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Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Rave (or Raving) Reviews category.

Frozen Melted My Heart: The Remix

OK, now that people have read my blog that is spoiler free, I’ll add my additional thoughts on the cinematic adventure that is Frozen.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

  • Did other Frozen viewers understand that Kristoff was an orphan from the opening song? I didn’t catch that and I’m pretty quick when it comes to movies. Yeah, I know, little kiddos (for whom this film was made…) won’t care about this, but as an adult, I was a bit flummoxed by this reveal halfway through the movie.
  • So Elsa… I get it, she can shoot ice from her fingertips, but the movie never really explained why or who this happened. I mean, it’s super cool (pun intended!) that she can do this and her ice palace is SA-WEET, but how did she acquire these powers? Why does she have them and not Anna? I feel like this raises so many questions and leaves so few answers. *sigh*
  • Does it bother anyone else that the movie’s entire plot could have been avoided if Elsa and Anna’s parents had just let the two of them continue to play together? I mean, the “cure” to Elsa’s ice powers is love, right? Elsa and Anna loved each other; they were best friends! I think she was a smart enough kid that she would have caught on pretty quickly how this whole ice power stuff worked if she had been allowed to be with the one person she loved so much – her sister! So, if she were able to be free and feel that love, she would have A) been much happier and B) been able to control her powers. Couldn’t the trolls her clued her parents in on this?

Now, these “flaws” don’t diminish my appreciation for this movie, but they do beg some thought, right?

Also, I just have to get this out there… I called it (“it” being that Hans was a two-faced son of a jackal). I knew that Hans was a no good scoundrel as soon as he started his duet with Anna. I know, I know, I have no proof that I knew this that early, but trust me on this one, I just knew. NO Disney protagonist is able to find true love that quickly and that easily. With Disney, there has to be an obstacle!

  • Beast was a, well, Beast.
  • Aladdin was a street rat.
  • Simba was (supposably) a killer.
  • Eric had legs.
  • John was white.
  • Snow White was a bit dead.
  • Aurora was sleepy/cursed (same thing, right?).

Seriously, this list goes on and on and on. In a Disney movie, there MUST be an obstacle to love. If you didn’t smell a rat when you saw Hans in Frozen, well, good for you… you aren’t a cynic.


The Enemy’s Gate is Down

Rarely do I say this, but the recent book-to-movie endeavor, “Ender’s Game,” was a home run. When I read Ender’s Game, I was instantly a fan. It was brilliant and engaging, and it was just disturbing enough to make you sit back and rethink your entire life and the depravity of human nature. For all those reasons, I was skeptical about the movie. The first time I saw the trailer, I looked at my husband and said with supreme confidence, “they are going to screw this up.” Yup, I am that jaded to book-to-movie attempts.

Well, I’ll admit it when I’m wrong. I was very wrong.

Here’s why it was so good: Casting and sets.

The casting was awesome; young Asa, though not the age that Ender was in the book (and understandably so) was a star. He conveyed the emotion of Ender without being over the top. Harrison Ford was good enough to make you question up until the end whether you (“you” being those who haven’t read the book) should like his character or not. And then there were the sets. When I read a book, I envision the scene. This movie made the vision in my head….come to life. I’m speaking mostly to the game room; it was perfect!

Here’s the deal, my biggest fear was that the movie wasn’t going to convey the internal thought process of Ender. The book is built on his thoughts and emotions. How do you convey that in a movie? You don’t. This is where so many book-to-movie transitions die a painful and gruesome death. This is where Ender’s Game got it right. They didn’t try to convey all of it, they simply told the story using just enough of it to move the story along. The didn’t force it. They also didn’t try to do things to enhance a story that is fine the way it is. The cinematic treachery that was Prince Caspian is a perfect example of how a movie might do this. Caspian took a perfectly good story and tried to “make it better” and in the process, the creators of the movie took a jagged and bloody knife and slit the throat of this would-be great film. Ender’s Game didn’t do this. Though there are many other books in the series that they could have tried to rob from, they didn’t. The creators told the story in Ender’s Game and didn’t try to whore the film out using other plot twists or climaxes. *Insert standing ovation here*

So, to sum up, Ender’s Game is a home run. Go see it.


A Reformed Snob

How a sisterly challenge changed my reading perspective.

I’m a literature snob. I admit it. If it is listed on a banned book list, I’m all over it. If it’s popular fiction, I’ll add it to my reading queue. If it’s a classic, I’ll probably enjoy it. So, how does this make me a snob? I’m a literature snob because I want to read what I want to read when I want to read it; I don’t take personal suggestions.

That all changed, however, when my sister issued a challenge that I couldn’t refuse. Her challenge was simple: I’ll read one of yours if you read one of mine.

A bit of history might be handy right about now, so here you go.

My sister, Vicki, is 2002 graduate of Purdue University with a degree in English. I started out as an English major, then opted to be an English minor, then dropped that possible career path altogether to pursue various degrees in communications (graduating in 2010). Regardless of our degrees, however, we are both avid readers. She usually leans toward 19th century British literature; I generally gravitate toward American literature.

While enjoying dinner a few weeks ago, we began discussing the finer points of our respective genre preferences, but our debate was abruptly stymied by our lack of expertise concerning the other’s preferred genre. I don’t care to be uninformed on a given topic, let alone one that involves literature, so this didn’t settle well with me. My wise sister then laid down the aforementioned challenge and I couldn’t refuse (in general, I lack the ability to turn down a challenge… they are a weakness of mine).

In order to make this a fair trade, we established some ground rules. We would each select works from any genre within our personal libraries for the other to read providing that 1) the other hadn’t read it before, and 2) we were able to intelligently discuss any book that we selected for the other to read.

With the rules in place, we each went home pondering what piece of literature we would select for the other to experience. After perusing my shelves, I selected The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. It has been a favorite of mine since I first read it in high school and I thought for sure Vicki would hate the style of writing (Yes, you read that right, I selected a book I thought she wouldn’t like… I thought it would liven up the exchange!). Vicki selected The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier, a lesser-known work by the author of Rebecca.

Though I attempted to keep an open mind, I was skeptical at best about liking the du Maurier work. It just seemed too stogy for my taste. But, true to my word, I hunkered down that evening and began reading. The first evening, I stayed up way too late and read half the book! The story and the writing fascinated me; it was brilliant! The next day, I texted Vicki to let her know that I was hooked and she informed me that she had finished The Outsiders in one sitting; she loved it!

Upon finishing The Scapegoat a few days later, I realized that my snobbery had been keeping me from enjoying some excellent books. Much to my chagrin, I had to admit that the book swap had been a brilliant idea, one that had truly opened my eyes. It’s as Dr. Seuss says in I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Hmm… I wonder what she will give me to read next.


“It looks pretty cool, but I think it’s bad.”

I’m a Will Smith fan; I openly admit that. But my affection for the ageless man that is Will Smith notwithstanding, I wasn’t thrilled by the trailer for After Earth, therefore, I had no desire to see the movie. It wasn’t for lack of a storyline in the clips, but rather for my general dislike for post-apocalyptic or apocalyptic movies. However, through a series of—somewhat unfortunate—events, my friend and I sat through Epic and After Earth at the drive in.

Epic was a kid’s movie at heart with recognizable voices and a cute plot. What made it delightful was how pretty it was. It wasn’t as beautiful as, say, Atonement or Avatar, but it wasn’t meant to be. It was a children’s movie and it stayed true to that. It had Cinderella-like predictability, with a dash of Fern Gully thrown in for good measure. Don’t waste good money to see it in theaters, but it wouldn’t be a bad RedBox flick.

**Spoilers**

Then came After Earth (Click here for a quick synopsis). My summary is this: It should have focused on character development or action, not both, and the trailer lied. Allow to unpack those thoughts in reverse order.

The trailer for this movie (not film, movie) made it seem as though the characters were going to be fighting off all the evil creatures on Earth every moment of every day. They didn’t. In fact, one of the creatures on Earth actually saves Kitai (Jaden Smith)…TWICE! And Cypher Raige (Will Smith), who is stuck in half a crashed plane for the ENTIRE movie, isn’t attacked by bad creatures once, even though his legs are a bloody mess and there are rotting corpses around him that smell tasty, I assume, to the local creatures. Also, there is only one truly terrible creature on Earth, based on the movie, and that creature (Ursa) isn’t even from Earth! It was being transported in the same shuttle that Cypher and Kitai are on. Why was it being transported? Oh, I have no idea… this is one of the several unexplained parts of the story. I won’t even get into all those unanswered questions; it’s too early in the morning for my blood pressure to rise that much.

Sigh… deep breathes…

Okay, moving on. This movie should have been about character development or action, not both. Cypher and Kitai aren’t close  at the beginning of the movie and by the end, Cypher is saluting his son as an equal. So how do we get from Point A to Point B? Why, we throw this father/son due onto a hostile planet and hope for the best, of course. The father has little faith in the son, and the son has a lot to prove. There is also a dead sister and his father’s reputation mixed in there too, but quite honestly, I don’t care enough to explain any more than I already have. See what I mean though? Great fodder for a character-based movie. But instead of allowing this to be the focus, the powers that be tried to add in all sorts of action. Now, character development in this film without action would have sucked, it’s true, but a bit more focus would have been nice. As it was, I was confused as to why I should care (more than the human side of me not wanting a cute kid to die on a hostile planet, of course).

So sum up: This movie is a C+ at best. The fact that I felt tricked into watching an M. Night Shyamalan movie notwithstanding (did YOU see his name mentioned in a trailer?!), the story had a good message. However, that good message was drowned in a sea of unanswered questions and misconceptions.

Oh, and in case you are wondering about the title of this blog, it’s a line from the movie (one of the few clever lines when you see it in context) and I thought it made a very fitting title for this cinematic review.


Yippee-Ki-Yay-Mother-Russia

I went into “A Good Day to Die Hard” with low expectations, I admit. I exited the theater, however, feeling pleasantly surprised. I appreciate when a movie can make fun of itself and when a franchise understands that it is time to move on. As this movie had decent acting, lots of explosions, a reasonably good plot, and was self aware, I give it a B-.

Don’t go into this movie expecting to have you mind blown and you will leave with a smile on your face. There were some plot twists along the way, but the gist of this short film was, in my opinion, to keep the franchise alive by passing the torch. Bruce Willis is getting up there in years and though he is a damn fine action actor, I think the powers that be made it pretty clear that he is passing the Die Hard torch to his son, John McClain, Jr. (also known as Jack and played by Jai Courtney).

No spoiler warnings for this review, just a thought to parents: Don’t underestimate your kids. It could bite you… or not.

To sum up: If you’re loaded – see it in theaters, explosions are better on the big screen. If your broke, this movie can definitly wait until it hits RedBox.


Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

I’m a fan of taking an old story and making it new again, assuming, of course, that the remake (and retake) is done well. That being said, I award Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters a B on my movie rating scale.

Though a bit more gory than expected (a troll stepping on a dude’s head, another dude exploding from an excess of maggot ingestion, dudettes flying through razor wire … you get the idea), it had a pretty impressive story line considering its youthful origin. Based on the classic fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel, this film took that basic plot and elaborated a bit. Instead of living happily ever after, the brother/sister team that cooked the witch that tried to eat them spends their life getting back at witches in general. But, is there a moral to the story? Yes, there is (because every good fairy tale has a moral). H&G learn that not all witches are bad. Who knew?! Oh and *SPOILER ALERT* Gretel finds out that she has a lot in common with their prey.

*SPOILER ALERT* and train of thought continued: The good witch/bad witch thing wasn’t a bad concept, but there was very little resolution to it. So Gretel is a good witch? Or isn’t she? Does she just have the blood of a good witch in her (since she is female) or does she actually use her witchy ways? So many unanswered questions…

So, we have a badass bro/sis team of witch hunters, enough action to be getting on with, and a decent plot… where’s the bad? I don’t know if I would call it bad, but, hmmm, how shall I phrase this: Mind the surprise nudity! I’m not a prude, but it was a bit random.

On the acting front: I’m a fan of Jeremy Renner (Hansel), and Gemma Arterton (Gretel) was a nice surprise considering she had to keep up with Hawkeye/the new Jason Bourne. Their relationship, however, wasn’t incredibly well developed. You just see snippets of how much they care about each other. This unsettled relationship bothered me at times and then I reminded myself that this is an action movie and I felt better. I also had to remind myself that this movie isn’t about well-developed and complex characters; it’s about a team of witch hunters. It’s a frickin’ cool profession, so I am willing to forgive this character-complexity oversight.

On a more random note, thanks to a massive ingestion of candy at the hand of the mean ol’ witch that tries to eat them in their youth, Hansel has diabetes. They don’t call it that in the movie, but in my mind it was a pretty obvious allusion to it. Am I wrong? Personally, I felt that this was a random addition to the plot, but not a necessary one. The only time it comes into play is in the last fight scene and even then, it’s so minimal you could skip over it without a thought.

To sum up, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is a good one. If you have the extra cash, check it out in theaters. Gore is always better in theaters (as is Jeremy Renner). If you don’t have the extra dough, don’t sweat it. Redbox will suit this one just fine.

Oh, keep an eye out for the films most lovable character, Edward, who is far smarter than anyone gives him credit for since he sees Gretel for what she truly is long before most of the audience does.

Click here for a cool H&G fairy tale sketch.


List Lovers Unite!

I have a slight obsession with book lists (i.e. reading lists). I’m not sure if it’s a pathological need to ensure that I am, in fact, well read, or if it’s the simple love of lists (and the subsequent ability to check things off of them). Either way, there is still a deep-seeded love for book lists deep within my soul.

I stumbled across a blog entitled “10 Books You Must Read to Your Daughter (Or How to Keep Your Daughter From Ending Up Like That Horrid Girl in Twilight)” and couldn’t help but read it. I was compelled to peruse this blogger’s thoughts. I mean, come on, aren’t you?

I probably should preface this list by saying that I struggle to criticize a book that I haven’t read, so, though I don’t think Twilight will be the next Pride & Prejudice (damn, that would be depressing…), I did at least read the entire series so that I knew what all the hype was about. Actually, a friend and I have attended the opening night (or, at least, the opening weekend) of each of the Twilight movies. That was an adventure. But I digress. Back to the list!

The books on this blogger’s list were as follows (my thoughts are in green)…

The Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery (maybe just Green Gables and Avonlea)
The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (a classic, though written at a young reader level, that every girl should read)
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (good ol’ JK)
Till We Have Face by C.S. Lewis (a lesser-known work of Lewis’, but a brilliant must-read!)
The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien (don’t be fooled by how some characters are portrayed in the movies!)
All six Jane Austen classics
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (I’d mark this one off the list, but that’s just me)
A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset (this one has been added to my list: Need To Read)

I was impressed with the list that the blogger had assembled. I not only agree with the list, but whole-heartedly support her suggestions. I don’t have a daughter, but if I did (or do someday), I would want her to mirror the characters in these novels and not the tripe a protagonist (yes, Bella) from Twilight. I have read all but one of the books on her list and, as I noted, that book has been added to my Need To Read list. This list left me in high-spirits. 

A few minutes after climbing onto my high horse, however, I stumbled upon another list (“10 Books Every Girl Should Read in Her Twenties”) that left me in far lower spirits for two reasons: 1) I haven’t read the majority of the books suggested, and 2) the list suggests these books for women to read while in their 20s. Why does point #2 leave my spirits a bit tarnished? Because I only have three years left in my 20s. That thought hit my like a stampeding rhino as I read her blog and I sobbed in the corner for a bit thanks to that startling realization.

Her list went as follows (my thoughts are, again, in green)…

Confessions of a Shopaholic (Shopaholic, #1) by Sophie Kinsella
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Oh, I’ve read this one!)
Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank
Bitches on a Budget: Sage Advice for Surviving Tough Times in Style by Rosalyn Hoffman
What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self by Ellyn Spragins
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
What Did I Do Wrong? by Liz Pryor
20-Something, 20-Everything: A Quarter-life Woman’s Guide to Balance and Direction by Christine Hassler
Single: The Art of Being Satisfied, Fulfilled and Independent by Judy Ford

Yup, that’s right, ladies & gentleman. I have only read one of the books on this wise woman’s list and I’m feeling less-than-well-read and a bit ill because of that (if I were a color, I’d be brownish-green… the color of algae on a lake in midsummer).

But, enough sulking! I must press on toward my newly-minted goal: to read all the books mentioned in this post that I haven’t, thus far in life, cracked the cover of. Well, “cracked the cover” is flowery of language as I will, I’m sure, read them on my Nook and therefore, no covers will be cracked. It will be more of an “electronic pages will be swiped from right to left with the tap of a finger,” but you get the point.

The the immortal words of the 10th Doctor, “Allons-y!”


“Snow White” and the “Mirror, Mirror”

Two movies have come out recently that have a similar theme: Snow White. I don’t consider her to be all the great of a princess, so the resent rush to recreate her tale baffles me a bit, however, Hollywood has it’s own agenda I guess. After seeing both films, I have opinions (big shock!?).

My opinion (in short)… One is good, the other is bad

The best part about my opinion is that, based on their previews, my presumptions about these two films were backwards. Let me put it this way: After seeing the “Mirror, Mirror” (MM) trailer and the “Snow White and the Huntsman” (SWH) trailer, I thought that MM would be mediocre and SWH would be good! I don’t know the the word “wrong” can sum up just how far off base my assumption was…

My opinion (in long)…

Mirror, Mirror (2012)
Grade: A-

MM (which I saw first) was entertaining, cute, and (and this is key) it made sense. The storyline was fluid and the characters were developed. Don’t misunderstand, this isn’t the movie of the ages (I mean, it’s no “Avengers”), but it was cute nevertheless. The dwarves were funny (and I loved how their storyline and attack skills), the prince was delightful and the queen’s loyal buffoon, Brighton (Nathan Lane) was a stitch! Julia Roberts was, as always, brilliant, though the movie didn’t rest on her worthy shoulders (which is more than I can say for Charlize Theron, who must be exhausted from carrying the weight of SWH around). The actor who played Snow White (Lily Collins) wasn’t mind-blowing, but she was good enough for this film. She was pretty, shy, and you could appreciate the growth of her character. Oh, and director Tarsem Singh did a great job creating the “mirror.” It was something new and unexpected; I appreciated it. There was an odd sort of music video at the end of the film that was a bit weird, but it didn’t affect the film, so I didn’t mind it much.

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
Grade: C-

Then there is SWH (which I saw at the drive-in and the second movie of the double feature was “Battleship” which wasn’t good, but was better that evening than SWH). The awesomeness that could have been this film was ripped away unceremoniously by the combined effort of Kristen Stewart and bad plot/character development. Chris Hemsworth (i.e. Thor, for those of you that don’t know his real name but know his pretty, pretty face) and Charlize Theron were the only redeeming factors in this film (actually, calling it a film seems too lofty, so I shall refer to it as a movie from here on). I could follow the plot because I am a smart person, but there were so many unanswered questions, that I just gave up caring about the characters. The only character that has any sort of development through the film is the queen (Charlize Theron). Snow White (played by Kristen “The Movie Killer” Stewart) just sort of exists, as does the queen’s brother (who might have the least development, which is an egregious oversight as he could have been an interesting character). Chris Hemsworth (Huntsman, yeah, that’s his name in the movie, just Huntsman. Creative, right?) pulled off the part because he is pretty good at acting, but even his performance was lackluster because there was nothing for his character to sink his teeth into. I could go on an on about the epic flop that is SWH, but why beat a dead horse? I mean, by the end of the movie, I was cheering for the queen cause at least she was badass!

The short and sweet summing up…
DON’T see SWH and RedBox MM.