• Culture and Entertainment

    Movies I’ve Watched Recently

    Since I must have sickened myself on Hallmark, I haven’t watched many since Christmas (thankfully). The last year or two had an embarrassingly large percentage of these movies. I have too big a TBW list to waste time like that. On to the new-to-me movies of recent months:

    Star Wars. On a whim Dad took Flowerchild and I to see this the day after our last family Christmas celebration. I’m still not a Star Wars fan-girl (I’m not sure I really am a fan-girl on much period, I usually get sick of things that I over-watch/over-read and hear too much about) although I left rather infatuated with Kylo Ren for a time (and no, it wasn’t solely on account of the shirtless scene; he was the only whole MAN in the film: complex, confident, intriguing). The Kylo-Rey parts were the only good parts to the movie. The rest was decidedly dull, manufactured, and absurd. Mom asked Dad and I if we liked it and when we said we thought it was “okay,” she asked why we went, and we decided we’d fallen for the Star Wars hype (Dad was a Star Wars nerd in his day, and I think he’s embarrassed about that, lol).

    Penelope. This is quite funny. And baby James McAvoy is SO cute. However, part of the end freaks me out (kind of like when I look too closely at the Beauty and Beast story). Comparing perhaps ugly (unusual I think, unless a person makes themselves ugly, most people are plain, rather than ugly) people to animals with this inside/outside beauty plot, um, NO. A PIG okay!!!!!

    I am Dragon. This blogger reviewed this movie and mentioned that it was on Amazon Prime (I also had a free Prime trial recently). Because I was having trouble finding much on Prime to watch and because I thought the movie sounded intriguing, I watched it. It started out scarier (I’m a baby) than I anticipated but then didn’t end up being as scary as the beginning led me to expect. The plot and feel is like an old folktale or fairytale which is really fascinating. All the elements are so foreign (it’s a Russian film) and it all works together to evoke that aforementioned feel (except for some jarringly modern music in one part, and I thought that some of the scenery looked tropical, which didn’t fit at all although it was beautiful), to a Westerner anyway. These elements include: the archaic, guttural sounding Russian language; the old, un-Western clothing, fabric, and music; the look of the landscape and colors; the look of the people, especially Arman. The film is hauntingly lovely and mysteriously foreign (also, Russia is just so . . . strange . . . and rather disturbing, even the very few less disturbing periods; I’m reading Brothers Karamazov as of this typing, btw).

    Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. I keep forgetting that I watched this . . . and I think the film deserves that. Whoever has written and directed these latter two of the PotC series has been severely lacking in the genius of the writer/directors of the first three films. The fourth I thought far too dark and not as interesting as the former three, and Jack is not himself, he isn’t in this one either. I anticipated this one being terribly frightening, but it was ludicrously not so. The bad guy was played and talked about as being terrifying, but he clearly wasn’t. And the British were knocked off like a joke. The girl seemed more of a main character and Will’s son (WILL’S son) nothing, and she was stereotyped, one-dimensional, and obnoxious. Actually, so many characters were trivial, as were the various plot threads, and yet the first three movies had multiple characters and plots lines and all of them were well-developed and none developed at the expense of others. A disappointing film.

    This Beautiful Fantastic. I’d read about this on two blogs which got me interested. I found this movie on Hulu during my trial, so I watched it then. Both reviewers mentioned shipping Vernon and Bella (so I was prepared to do this as well especially since I didn’t care for the looks of the actor who played Billy), so I expected a love triangle. The movie didn’t have one (which is good, these are almost never done well); Bella and Vernon (who was almost old enough to be Bella’s father) didn’t flirt, had no chemistry, and no displayed no interest (expect I thought I saw a flicker of what I thought was hurt, possibly only because I was looking for it, on Vernon’s face after he learns of Billy, and this look could be interpreted many ways), and Vernon was fatherly, older brotherly in manner. I didn’t ship them, you can’t when there is nothing to ship. However, I didn’t care for the love story. The way the filmmakers handled it, I felt took away from the movie, from Bella’s journey. And it didn’t fit. The relationship between the main three characters, the setting, Bella, etc. were all complex and intertwined and quirky. The library life didn’t seem as “real” or as solid a part of Bella’s life. Billy didn’t fit in the inner circle, didn’t come into it; that would’ve needed a sequel to feel finished and right. He was not a full participant, so that either should have been developed in another movie or the filmmakers should have lengthened this movie to include it. That was my loquacious explanation of issue #1 with the love story. #2 is the absolutely absurd stock drama of seeing Billy with another woman. Come on, come up with something that that is 1) Fitting to Bella personally (the rest of the story is unique, Bella is different, why such a stock storyline that would be terrible for a movie with a more average character?), 2) More fitting to the timeline and situation (she barely knows him), and 3) More believable and believably forgivable (“I’m a triplet” Are you serious? Don’t be absurd, don’t come up with ludicrous, cheap, tricky twists). This is terrible, cheap plot manipulation. I just felt that this was so out of sync with the rest of the movie. I’m not even sure that romance fit at all with the time frame of the film. I loved the development, plot, resolution, and depth of the rest of the film and characters. I definitely think it is worth watching.

    Spider Man: Homecoming. When I first heard that The Amazing Spider Man series was ending, I was disappointed because I enjoyed those movies, and I wasn’t happy with the new actor or his portrayal in Civil War. Eventually, I got over my pique, but I didn’t know what to expect/didn’t have expectations except that it was good because it had been so long since most bloggers mentioned it (and I don’t like reading reviews of movies I intend to watch until after watching them). Musicalmiss, Flowerchild, and I watched it one day in February. I LOVED it. Later that week Flowerchild, Doctordiva, and I watched it again. I want to own it, and I can’t wait for the next one to come out. Whispers, I think I might like it better than The Amazing Spider ManThis movie is SO well-written and well acted. So much cuteness and hilarity. I can like both this story line and The Amazing Spider Man; actually, I think that the Spider Man/Peter Parker story line is simply my favorite superhero story line. I loved that Peter always did the right thing despite all his temptation to cheaply try to win attention; I hope that never changes. Peter is so precious and adorkable, and his friend is hilarious, and I love the hints of M.J.’s interest (won’t they make an awesome couple?!). I didn’t like Peter with Liz, and I didn’t know the other girl WAS M.J. until the very end, and I couldn’t really tell that she liked him the first viewing, but I definitely saw it the second time around; I like that she isn’t puppy-dog pining for him, and that he isn’t being an insensitive jerk, he just doesn’t really know her plus he is such a baby, plus his little fan-boy crush on Liz. Oh, and that prom pick-up scene, what ACTING!!!! Oh, I could watch that movie again.

  • Culture and Entertainment

    What I Watched Recently

    I don’t think I watched many new movies. I can only remember one new movie, a Hallmark, A Country Wedding which was super cute. We rewatched a lot of movies including North and South, That Darn Cat, and Parent Trap (I got all these for my birthday).

    However, I have watched a lot of travel shows over the last couple months

    Rick Steves Europe
    This my least favorite. A bit more touristy/watered down history. Not enough culture or interesting details.

    Little Europe (this featured five micro countries which can all fit into the sixth smallest, Luxembourg)
    Israel (not Europe, clearly, but still under this show)

    The Curious Traveler
    I like the focus on architecture and historical details.

    Kotor, Montenegro
    Oslo, Norway
    Bordeaux, France
    Venice, Italy

    Born to Explore
    This is my favorite. He focuses on food, nature, handicrafts, culture, animals, etc. The Namibia show focused entirely on cheetah conservation. I think the shows on Turkey and Namibia may have been my favorites.

    Turkey
    India
    Shetland Islands, Scotland
    Namibia

    Wild Alaska Live Special
    Anyone else grow up with the Kratt brothers’ shows? Pretty sure I had a crush on Chris. When I was little I watched Kratt’s Creatures every so often. When my youngest sisters were little they watched Zoboomafoo. Us older siblings watched them too, but I apparently wasn’t as devoted; the little girls can remember so many episodes and details.

    Well, they’ve aged considerably, but still apparently talk the same way as they did in their kids’ shows. A bit jarring. But these three 2+ hour long specials on Alaska were magnificent. They filmed these during the Alaskan salmon runs at a couple locations including Tongass Natural Forest and Katmai National Park. The show focused on how salmon is the keystone to the entire Alaskan ecosystem and feature all sorts of Alaskan wildlife: brown (called Grizzlies in the lower 48 and black bears, beavers, otters, orcas, humpback whales, bald eagles, gray wolves, an absolutely adorable porcupine, salmon (of course), and some of the ugliest animals I’ve ever seen, walruses. I had forgotten they existed, and I must have only ever seen photos and drawings of the supermodels of this animal. They appallingly ugly. Anyway, the whole show showcases the absolute gorgeousness of this area of our country. Glaciers, lakes, forests, fjords, etc. Well worth a watch or two. (I watched a considerable amount again with my sister who hadn’t seen it the first time).

    Ireland’s Wild Coast Special
    A two-hour show featuring man making his way around the Atlantic coast of Ireland in an old-style boat. A rather softer part of nature, compared to Alaska. Even the salmon look different because of the milder environment; they didn’t go throught the bizarrely dramatic changes the Alaskan salmon did. Birds (including the ludicrous, adorable puffins) comprised a huge proportion of the wildlife, but we also saw humpback whales again, a blue shark, a basking shark, red deer (they are huge, my sister thought they looked like cows; the mule deer out West were huge too, not like our over super abundant white-tailed deer), red squirrel (much prettier than our aggressive gray squirrel which has apparently invaded and harmed red squirrel populations in Ireland and the UK), and pine martin.

    I was looking up the name of the last animal and discovered the last wolf was killed in Ireland in the 18th century. I guess that is rather more recent than I would have thought although I usually think of England in terms of that (and they became extinct there two centuries earlier; that is a big difference though). Wolves are “extinct” if you can call it that in my state and region which is JUST fine with me. They are one of the most dangerous predators to humans and their animals. By wolf, I mean gray wolf. I think the coyotes around here may have red wolf blended in them.

  • Reading

    Books I Read and Movies I Watched in July

    Let’s just say this was an embarrassing month. I read a whopping 2 books and watched and re-watched a TON of Hallmark.

    Books
    So I read two books . . . but only one new one. I did read on plenty of other books that I will be finishing up in August (but that I easily could have finished in July, ahem).

    Reread
    A Tangled Web
    Since I was not super motivated with my main stack of books, I decided to read something I wanted to read. I’ve since increased my lighter and fun reading pile. I usually have plenty of fun novels, but they are usually shorter, and I read them first, plus this time I didn’t finish at least two.

    Anyway, I had forgotten some of this, and I love all the details. I laughed out loud at parts. I went back and re-read parts again after I had finished re-reading.

    New Read
    Cheaper by the Dozen
    Dad started reading this to us when we were small; he may have finished it, but what I found most memorable were the times he stopped because of not age appropriate issues. Definitely adult areas, but written in a way a child wouldn’t understand, I think. I was surprised at this for the time period though.

    Movies
    At some point, I might start writing down all my re-watches because I need to limit my movie viewing. I don’t want to watch movies at the same pace or higher than I read whether they be new or not. I’m not sure if I’ve listed everything, but this is bad good enough. I don’t have much to say. We, of course, enjoyed the Thin Man mystery, and some of the Hallmarks (the last two listed) were dumb/boring, some were cute and funny (the first two listed) and one had a really funny guy but the rest was blah.

    Classics
    Shadow of the Thin Man

    Rewatches
    Hallmarks
    How to Steal a Million
    Roman Holiday

    Hallmark
    Surprised by Love
    Appetite For Love
    Moonlight in Vermont
    Autumn in the Vineyard
    Chance At Romance

  • Culture and Entertainment

    June Movies

    I’ve already written on our Star Wars marathon, so I will just skip that.
    We watched the rest of the Thin Man movies our library has (After the Thin ManAnother Thin Man, and The Thin Man Goes Home, so we still need to see Shadow of the Thin Man). I watched the first with sister #3. Then Song of the Thin Man with that sister and sister #4. Sister #2 joined in for the three this month and so all of us at home are now hooked.  We’ve added this series to our buy list. Now murder mysteries aren’t exactly my thing, well the murder part anyway. It is one thing to read them, but I grew up with a phobia of bodies and bones. And the first one freaked me out. But I do love mysteries, and the thing about these movies is Nick and Nora’s relationship and shenanigans. Sister #2 said Nick and Nora are relationship goals; yep.
    I watched Miss Potter by myself because I never could get anyone interesting. It was sweet and sad, and I wish the film showed her other love story. Not a favorite film.
    La La Land. I thought the concept of a modern musical was fun (once my sister told me it was modern; I’d thought by the clothes that it was supposed to be set in old times). Granted I didn’t like all the party numbers and the first scene reminded me of a silly Disney musical number, but City of Stars and the couple’s dance numbers?! I wasn’t wowed, but I liked it . . . wondering what the end was and guessing by what my sister said. I knew it was sad, but she said she know how it was sad. Which made me rather guess the ending. Except I wasn’t sad. I was mad. Disgusted might me a better term. Here is what I wrote for my Letterboxd review:
     “Okay, that ending was absurd. Why bother to make a film about a “love” story that doesn’t work out?! That’s not “realism” that’s absolute flakiness. The ending isn’t creative or whatever, its feeble and pathetic. “Not working out” means “someone wasn’t that interested” which means the whole love story is a lie. And it made her side of the story that much more silly and flaky. Stereotypical acting dream, stereotypical actor’s shallowness and fickleness in relationships.”

    A sister suggested I just watch it and skip the end. I think I will do that because some parts were SO cute.

  • Reading

    What I Read and Watched May

    I didn’t read much in May, so I thought that I would combine with June . . . but June is shaping up to be the fullest reading (or completion) month yet, so I will combine May books and movies.
    Books
    The Song of Glory and Ghost (second book in Outlaws of Time series) by N.D. Wilson. Interesting, I suppose. The plot dragged in the first book, and sped up unbelievably for this one. I prefer his stand-alone books and his first trilogy to his more recent series (and I’m still waiting for the end of Ashtown Burials; the last book left with a whole new can of worms opened).
    Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi. I greatly enjoyed this, but I do think it is kind of misleading. He comes from a privileged, sheltered background and learned from those who cherry picked their doctrines, history, and teaching or from those who learned from those. He points this out, but I still feel that he is trying to translate his experience to far, even for a Western Muslim, he certainly goes too far to include Muslim and Muslim majority countries. I think it’s a good starting point for learning about Islam and Islamic apologetics if you read critically and intend to study further.
    From Pride to Humility: A Biblical Perspective by Stuart Scott. I finally read this booklet Mom gave me.
    Bookish Things
    I often have used scraps of paper for bookmarks, but I’ve gotten better with using bookmarks of late. I had a bookmark from a birthday card from my parents that had sweet words (like favorite things or something) on it and was pink with a pink ribbon. I didn’t think to laminate it to preserve it, and so I wore it out, and instead of ending my stupidity there, I think I threw it out instead of putting it in a scrapbook. Sometimes I really want to go back in time and slap myself hard.
    My bookmark collection (I have three more of the Jane Austen quote set; I won them in a giveaway). The Harry Potter ones I haven’t used; I like them for decorative purposes. I’ve had the Switzerland one for probably a decade and a half (my grandmother went on a Beth Moore trip there), and I’ve had the metal one probably almost as long. The two on the top left I’ve found in books I’ve bought or library books. I intentionally got the two cat ones because I just love that art (I also have the greeting card set).
    Oh, and more on my blonde-ness. I’ve discovered “stats” on Goodreads. I’ve been on there 8 years, people. When I found a stats page via Google, I didn’t realize it was something always on my home-page; what an idiot. Anyway, I LOVE this. I can look at what I’ve read year by year in total books and pages and see what the longest book for each year was, and I can see what proportion of books from different shelves and see the number of books by my rating. Goldmine.
    Movies
    Rogue One. The horrible pragmatic (which doesn’t work) “ends justify the means” worldview that pervades the rebel forces ruins this as a good movie for me. The plot and acting are considerably better than the previous Star Wars movie. Why couldn’t the morality be? Especially because I like Cassian (whose morality is the most, um, questionable).
    Swing Time. Boring.
    An American in Paris. Boring. I skipped a lot of this, mostly songs.
    Song of the Thin Man. This is a much lighter version (although, it is still a murder mystery with more than one murder, though not NEAR as many as the first). My sister who hadn’t seen the first one now wants to see more these.
    Two of my sisters also started watching (and re-watching) all the Star Wars movies in order (except Rogue One) at the end of May through the beginning of June. I’d seen IV and V over a decade ago (I think I was grounded or something when the rest of the family watched the VI, lol). I watched II a couple years after that and then VI several years after that. Then I watched the newest shortly after it came out. The two younger girls hadn’t seen I-III, I think. We laughed and mocked the films quite a bit. We decided we still didn’t “get” the Star Wars fandom, but we thought the movies were fun. I’m not sure I’d waste much time re-watching them, especially not the first episodes.

  • Reading

    What I Read and Watched April

    Yeah, I don’t think the quarterly options are going to work, I had to cut down what I wanted to say far too much for the first quarter. And this is going to be long for one month even though I read less than my average last three months. My sister got married at the end of the month, so yeah, my focusing ability ended about that week. I only watched one new to me movie that I can remember, the 1961 The Parent Trap, and we watched that twice and want to own, definitely recommend as its hilarious. And then I found the Studio C/Brooklyn and Bailey Parent Trap spoof.

    Re-Reads
    Northanger Abbey
    Persuasion
    Pride and Prejudice

    Yep, Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice are still my favorites. Pride and Prejudice is lighter and funnier and Persuasion is shorter and deeper than all the rest. I still don’t understand the worship of Darcy; his character isn’t that developed really. You get a clearer understanding of Captain Wentworth in the shorter book than you do of Darcy. I like Persuasion as a romance but Pride and Prejudice as an interesting read, the romance isn’t much (nor is it meant to be). Again, I still don’t think I understand the level of satire and sarcasm in these novels (and the wider JA culture seems to either not see it or refuse to see it; I mean, people, she literally mocked the type of fangirling and sentimentalism that goes on in her novels). And yet I’m disgusting with the excess of passion in some Brontë novels. Surely there is a balance between total mockery and total excess?! I’ve never had one favorite author anyway, but I think JA dropped out of the top years ago. When I first read them, it was really both my first foray into classics and into reading again. I was a very literal person then, and I enjoyed a period of history I didn’t know exist (well, clearly I knew it existed historically, but I mean culturally). Everything about the experience was novel. Plus, so many people had read or knew of and liked and discussed JA. I think we need more Dickens and Brontë and Gaskell and Alcott and Montgomery discussions.

    Fiction
    Fridays with the Wizards by Jessica Day George
    I read this out of order. This series is the poorest written and most juvenile of her books. Cute bu meh, is the best description.

    Dear Enemy by Jean Webster. Some of this I liked, but the small fun parts mingled with obnoxiousness, inanity, repetitiveness and um, a SERIOUS strains of eugenics. Clears throat EUGENICS! Perhaps carelessly recommending it to my sisters wasn’t a good idea; I mean I don’t think I took this issue seriously enough.

    Nonfiction
    Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving through Deep Difference by John D. Inazu. Yeah, um not as good as his first (plus it lowers my appreciation of his first). I think his reasoning is both lazy and disingenuous. I think that he tried to please too many people or to protect his back plus he had some preaching to the choir. A few things make it two stars rather than one, his definition of pluralism and his call for civic duty. But again, the people that would listen aren’t the ones that are the major problem. I did have three stars but after talking about it with my dad and then looking over all my notes, my distaste deepened. Read The Intolerance of Tolerance. That book is intellectually sound.

    Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert. I bumped this book down (from four stars to three) also after further thought. I also thought he was being intellectually dishonest in skimming over explanations and presuming knowledge (although Dad said British people would understand, I still think the terms he used were lazy and polarizing, particularly in a global world with such a subject) plus I thought his choice of style, narration with some overly specific details without explanation or background, was not the best. I’m not sure I consider this overly scholarly scholarly though the author is a historian. But what is deserving of applause is that he did not make the issue zero-sum.

    Note: I’m trying to move my site and update things, but I’m having issues, so its taking longer than I thought. I’m not even sure what my domain name will be, but I will try to keep everything updated as I progress.