Category Archives: book

The Choice

BD_skew.OCARDNicholas Sparks stories are gentle, slow, and predictable. The Notebook is my eternal favorite because the acting and directing of the movie are brilliant. Starring legends James Garner and Gena Rowland with upstarts Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, the movie is, also, my daughter’s favorite Sparks movie. With that, I am not a super fan of Sparks, but I am interested in his stories because they are spiritual. Current society at large can sure use some good old fashion spiritual revival.

Directed by Ross Katz, who won awards for producing Lost in Translation and directing and writing Taking Chance, begins The Choice with Travis, played by Benjamin Walker. He meets his match and neighbor, Gabby, played by Teresa Palmer.  She is focused on her medical degree while he likes to charm the ladies.

To say the least, Gabby and Travis ignite on less than friendly terms, but the story languorous around until a spark brings them seriously and hopelessly in love. Knowing Sparks stories, something tragic needs to happen. So tragic and so sad that only the spiritual connection can be its saving grace. It’s a long third act, but well worth the time if you are a devote Sparks fan.

I didn’t read the book, so I am not sure how closely the movie follows the book. I wonder if the book tells us more about Gabby’s family. In the movie, we only get to know Travis’ family, which left an empty spot in the storyline, making it a little too lopsided for a believable and caring movie. I would have liked to have gotten to know Gabby’s family better. Katz easily could have added a few scenes here and there with Gabby’s parents while cutting out some repetitive scenes between Travis and his family.

Tom Wilkinson plays Travis’ father, and he is a joy to watch. He is in the movie quite a bit, which put a smile on my face. Wilkinson can deliver lines like no other, just wonderful.

The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun

the lady with the carDirected by Joann Sfar, The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun reminds me of the 1960s European thrillers as an erotic, hazy story that spellbinds you because you can’t quite figure out what is going on with the femme fatal character. Is she good…is she bad? Still, she is the center of the movie, played by Scottish actress Freya Mavor.  Her luxuriant outfits, and cinematographer Manuel Dacosse leering camera offers the possibility of a good movie, yet the rambling mystery never fully takes shape.

Based on the 1970 remake starring Samantha Eggar and Oliver Reed, which I never saw, the story actually comes from Sebastien Japrisot’s convoluted 1966 novel.  The story follows apparently a normal French secretary Dany Doremus, played beautifully by Mavor.  She works for a shady boss, played by Benjamin Biolay. She arrives at his home to transcribe important documents. His wife, played by Stacy Martin, is at home, and she used to be friends with Dany. Now, they are uncomfortably distant. The couple asks her to drive them to the airport the next day.  They let her use his classic blue Ford Thunderbird. After dropping them off at the airport, Dany decides to take a joyride.

The movie is a bizarre journey, acid trip, and murder mystery. Nothing seems to add up as the story feels like an aimless road trip.  Situations happen to Dany, and she seems like she has a pipe in her head or a screw loose, but nothing is quite explained as to what is happening.

The story comes together, but by the time that happens, everything is lost. All except, Mavor as Dany. She is every man’s hot dream as well as Sfar, who films her at every and any angle to evocate what men want or can’t get enough of her.

The music haunts the film and crawls under the skin, especially with Wendy Rene’s “After Laughter (Comes Tears)” pulling off a mind-blowing result.

All in all, the movie has some good merits, and some will enjoy it.

History Bible Collection

history BibleI have always been impressed with the documentaries produced by HISTORY. The Bible Collection is a fine example of a well-done production. The program covers everything you can image about the Bible and even more so. The quality of reenactments and speculations bring more life to such a devoted subject.

The 16-disc set of over 38 hours of programming examines both Judaism and Christianity.  The series explores the mysteries and hidden facts about the history of the Bible. Three discs offer some of the most famous biblical stories from both the Old and New Testament. Also featured are 12 programs about the most famous biblical figures, and the screen format is both widescreen and full screen.

Includes the following DVDs:

  • Bible Stories from The Old Testament – DVD#1
  • Bible Stories from The Old Testament – DVD#2
  • Bible Stories from The Old Testament – DVD#3
  • Christianity: The First Two Thousand Years – DVD#1
  • Christianity: The First Two Thousand Years – DVD#2
  • Banned from The Bible – DVD
  • Banned from The Bible II – DVD
  • History Classics: Mysteries of The Bible: The Bible’s Greatest Heroes – DVD1/2
  • History Classics: Mysteries of The Bible: The Bible’s Greatest Heroes – DVD3/4
  • History Classics: Mysteries of The Bible: The Bible’s Greatest Heroes – DVD5
  • Bible Secrets Revealed – DVD1
  • Bible Secrets Revealed – DVD2
  • Mysteries of The Bible FKA Collector’s Choice: Mysteries of The Bible – DVD1/2
  • Mary of Nazareth – DVD/Jesus His Life
  • The Execution of Jesus – DVD
  • God Vs. Satan – DVD

I doubt anyone could watch all the programs in one sitting.  I am sure most Sunday Schools would love this set, and play the DVDs that are appropriate for children.  Some adults might want to watch each video as it sparks their interest in a certain aspect of the Bible, like Mary of Nazareth or where the Bible has been banned. No matter how the programs are viewed, I am sure each person will appreciate the value of the production and become better educated about such an ancient book.

Little House On the Prairie, Season 8

littlehouse8Many of us have spent our younger years watching Little House On the Prairie. It debuted in 1974 when a majority of families still watched television together. Today, most networks, streaming websites, and cable companies compartmentalized programs for age groups. Thus, getting the family to watch one show together is a bona fide miracle.

Today, we have DVDs, so television shows like Little House On the Prairie can be watched by the whole family. This series is about decency and wholeness, celebrating the concept of right and wrong.

Now, you can get the series in full broadcast length and completely digitally remastered. The entire eighth season is on 6 discs, with the very last disc having two Little House On the Prairie movies. The movies are from season 9: Look Back to Yesterday and The Last Farewell. Now, that is a treat and something worth enjoying.

You can select episodes from the menu, so if you have a favorite you want to see, it’s easy to maneuver around and select the episode.  You can even select individual scenes from episodes. Subtitles are available as well in different languages.

Instead of listing all the episodes like a catalog, I am going to highlight some favorite episodes of mine from the DVD package. A Christmas They Never Forgot is where the family gets snowed in on Christmas Eve, The Ingalls family and Esther Sue exchange family stories when they were younger. I just love flashbacks.  No Beast So Fierce follows Charles and James as they go on a business trip together. James becomes friends with a wild dog that follows him everywhere after he feeds it. Stone Soup is kind of a silly title but is about three town kids coming together after a drought comes to Walnut Grove. Laura is pregnant and can’t keep up with the newly planted orchard while Almanzo is away.

All in all, this is a great package and a must for any family’s library.  If you are not sure you want to purchase the DVDs yet, search Amazon Prime and watch a couple of episodes and see if your family likes the programming.

Noah’s Ark

Noah's ArkThe story of Noah’s Ark is mentioned in the bible and is about two paragraphs or a page long, depending on the book. I watched Russell Crowe’s version called Noah and came to terms that Noah was under a lot of pressure. A huge rain storm was coming where it will rain for forty days and forty nights. Raining so hard that the world will be completely submerged in water, a great flood. He had to build an ark large enough to hold all the animals of the world in pairs, male and female. He could not take all of mankind, just his family. Then, he had to feed all the animals and his family until the world was no longer flooded. Right there is a great story with enough conflict to keep you on the crossroads of Heaven and Hell.

Directed by Kenneth Glenaan, Noah’s Ark is more biblical than Crowe’s version. The stories are the same to a certain degree, still Glenaan’s take on the story is clearly an educational message about faith. Noah is portrayed as a man believing in God.  An impressive cast includes David Threlfall, Joanne Whalley, Nico Mirallegro, and Ashley Walters.

Noah’s Ark is a familiar tale of a man, his family, and his passion for doing what God wishes, building an ark that saves his family, the animals, and mankind. If you are familiar with the story, you know God told Noah to build an ark, and then he did it. The movie takes a license because the story is so short in the bible.

Noah is a good farmer and a generous family man, but his family doubts him when he tells them he was instructed by an angel to build the ark in the middle of a very dry desert. He tells what will happen and how he will save his family and the animals. He asks them to be faithful and believe a devastating flood is coming. His sons reject his proposal and decide not to help his father build the ark.  But, Noah has faith in God, so risks derision from his caring but infuriated family. He, of course, endures embarrassment from the townsfolk as well.  He has a devoted and loving wife, who changes her mind and decides to build the ark with him. She wants to demonstrate her support and love.

The flood arrives close to the end of the movie. The forty days and forty nights of raining go rather quickly. Before you know it, the ark lands on dry land, and the movie ends. With melodramatic flair is how the movies ends. Yet, if your faith is strong, you should enjoy the movie for what it is – a validation of the faith in God.

The End of the Tour

The End of the TourDirected by James Ponsoldt, The End of the Tour brings to life the true story in 1996 when Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky, played by Jesse Eisenberg, and writer David Foster Wallace, played brilliantly by Jason Segel, hang out together for five days.

Some might call it an intellectual movie, a road movie or dramedy.  The movie begins in 2008, when we are informed that Wallace has committed suicide. Lipsky is invited to present a tribute on NPR.  Here he slowly flashes back to 1996, when Wallace’s book Infinite Jest is released with worldwide praise, including a citation from well-read magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. Lipsky thinks it would be a great idea to interview Wallace and pitches it to his editor. He agrees that it is about time Rolling Stone did a piece on a gifted writer and off Lipsky goes to Ohio for his interview.  How the story plays out is what the movie is all about, and I rather not spoil it for you. Though, there are some interesting points about the movie I’d like to point out.

The movie is based on Lipsky’s memoir Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself.  Published in 2010, the book was well-received by his peers.   Wallace and Lipsky hit it off right away, and engage in philosophical conversations about loneliness, love, writing, fame, and the meaning of life. In other words, they spend time looking for the answers to life that plaques them.  Clearly, the movie is not for everyone. It lacks action-packed drama that populates our movie theaters today.

Jason Segel is very good as Wallace, and this role is quite a contrast to his other characters in movies like The Muppets and The Five Year Engagement. Watching him in this movie is pure pleasure because there is so much depth to Wallace as a sovelist, short story writer, essayist, and college professor.

The sound track by Danny Elfman is brilliant and engages the story.  Elfman adds a bit of spice to the movie with songs from REM and Tindersticks, an English indie rock band.

If you don’t know about Lipsky and Wallace, then it might be difficult to understand and follow the movie.  It is worth watching, though, for the acting is great, including the supporting actors.

Flowers in the Attic Movie Series

flowerattic4movDoppleganger family is known in the bestselling book series with a large fan base and devoted followers. Now, all four movies are out as one package in a DVD set.  The Lifetime network produced these four movies, and they are Flowers in the Attic, Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns, and Yesterday of Seeds. Covering all four movies can be cumbersome, but let’s take a look at Petals on the Wind. The movie is the second adaptation of a series based upon the V.C. Andrews books about the Doppleganger family.  The movie is somewhat better than Flowers in the Attic, which is the first book and movie in the series.

Like all the movies in the disc set, it is hard to cram the whole book into two hours. Unfortunately, it shows in the movies. The Petals on the Wind includes the most vital parts of the story, and if you read the books, you will not suffer as much.

If you happen to only watch the movies, keep in mind that the series is based on incest between the two main characters. The incest plays a major plot point in the whole series.

Petals on the Wind starts ten years after the children (Cathy, Chris, and Carrie) leave the attic, which happens in the first movie. They run away from a horrifying situation. Cathy, the dancer is sharp, persuasive and strong-willed to get the justice that is awaited. Chris, the doctor is quiet, good-looking and devoted to Cathy. Carrie is sweet, weak and disorientated.

The three characters discover a healthier life. Yet, the undercurrents of what happened to them in the attic will never be forgotten.  They fight illicit feelings of guilt, hidden anger and endless pain. Trying to ease their discomfort, Cathy assures she will put an end to their mother because she ruined them. She pretty much threw them away.

It is important that you watch these movies in sequence because so much happens in these four movies. It will be hard to understand the undercurrents of the prior movies. I am sure ardent book fans will love the series even though it was made for Lifetime not movie theaters.

Dark Places

darkplacesFrench director Gilles Paquet-Brenner helmed Dark Places as a drama-mystery about an impoverished Kansas City farming family. All but two members of the family were murdered three decades ago. The story is told through Libby Day, played by , while she flashbacks to younger Libby Day, played by Sterling Jerins. Libby and her brother, Ben, played by Corey Stoll, are the two remaining family members from the night of the murders. Ben is serving a life sentence for the murders. The younger Ben is seen in flashbacks played by Tye Sheridan. There are also present circumstances that keep the story interesting. A true crime club that solves crimes and proves those who are wrongly accused innocent. The club is headed by Lyle, played by Nicholas Hoult. The club holds strong evidence that Ben is innocent. It was younger Libby’s testimony that sent younger Ben to prison. Lyle leans heavy on Libby to prove her brother’s innocence. As the movie unfolds, past and present meet and the truth about the night of the murders is unraveled.

Dark Places is based on the book by Gillian Flynn who wrote the bestseller Gone Girl and the screenplay for the same-titled movie. Gone Girl did well at the box office and nabbed some award nominations. Even though Dark Places had a limited release, I thought it played better than Gone Girl because the story seems more real in circumstances and characters. Both stories are intricately folded and twisted, but Dark Places wraps up nicely while Gone Girl leaves a few points and characters entangled.

Theron makes the story believable because she is an outstanding actress.  Like Gone Girl there are minor storylines that drew me in to the film. Paquet-Brenner led the cast with honest acting in a very well paced movie. I am kind of surprised it didn’t have a wide release because it is so good. So, if you see the movie streaming or on the DVD shelf, I suggest you grab it and watch it. You will be entertained.