted by his mother in the audience, and slipped (true story). You don't see it, you just hear the story and see the scars on each side of his mouth.
A few men are shot off screen.
Alex sends some men (who are not bad) over a cliff, causing broken limbs and near death experiences.
A woman is killed by a jelly fish (off screen).
Alex is put into a fish tank with a jelly fish (unharmed).
Alex is used as knife "practice" for Mr. Grin, who is trying to scare Alex. (Intentionally, he is not hit.)
Various fist fights and shootings.
A man plans to kill billions of children with a virus and appears to have no qualms about it.
Bullying is mentioned briefly.

My Thoughts:
It doesn't sound all that good, does it? The main reason I enjoyed it so much is that it's very hard to find a modern spy movie which is actually appropriate to watch, and yes, I do find those types of movies thrilling, albeit not very memorable once the adrenalin rush is over. But, sometimes, it's nice to watch a movie like this that isn't deep and all that. This one was about a 14 year old boy. It was interesting. And while characters in the book died and little notice was given to them, when a man is shot off screen and Alex sees it, his reaction is perfect. He flinches, looks like he might be sick, and even looks terrified at the same time. Nicely done, Alex. His reaction is so well done it actually made my stomach flipflop a little (not for Alex, mind you, but for what just happened).
Were the cheesy parts really that bad? No, but in a movie that depends on action and spy-related stuff (which means the movie stands on almost nothing), it does knock it down an entire star.
On the plus side, we have Jack (Alex's "nanny")--who is just plain awesome. And we also have thrilling action scenes, a very unique cast of characters, and a spy movie appropriate for most ages.

If they did more movies from the books, would I watch? Yes, absolutely. But keep in mind this is one of those very rare instances where the movie was better than the book.
Would I watch the movie again? Yes, I've watched it three times, actually. But I don't think I'd spend any of my own money to actually buy it for myself. I can wait the week or two for it to come in at the library.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Author Alcove: Louis de Wohl

Note: Author Alcove posts will be about particular authors and not necessarily specific works. While they may include specific works, they will be focused on the author's common approach to all his/her works. As with the books and movies, feel free to suggest an author for us to comment on.

One would have a hard time knowing from his works that Louis de Wohl was a Frenchman who learned English simply so he could write it and reach a wider audience. In fact, readers might even doubt that was the case. His style and word choices are fantastic. A Catholic author, he writes about the lives of the saints but not in the usual way. Where there is uncertainty, he fills in his own unique ideas.

I usually categorize his writings as "historical fiction" because of the liberties he takes. He never (so far as I can tell) changes the facts that we already know, but he does add things when information is uncertain (such as giving St. Augustine's mistress a name). The beauty in his stories is the broader outlook--and the realistic approach. He does not portray saints as perfect as so many books do. They struggle too, just as they did in real life.
Sometimes, the story isn't even told with the focus on the saint. In The Quiet Light, which is about St. Thomas Aquinas, the story is actually told from the view of a knight who works for the Aquinas family and (SPOILER!) falls in love with Thomas's sister. This outlook allows the reader to understand why the saint did as he/she did. We are impacted by our world whether we like it or not and de Wohl has a very good understanding of that. He writes the story of one person, yes, but also of the world around that person.

A word of caution: de Wohl does not cut corners to make things appropriate. While I have not come across any graphic R-rated scenes, they are quite often implied. After all, how does one tell the story of St. Augustine of Hippo without his mistress? How does one write about St. Longinus and the story of the woman caught in adultery (Jesus writes things in the sand, etc) without being clear in implications?
We never see the two in the adulterous act, no, but it's nearly impossible to miss that it was going to happen.

But these are the stories of saints, and even those situations are dealt with properly. Still, one must be aware that they exist and are not excluded for the sake of the reader's age.

That, I think, is the beauty of de Wohl: he tells it like it is. He doesn't try to show us how perfect our heroes were. But when one really thinks about it, what is a hero without struggles and failures? Jesus is our only hero who did not fail and it must remain so. All our other heroes struggled and failed--again and again. What about that saying, "Even the saints sinned seven times a day"? Well de Wohl does not neglect to show us that truth.
Part of the beauty in a hero is seeing how they overcame their struggles. The struggles and failures never go away, but how the hero dealt with them is what we are inspired by. I guess I just don't see another explanation for fascination with St. Augustine of Hippo. He was bad. Then, he was great.
Don't we all want that?

That's what Louis de Wohl gives us. Mixed in his skillful and artistic sketches of historical life styles and crafty political situations, we get the stories of the heroes of our faith. Yes, among all that inappropriate content is the story of redemption.
Perhaps the reason it is so appeal is that it is our story.
Louis de Wohl tells it beautifully.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Movie Review: Jack the Giant Slayer

Title: Jack the Giant Slayer
Author: Warner Brothers
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ****
Age Group: 16+
Official Rating: PG-13
Note: I closed my eyes through much of the movie (more on that later), so if I missed anything, Maria is going to go through and add her thoughts. Her remarks will be italicized.

Summary: Jack has always loved tales of the giant's invasion of Cloister and how King Erik the Great defeated them. According to legend, monks trying to reach Heaven used gigantic beanstalks as ladders to God; instead of God, they found man-eating giants. The giants invaded Earth, and the monks turned to dark magic, using the heart of a giant to create a crown which allowed anyone who wore it to control the monsters. Enter King Erik, who sent the giants packing.
But that's just legend, even if Jack wants to believe it. So he is unsuspicious when a nervous monk hands him a bag of beans for his horse. He is unsuspecting when his uncle, angry at the meager payment that Jack brought back, throws the beans across the floor.
He is surprised when a beanstalk takes his house miles into the sky.
Unfortunately for everyone, Princess Isabel had been making a social call when the beanstalk began growing, and she is stuck up in the hut at the top of the mutant legume. Someone has to rescue her, so Jack and a handful of the king's guard volunteer. They are prepared for practically anything at this point... until they find the Land of the Giants.
The princess is captured. The giants are about to invade Cloister again. And the king's right-hand man, Roderick, who is supposed to be a good guy, ends up being bad. Everything is going wrong, but Jack is determined to make things right.


The Good: The main male characters, including Jack, the King, Elmont, and several others, show amazing courage and strength in the face of incredible danger. Jack shows great chivalry in the beginning by trying to protect Isabel's honor, though he doesn't even know her yet. He risks his life multiple times to save her and other characters as well. The King is willing to stand at the front of the battle-line to defend his subjects. He also makes the hard decision to cut down the beanstalk while his daughter is still in the Land of the Giants in order to protect his kingdom from invasion. Elmont remains behind in the Land of the Giants to get the crown back from Roderick, who is using it to control the giant army.
The king, who is still shaken from the loss of his wife, tries to protect his daughter from danger by confining her to the castle. Although this is the wrong approach, it is obvious that he means well and truly loves his daughter.
The romance between Jack and Isabel is very innocent and sweet. They kiss twice, and hold hands once.

The Bad (not listed in any particular order): Again, Jack protects Isabel's honor by standing up to a group of drunk men who are making improper remarks. The scene went by very fast, so I'm not quite sure what they were saying, but it wasn't too bad; they seemed to be focusing more on the gold bracelet that she was wearing than anything else.
More disturbing was the body count and the gore that went along with it. The giants, as I mentioned before, are man-eaters. They eat quite a few men, usually biting off their heads before discarding the rest of the body. Most of these head-chomps occur either off-screen, or far enough away so that we don't see the blood.
At one point, a giant pops a whole man into his mouth (off-screen), then spits out the man's armor.
Roderick is not above killing in order to get his way. He pushes one man off a cliff, and orders his flunky to cut a rope with 5 or 6 men on it. We later see the dead men from above.
Isabel and two of her guards are captured by giants. One is eaten, and Isabel and the other are "prepared" to be eaten by a disgusting giant-cook (who picks his nose and eats it during the process). The guard is rolled in dough and put on the fire, but escapes. Isabel whimpers and begs for mercy throughout the ordeal.
Jack is able to kill the giant-cook by stabbing a knife into his spine. It takes a while for the giant to die.
Jack, Elmont, and Isabel shove a beehive into a giant's helmet. The giant falls off the edge of the Land of the Giants, and we later see a close-up of his dead body.
Most disgusting of all is when a giant swallows a bean, and his body explodes. I did not watch this part, but Maria later explained that a close-up of the head was given, and the giant's eyeball popped out. Vines shot out of the giant's body, between both of his heads (he was the only two-headed one) and just overall being rather disgusting and horrifying. The scene closes quickly, but not before the viewer is horrified by the sight and the eyeball.
There is a battle in which many men and giants are killed. We don't see close-ups of the men, but there are several of giants being shot with arrows and engulfed in flames.
Often times men and giants go flying after being mowed down or hit by some giant object. We don't see this up close or see the injuries, but one can assume from the context that these men died.
The giants are in general a scary bunch, and have horrible personal hygiene. However, because of their appearance, the violence they suffer seems easier to endure (for the most part) because they just seem so unreal and so disgusting. Perhaps this is not a good thing as they should be looked upon as beings of creation too, though they are never portrayed as good.
There are several minor swear words, including p**s and h**l.
The presence of magic is largely unexplained, and the religion of Cloister is not expounded upon. What is explained is slightly disturbing: the monks, like the people of Babel in the Bible, decide to try and reach God with a beanstalk. When this turns out badly, they use dark magic to defeat the giants, and the products of this magic is later used to defeat them again.

My Thoughts: I covered my eyes through much of the movie because of the head-chomps (though if I saw it again, I probably wouldn't because they really weren't that bad). Maria started laughing at me because I almost screamed when a giant popped out. The one scene that I don't regret covering my eyes for, though, was the exploding-giant part, and quite frankly, I don't think I could ever muster enough courage to actually watch it.
Other than the gore, I liked the movie. It wasn't very deep; the plot was good, the acting was ok, the characters were slightly underdeveloped, and the whole movie rested on shock-factor and excitement. But you know what? That's alright, because when I go to a fairy-tale movie about giants and beanstalks, I don't really want a movie that I have to analyze and think through. I want something mind-melting and endearingly cheesy. And that's what I got. It was enjoyable to watch (for the most part), and although I wouldn't say that it's the best movie I've ever seen, I would definitely want to see it again. Just because of the gore factor, I would probably recommend this movie for the ages 16 and older.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Movie Review: Newsies

Title: Newsies
Author: uhh, we'll go with Disney
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: ****
Age Group: 10+ (might be a bit on the strict side)

Official Rating: PG

My Summary: Scene: New York City. Enter: News boys, ages ranging from 7-18ish. Dancing around and singing and slurring with their NYC accents.

When things got tough, the news boys (newsies) went on strike. The movie doesn't necessarily stay true to history, but it had a better ending anyway.
Jack Kelly (Christian Bale) is the unofficial leader of the newsies. He's the best of the best, he's cool, and he's smart. To top it all off, he's going to Santa Fe. But when he meets David, David's sister, and David's little brother, things change. Suddenly, Jack finds himself leading a strike and struggling to keep things organized. He's a leader at heart, yes, but only in the sense that everyone will follow him and he's cool. He clearly lacks the brains to run the operation, but everyone is depending on him. Things get rough, fights break out, Spot from Brooklyn appears, and the police get involved. Can Jack possibly win this battle, or will things fall apart?

And if the story doesn't get you, how about the newsies ages 7-18 jumping around and dancing and singing and pretty much just going wild and having a great time? How about Spot and his men and their slingshots? Perhaps Christian Bale (Batman, Laurie/Teddy, others) will draw you in for the ride? Whatever it is that attracts you to the movie, you won't be disappointed. It's a great adventure.

Word of Warning: This isn't historically accurate. I believe the news boys did not succeed in the real story, but this isn't supposed to be a history lesson anyway.

When speaking on what sells "papes", Jack mentions that the word "nude" in a headline will do it. It is a passing reference and not dwelt upon. There are fist fights, a boxing match in the public square, the newsies sneak into a basement and use a press that does not belong to them, and the newsies routinely "improve" headlines (or stories) by stretching the truth until sometimes it is barely recognizable.
A woman wears gowns with very low-cut neck lines, wears heavy make-up, and is clearly quite attractive to men who come to watch her sing (and the newsies too) and she obviously intends it to be that way. Off stage she is a sweet woman who is motherly to Jack, but perhaps the most disappointing part is that the newsies all attend one of her shows and are quite enchanted by her.
The movie opens with the boys in long underwear and they sing a number as they get ready for the day, washing their faces, jumping into the tub (with their underwear on), and shaving. It is carefree and not meant to be sexual in any way, simply a realistic scene.
SPOILER: Jack lies about his name, his parents, and breaks out of an orphanage. He does not appear to see anything wrong with his lies but David clearly does and says so.

Note on the Author: Unfortunately, I know nothing about the author here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray

Note: this is not related, in any way, shape, or form, to the 50 shades of gray stuff. At all.

Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Genre: Teen historical fiction
My Rating: *****
Age Group: 16+
Official Rating: Teen Historical Fiction
Awards: New York Times and International Bestseller, New York Times Notable Book, Wall STreet Journal Best Children's Book, Golden Kite Award for Fiction, ALA Notable Book, Publishers Weekly Best Childen's Book of 2011, YALSA's Top 10 Best Fiction for Young Adults, School Library Journal Best Book of 2011, Booklist Best Book of 2011, Kirkus Best Book of 2011, IRA Children's and Young Adult's Book Award, Amazon Top Ten Teen Books of 2011, National Blue Ribbon Selection by Book of the Month Club, St. Louis Post Dispatch Best Book of 2011, Columbus Dispatch Best Book of 2011, SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant winner, Georgia Peach Honor Book

My Summary: In 1941, Lina is a normal girl living in a normal house in Lithuania. Her father works at a university, her mother is beautiful, she has a little brother, and she has a great talent for drawing. Then, one night, the house is broken into. Lina is arrested in her nightgown.

She and her mother and brother Jonas are thrown into a truck with various other people, including a crabby bald man who has a broken leg and wants to die, a school teacher, a librarian, a mother with daughters, a woman who has just given birth and her baby (both fresh from the delivery room), a few others, and a boy Lina's age and his mother. The men have, for the most part, been separated. Lina wants to find her father, and so does the boy, but he bonds with Jonas and not Lina. On the outside.

As these people go through the worst that the world can throw at them, they become closer, helping each other. The boy, Andrius, looks after the others as best he can, especially Jonas, and often Lina, though she doesn't realize it.

They are dragged all over and forced to live in horrible conditions. They watch the baby die, and its mother get shot in the head. Andrius's mother is forced into prostitution in order to protect her son. Whatever can happen, it does.

And yet within all this horror, hope is always there. It's a beautiful story and, unlike most WWII stories, it does not leave the reader feeling depressed and sad. It leaves the reader filled with hope for the human race. As twisted as our condition is by original sin, we are still made in the image of God.

Word of warning: this book absolutely has an age group. All inappropriate things are dealt with as such, and not detailed too much, but nonetheless I would rate it as being on the higher end of PG-13. A woman is taken hostage right after giving birth and there are a few comments about blood and not producing milk. She is later shot in the head. Lina is groped, very briefly, by an enemy officer, and feels dirty for a good long time after that. She does not fight, she's too terrified, but her pain after the fact is heartbreaking. People die horrible deaths, people consider options not entirely moral in order to survive. Thievery is a way of survival. Andrius' mother is forced into prostitution but we only find out via Andrius, who says little about it out of shame. All evils are dealt with as such and not glorified as good.

Note on the author: Ruta Sepetys is part Lithuanian and actually visited Lithuanian relatives as part of her research for this project. She dug deep into a story that few know about. We know of the persecution of the Jews and the Catholics. We have stories from countries that were affected by Stalin and Hitler, but I admit I wasn't even aware of the suffering of Lithuania until now. What she brings to light, some of it from true experiences, some of it beautifully imagined fiction, is shocking. And powerful. And horrifying. And great. It is full of hope.

It's a wonderful book. I would read it again and again. Buy it. Read it. Savor every bit of it. Andrius has a special Russian word for Lina: Krasivaya.
I would call this book krasivaya.

No cheating now. Do not go and look that word up. I can assure you that it would really spoil the book--quite a bit. It would subtract from its power. Really. Just read the book, it'll tell you what it means when it's necessary, when it's perfect.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Movie Review: The Hobbit

Note: I confess that I am one of those strange people who did not read Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings books, though I did try. I love the movies, and I did mange to read The Hobbit and love it very much, though it's been a while since I read it so I can't really compare it to the movie.

This is our very first review and it seems appropriate, though a little late. Most of the reviews that I (Maria Gianna) post will be in this format. Please check out the sidebar. We have links, the possibility of receiving emails when new posts are made, and much more.

Title: The Hobbit
Author: Director was Peter Jackson
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: *****
Age Group: 12+ (orcs are just plain creepy, no?)
Official Rating: PG-13

My Summary: Long ago, there was a hobbit in Middle Earth who had buried his sense of adventure and wanted nothing to do with adventures. Or should we start with the dwarves whose home was destroyed brutally by a terrible dragon? Or perhaps we begin with Gandalf.

Whoever you begin with, the story is great. Filmed in New Zealand, it is filled with beautiful scenery and is sure to make you start saving your pennies for a trip there.
The story does jump around a bit but overall it's wonderful. Characters were fantastic, especially the wizard who lives in the woods. I mean, he rides a sleigh pulled by giant rabbits and has a true bird's nest in his hair and has a friend hedgehog named Sebastian. How could he not be fantastic?
The dwarves are sure their mountain is no longer inhabited by the dragon and they are determined to reclaim what rightfully belongs to their people. They join together, a ragtag band of big-bearded yet short and stocky men following the prince. This dwarf showed great bravery in the war against the dragon and his story is told as the movie moves forward. Perhaps the only thing he fears is a certain white orc whom he believes to be dead, so what's to fear? Aside from their manners and hate of elves, the dwarves are completely likable--and they have great singing voices. So off they go to reclaim their things--bringing along Bilbo Baggins (apparently a thief) and Gandalf (who comes and goes as he pleases).
Did I mention they find the ring?
The only problem I have with the movie is that it will be given to us in three instalments--which are almost three hours each. Why must we wait so long to see more?

Word of Warning: Orcs are nasty looking, and it's that simple. I mean, aside from the whole chase-you-down-to-kill you thing, that's really the only thing to worry about. Unless you're afraid of giant spiders. But really, all the violence and horror revolves around the orcs--and it really is nasty at times. One orc loses his arm from the elbow down and in a later scene he is seen with a forked spear replacing his arm, a pointed end sticking out his severed elbow. An orc is devoured off screen by giant dog-like creatures. Gollum beats and then, off screen, devours a goblin (I believe that's what it was). While we do not see it happen, we do hear Gollum commenting on the texture.

Note on the Author: Peter Jackson directed the other Lord of the Rings movies and I've heard he combined some other Middle Earth history not included in The Hobbit book in order to truly tell the story as it was meant. If that's true, I'm glad he took the liberty of making such a move. So far, it's turned out wonderfully. I can't wait for more.

Friday, March 8, 2013


Welcome to our (Maria Gianna and Stacy's) blog! We both are very strongly Catholic, and believe that our Faith and morals affect everything we do. We realize that it is often difficult to find morally acceptable media in our culture today, and would like to make it easier for parents and older teens to navigate their way through this dangerous jungle.
We would like to point out that we will be reviewing many forms of media with mature themes, and would like to warn parents of younger teens that this blog should probably not be viewed without parental supervision. We will try to keep everything as tame as possible, but cannot promise that the content here will always be age-appropriate.
We hope you find our reviews to be helpful! Please feel free to leave comments if you have any questions. Also, we do take suggestions for books and movies to review, but we cannot promise to review any piece of media that we have serious moral objections to.

Thank you!
~Maria Gianna and Stacy

P.S. Please forgive the fact that our Chesterton widget does not have a picture of Chesterton, but rather of George Washington. It is disappointing, but unfixable. This does not detract, however, from the awesomeness of Chesterton, nor does it negate the coolness of the widget.