Eight Cousins Review

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Summary

A newly orphaned girl is placed in the care of her independent uncle. Teenage Rose must learn to discover her new place in the world as a heiress and educated woman. To assist her in her transformation are several aunts and eight cousins, energetic boys who keep her grounded. As Rose’s journey continues, she challenges those around her to match her generous and selfless ways.

Review

While Eight Cousins will not be immediately gripping to an audience raised in the fast paced world of YA survival/adventure novels and action movies, it has an old worldy charm which will always recommend it to the persistent reader. Alcott’s books are universally charming, which is necessary, given the morals which she is not afraid to preach throughout them. The author claims herself in the forward to the book that it is imperfect, but many perfections can be found especially in Rose’s tender love for her father and uncle and her changing and sometimes challenging relationships with her eight cousins. Although each of the boys has his cookie cutter place in the story, there are some delightful exceptions particularly regarding Mac whose journey to true sight stands out as one of the more endearing parts of this simple tale of a family.

Rating

7 out of 10

Appropriate for all ages.

Lego Batman Movie Review

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Summary

Batman  lives alone and does it well (lobster!). He beats up bad-guys and consults with Alfred, his butler, when he wants another human opinion. His computer is his only other companion. This leads to connections with an orphan, the new police commissioner, and a few other surprising beings.

Review

Quips and clever quibbles with his pals are the most notable moments in The Lego Batman Movie. The visuals were as stunning as The Lego Movie, but felt even more busy as cool action sequence after cool action sequence unfolds. Witticisms, visuals, and references to previous Batmans were the pulse of this movie. The plot was simple to the point of being almost unnoticeable at times. Also, as the last act of the movie reached its climax, it felt as though someone had been repeatedly shouting “Family! Family! Family!” in the theater. This slight jaunt into making its values known should not decrease a family’s enjoyment of this fun film.

Rating

PG. Many action sequences. Lego lower half nudity.

The Painted Veil Review

Author’s note: This post was inspired by Netflix removing this movie from it’s watchlist this January. Some spoilerish material has been included since the movie was released over ten years ago.

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Summary

In the 1920s, a English socialite, Kitty, agrees to marry a bacteriologist, Walter Fane, whom she doesn’t love and barely knows in order to escape her disinterested family. After an adulterous affair,  Kitty is taken by her husband into the Chinese countryside to fight a cholera epidemic.Through the influence and friendship of the British deputy commissioner, an order of sisters, and the Chinese, the couple struggle to heal their past.

Review

Detailing the wilds of the Chinese countryside, The Painted Veil films the lush beauty of China with affection. Even when depicting less than desirable situations, the cinematography never fails to charm. This is important since the dialogue is sparse, so the movie depends heavily on the camera work, direction, and actors. All are excellent with Toby Jones, as always, an excellent player who gives a standout performance.

Even before Kitty’s rebellious affair, she is shown to be a selfish, vapid, bored woman with no sense of purpose. Walter’s treatment of her is violent, though not in a typical wife beating fashion, and it shakes her out of her complacency about their marriage. At first, he seems determined to do everything in his power to discomfort her without being obvious enough to be caught. Kitty realizes this and while she initially refuses to reflect on what she has done, ultimately her experiences in China along with Walter’s disdain lead her to reflect on her sordid past.

The movie does not dwell overlong on her guilt, though. There is much to be done in the little Chinese village and the Fanes both end up working ceaselessly for the Chinese people they didn’t initially understand. They also come to a point where they can look honestly at themselves as people and at their marriage. In one powerful scene, Kitty explains to Walter that human beings are more complex then he believes them to be and that from the beginning she was not who he thought she was. In another telling scene, the camera pans to Walter and then back to Kitty who, while in conversation with the commissioner, murmurs her wonder that a woman could be drawn into a romance because of the goodness of a man. Eventually this is shown and more as The Painted Veil unfolds. A marriage is formed, torn down, built and finished. Most strikingly, the power of forgiveness is revealed. While brief dramatic apology scenes are familiar to film audiences, the transformative effect forgiveness can have when it becomes a lifestyle, particularly in marriage, is not so familiar. The Painted Veil is a masterpiece not just because its characters are exceptionally complex and realistic, but because it shows how one foolish marriage can change lives and transform the world with forgiving love.

Rating

PG-13. Young adults and up. Several love scenes and deaths by cholera. It is recommended that for a better understanding of the sister’s philosophy and some of the mother superior’s soliloquies that the reader peruse the book the movie was based on by Somerset Maugham. With this understanding, the movie’s ambiguous stance on the sisters can be clarified which would be useful to a younger audience.

Arrival Review

Summary

Twelve alien ships come to earth and a linguistics professor, theoretical physicist, and the American military must piece together an answer to the fundamental question “Why are you here?” The answer, pieced together with much human ingenuity and great heart, will provide some other unexpected answers along the way including how “unstoppable” we humans really are.

Review

Affecting. Thought provoking. Dignified. Mesmerizing with its simple score, smooth cinematography, and lovely locations. Simply the best movie of 2016.

Arrival asks questions and gently provides several of the important answers. Too often film has turned into a case of bemoaning present state of humanity and then ending abruptly. These two act movies, typically coming of age stories, would be better off grounded in some sort of real philosophy which, while not answering the meaning of all life, offers a suggestion by presenting the experiences of the characters to the viewer. After all, there is a conflict in every story and every conflict deserves some semblance of resolution however imperfect. Frequently this occurs by the choices the characters make.

It is clear by the last shot of Arrival that the movie was economically filmed in order to reveal to the audience a choice Dr. Banks must make. While the decision is heartbreaking, she does not waver, but embraces reality, life, and human dignity. In fact, the character of Dr. Bank does not waver throughout the movie. She carries on with her work during an alien invasion, fights for a position she knows should be hers, lends her expertise in an unrespected field to men who are pushing her for impossible answers, and allows herself to be defined by motherhood and by the love of family. We need more women like Dr. Banks.

Arrival understands human suffering. It also understands the unique dignity of every human person, how an unselfish gift is a segue to love, and how life is worth living to the fullest extent, despite its pain, since it can be lived with meaning.

Rating

PG-13 is accurate. The violence is there, but understated. A hospital deathbed scene and tension throughout.