Little Women: A Sweet Modernization of a Classic Story

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Little Women (2018) 

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Age Suggestion: 12+

About the Movie

Directed by Clare Niederpruem

PG-13, 1 hour 52 minutes

A modern retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, we follow the lives of four sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March – detailing their passage from childhood to womanhood. Despite harsh times, they cling to optimism, and as they mature, they face blossoming ambitions and relationships, as well as tragedy, while maintaining their unbreakable bond as sisters. (from IMDb)

My Thoughts

Little Women has been one of my favorite books for a very long time, and I thought this was a well-done modernization of Louisa May Alcott’s story. If you’re looking for total accuracy to the book, you won’t find it, but considering that they had to both modernize and fit everything into a 2-hour movie, the changes worked okay.

The movie starts with Jo as an adult, trying to get her writing published in New York City, and tells the story mostly in flashbacks. I liked the format and thought it was a good way to make such a familiar story more interesting and fresh. In order to fit everything in, they had to make some changes to the timeline, which did mean that certain relationships weren’t explored or explained as much as I would have liked. But I think it’s impossible to fully do justice to everything from the book in one movie, and overall the pacing was really good. Choosing to focus more on Jo’s story, while it meant that other things were glossed over, made the movie more cohesive and focused.

For the most part, the actors were well-cast and did a great job. Laurie was perfect; Lucas Grabeel perfectly captured the character that everyone loves, while still giving him a fresh spin. The same with Ian Bohen, who played Professor Bhaer (i.e. Freddy); it was a new take, and not how I would have imagined him, but it really worked and still captured the essence of the character.

The sisters were really great, and while it was a little weird that the same actresses played the three older ones for the whole movie as they grew up, it worked out pretty well. And the switch of actresses for Amy was rather disorienting, and I didn’t particularly care for the older one; so I’m actually glad they didn’t do that for all of them. The only actor that I found disappointing was Brooke. He was done as incredibly awkward, and maybe I missed something, but that’s never how I imagined him.

I especially loved that they included the scene where the girls reenact Pilgrim’s Progress. It was so well-done and I love that they didn’t throw out the faith element altogether. (Beth wears a little cross necklace during the whole movie too, which maybe I’m reading too much into, but I think it’s cool!)

(Content warnings: Meg goes to two different parties where people are drinking and dancing; at one of them, she meets a guy and they have a brief kissing scene before she pulls herself away. There are romances, of course, but they are all clean. One character falls and hits her head, and it shows a good bit of blood; another character gets very sick.)

Overall, I thought the movie did a great job portraying the essence of the book. There were lots of funny moments with the sisters that, to me, perfectly captured what it’s like to grow up in a big family. It especially meant a lot to me seeing this movie at this stage in my life; I have three younger sisters, and having just moved away to college, I spent about three-fourths of the movie in tears because of how much it made me appreciate my childhood. Watching the March sisters grow up and have to navigate changing relationships and lives hit very close to home for me right now.

I would recommend this movie to anyone who wants a sweet movie that will make you laugh and cry. It explores the importance of family and of going after your dreams, and how hard that can sometimes be. While it’s not anything super deep, it’s a feel-good, enjoyable watch for a cozy fall day, especially for anyone who loves Alcott’s story as much as I do.

Have you seen Little Women, and if so, what did you think of it? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Transitions: How I Stay Organized

Personal organizer and pink flowers on desk

One of the biggest challenges for many people in college is keeping everything organized.  There are so many things to juggle: academic classes, extracurriculars, campus events, jobs, homework, workouts, friends, spiritual life, keeping up with family, pursuing hobbies and relaxing…

As my advisor told me the other day, learning to manage time is the single most important element for succeeding in college. And it can be overwhelming. But I’ve figured out a system that works really well, and honestly is very simple, which I’m going to share with you today. This is what I do to stay on top of everything that’s important to me.

My organizational system is guided by this one major principle: immediately write everything down in one place. 

  • Get a planner. This can be physical or electronic.
  • Every time you commit to something, schedule something, find out about a deadline, or think of something you need or want to do, write it down in there immediately. You will develop your own system for how you organize this information. But the biggest thing is to get it written down.
  • Then, when you’re trying to plan your day, you won’t have to worry about forgetting things or having random sticky notes scattered around your dorm. It will all be there.

This doesn’t mean you won’t ever forget about something or leave it to the last minute, but if you can form this one simple habit it will go a long way toward your organization.

So, what does this look like in my life?

My Planner

I currently use a Day Designer planner. I’ve tried both paper planners and electronic ones, and while the electronic ones are more convenient in some ways, I just prefer writing things down on physical paper. I’ve also tried Erin Condren (excellent but very expensive) and Plum Paper (also really good, slightly cheaper). My planner is where I write down scheduled events, deadlines, and miscellaneous to-dos.

 

I cheat a little bit from my own rules and actually have two places that I write things down, because I also use Powersheets, a Christian goal planner that guides you through goal-setting at the beginning of the year and then at the beginning of each month. I use this for long-term goals that don’t have set deadlines, which I then transfer into my daily to-do lists in my actual planner.

 

My Planning System

First of all, at the beginning of the semester, I wrote down every single assignment or test from every syllabus on the day it was due in my planner. I definitely recommend doing this immediately; that way you don’t have to keep checking back to your syllabus if you forgot what things are due.

At the beginning of the month, I do the following:

  • Fill out my Powersheets for the month. This is how I keep track of the goals that are important to me but don’t have upcoming deadlines (writing and other creative pursuits, health and spiritual growth, etc.)
  • Write down blog posts on each Saturday in my planner with my other deadlines so I remember to get them done.
  • Write down any birthdays with my other deadlines so that I know to prepare for them.

And then here is how I plan my day:

  • The planner I use has a schedule side and a to-do list side. I write my schedule out first, checking my calendar for anything unusual and then filling in my daily routine of classes and activities. I also fill in the times I’ll use to get ready, do devotions, eat, sleep, etc. Whatever time is left is my “to-do” time, at which point I’ll refer to the to-do list on the other side of the page.
  • Next I make my to-do list. I start by looking an entire month ahead at all of the deadlines I have coming up, and making note of what I need to get done or start working on so that I can get it done by the deadline/due date. I like to work on things in several sittings, usually, rather than getting it all done the night before. Some people might work better in one sitting, so figure out what works for you!
  • Once I have all of those urgent to-dos written down, if I still think I’ll have time accomplish more, I add household tasks that need to get done like laundry and cleaning. Then I go to my Powersheets and pull things from there until I have a list that fits the timeframe that I have that day.

Here’s an example of what a typical day will look like:

And that’s pretty much it! Sometimes I’ll put stars next to the top three things I need to get done, but I don’t always do that. It’s honestly not a complicated system but it requires diligence to stick to the schedule and the list each day, and careful thought about what my priorities are and how I’m going to use my time.

Time management is actually one of my favorite things to talk about, so let me know if you have other questions or want to see more on this, or even want to hear more about the philosophy of time management from a Christian perspective! I know my posts have been getting more practical and less spiritual lately, but there’s still plenty of spiritual content coming. I wanted this series to be helpful in a variety of areas for people who are going to college soon, so stay tuned for more of both practical and spiritual advice, and share in the comments how you manage your time!

love, grace

Transitions: Making Friends in College

Silhouette of Four People Against Sun Background

One of the things I was most looking forward to about college was the chance to start over socially. I’m at a small college far away from home, and so I didn’t know a single person going in, except my roommate, and we had only met in person once. I had heard that the social situation in college is much different than high school, and it definitely was, especially for the first few weeks.

My biggest advice for the beginning of college is to go to as many activities and events as possible. At the beginning, there will likely be a lot of things going on to help freshmen get settled in, so take advantage of that. Even though I’m the type of person who tends to want to stay at home, I pushed myself to go to those kinds of things right away. I found that if I put myself out there and did things, it was very easy to meet people. With everyone trying to find friends, there’s an environment of openness and inclusion that is very cool.

Something else I didn’t expect is how close you can become with people after a very short period of time. My roommate and I felt like best friends after only a few days. And in five weeks I’ve already had some incredibly deep and vulnerable conversations with people. Late nights, especially, are breeding grounds for good conversation with random people in the lobby of your dorm.

And it’s true that there will be some people who you click with more than others. Find those people who you really enjoy talking to and being around, and then spend as much time with them as possible right away, before your classes get really busy. If you can establish a few promising friendships immediately, they will maintain themselves as schedules get crazy, and you will have those people to fall back on if things go wrong or you need support. Then you can expand your social life from there as the semester goes on.

And it is important to continue expanding your friend group! I found those few close friends right away, and a group of us formed who have been spending a lot of time together. It’s easy for me to stick with the same people; it’s comfortable and validating to have a “group”. But I’m working to make sure I don’t get too set in my clique. I want to meet a wide variety of people, and I want our group to be welcoming of others. So I’m starting to make an effort to sit with different people at meals and talk with people I don’t know as well, while still balancing time with the friendships I’ve already developed.

As we settle into the semester, the biggest struggle for me is how much I want to feel included and liked. I have to constantly remind myself that it isn’t my goal to be liked by others, but to bless others. I shouldn’t be trying to make sure I feel welcomed and included, but trying to make others feel welcomed and included, showing everyone love as fellow image-bearers of God.

Ultimately, friendships are a beautiful gift from God. Creating new relationships takes patience and trust, but if I walk in faith, seeking to follow His design for how I interact with fellow humans, those relationships will develop with time. I’ve been so blessed already and I can’t wait to continue to grow in my relationships with all of the new people in my life.

How have you made friends in a new situation? 

love, grace

Transitions: Moving In and Settling Down

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Move-in day: probably one of the most iconic and also most stressful days of freshman year. A few weeks ago, I had mine, transitioning my whole life to a little college in Mississippi. I’ve gotten settled in and learned a lot along the way, and I want to share some of that with you today.

Before we get to the big thing I’ve been learning, here are a few little tips to make moving in and settling in a lot less stressful:

One: Don’t try to pack everything. Make a list as you pack and then go to Target or somewhere once you get there to save space in your car. Things you can buy there include snacks, paper towels, cleaning supplies, decorations and command hooks, etc. (On a side note, make sure you have a good stock of snacks! You’ll need them.)

Two: Bring a board game or card game or something. It will be fun to share in social situations. You might think you won’t use it – you actually will.

Three: Make a to-do list for the day! The day I moved in, there was so much going on, so many little things that needed to get done, and I tried to keep it all in my head. Not a good strategy. Write down anything that you think of; that way you can focus on one thing at a time without worrying about forgetting things.

Four: I have my bed raised pretty high off the ground, and I made a little nook underneath it with a rug and a bunch of pillows. It’s such a nice place to sit and study, it’s where I do my devotions, etc. I would recommend it!

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Five: Use your first few days to get the lay of the land. Figure out where your classes are and where other things are on campus that you might need. Check your mail. Find the library. Etc.

Six: Try not to stay up ridiculously late right away. It’s not summer camp, even though it might feel like it – you have to maintain your life for a whole semester. Especially if you like your roommate, it feels like a sleepover initially. It’s okay to enjoy some of that, but try not to go too crazy.

Seven: Unpack everything as quickly as possible and get it organized. Starting out that way for a few days is nice while you get your footing. But know that it likely won’t stay that way, which leads me to the big lesson I’ve been learning so far…

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It’s okay for things to be a mess.

In general, I’m a very organized person. I like things to be neat and nice, everything in its proper place, easy to keep track of. But since I got to college, I’ve had less and less time to clean and organize. There’s not a lot of surface space in my dorm, so everything gets piled on the desk most of the time. And I’m learning to be okay with that.

Here’s the thing: life is not about cleanliness. Life is about the pursuit of God, and living each day in light of eternity. To put it bluntly, organization for its own sake is pointless and a waste of time.

Yes, God is a God of order, and we are called to be good stewards of the possessions He has given us. But taken to extremes, the pursuit of organization can become a distraction from better and more important things. Everything we do in our lives should be for the sake of the kingdom of God, and so the only reason to clean and do laundry and other things of that nature is so that the disorder won’t hinder our kingdom work. 

If it’s a little bit messy, that’s okay. Maybe your time would be better spent reading your Bible, or ministering to a friend who needs encouragement, or pouring yourself into the local church. It comes down to priorities. What is in our hearts? Are we making organization an idol? Or is it one more means to the ultimate end of seeking God’s glory throughout our whole lives?

As I’m getting settled into college, I’m realizing more and more that I don’t have the time to make sure my dorm always looks perfect. There are bigger and better things happening that need my care and attention. As long as I can continue living, the mess is okay.

Do you make organization an idol? How are you learning to embrace the mess in everyday life? If you’re in college, what move-in tips do you have? 

love, grace

Favorites Roundup: August ’18

Hello!

So…

It’s been a long time.

Since I last wrote, I packed up my entire life, moved 14 hours away from home, met a new roommate, moved into a new dorm, made some new friends, started some new classes, and basically started a whole new life.

And now I hope to be back to blogging for good! My life has settled into somewhat of a routine, and although it’s crazy busy, I’ll be trying to fit blog posts in every Saturday. Throughout the fall, I’ll be getting back to the Transitions series, so that you can come along with me on my college journey and hear what I’m learning as the weeks go by.

More on that later. For today, I want to share with you a belated list of some of my favorite things from August. Because I kept meaning to do this, and these are too good not to share.

Favorite Books

Image result for save the date morgan matson My first Morgan Matson book definitely lived up to the hype. Check out my full review here.

Image result for fawkes nadine brandes This book is full of incredibly powerful themes and issues. Brandes does something many authors fail to do, and fits her faith into a book in a deep and beautiful way without making it preachy. (And this book was written for the general market!)

Favorite Movies

Image result for newsies live I KNOW I’ve mentioned it on here before, but…a bunch of dorm friends and I rewatched it the other night, and I just have to say it again. Newsies Live is one of my favorite movies of all time. And it’s on Netflix, so there’s no excuse not to watch it!

Image result for the lion king Guess what?? I watched this for the VERY FIRST TIME. Amazing. Of course.

Favorite Articles/Blog Posts

Favorite Videos

Favorite Song

 

What’s the best movie you saw in August? Share in the comments!

love, grace

Save the Date: A Fun, Funny Summer Read

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Save the Date by Morgan Matson

My Rating: 4 stars

Age Suggestion: 16+

About the Book

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

My Thoughts

I had never read a Morgan Matson book before this one, although she’d been on my radar for a while. Since this one was recently released and seemed like a good summer read, I picked it up from the library and started reading…and couldn’t put it down!

I forgot that I really liked contemporaries. I love all of the little details about the everyday life of characters and families, and Matson really does the details well, creating a realistic environment that is easy to picture and sets the atmosphere for an entertaining story.

The story is a pretty typical, if slightly over-the-top, comedy of errors, which is enjoyable in and of itself, especially when set around a wedding. What makes it even better is the characters. A comedy of errors – carried out by a family of six siblings? So much fun to read about. Each sibling was well-developed and their banter was honestly one of the best things about this book. Coming from a big family, I always love seeing family dynamics and the way in which siblings relate to each other.

I do want to mention that this book centers around a definitely secular family full of twenty-something children. So there are some mentions or instances of them doing things that I definitely didn’t approve of…partying, hooking up, etc. And one of the main subplots of the book focuses on a romantic encounter the main character has, and the aftermath of that; I did appreciate that the guy was eventually shown to be not-so-great, and a much better love interest won the day (seriously he – not saying who – might well have been my favorite character…and the scene in the grocery store…so cute!). But because of some of these elements I’d definitely recommend the book for ages 16 and up.

Overall, this book could have been cliche, but there were enough unique elements to make it the fun kind of cliche. The mom’s comic strip, the large family dynamics, setting it all around a wedding weekend…it was the best kind of cliche, the kind that is fun and relaxing.

I legitimately could not put this book down. I looked forward to reading it in a way that I haven’t looked forward to a book for a long time, and read it in every spare moment. It was just so much fun. I have a significant book hangover from it, and I’ll definitely be checking out more Morgan Matson in the future!

Have you read any books by Morgan Matson, and if so, what is your favorite of hers? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Confession Reflections: Why Do We Believe Scripture?

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Today’s reflection comes from The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter I, Section V. 

If you’ve grown up in a Christian home, it’s very easy to believe that the Bible is true. Usually, that’s been ingrained in you from the day you were born, your parents training you to see it as the Word of God.

But to those outside looking in, it might seem ridiculous. Aren’t we just attributing a random collection of writings to God? How can we possibly know? Outside of tradition, where is the proof that the Bible is, in fact, authentically from God?

There are lots of great facts that prove the Bible’s truth. The whole thing, if you interpret it correctly, presents one cohesive narrative that all fits together, with one purpose and one theme. That’s amazing if you consider the fast scope of time periods and cultural backgrounds the authors came from.

The Bible’s historical narratives fit flawlessly into the secular history that we know. Again and again, archaeology and scholarly research have confirmed things that the Bible describes.

And tradition isn’t a totally invalid argument, either. Those who were around in the time of Jesus were the first ones who began to pass down the Christian Scriptures in the form we know today. They have continued to be passed down, virtually unchanged, ever since, and the fact that so many great church fathers and theologians have accepted them as truth is a fact that can have some weight with us.

But while these facts can certainly have a strengthening and encouraging effect on our faith, the facts alone will never be enough to convince anyone of the authenticity of the Bible. Our ultimate assurance of that comes from the Holy Spirit, working in our hearts to convince us that the Bible is the Word of God.

That’s why, if you are a Christian, you don’t need convincing – you’ve seen the way the Bible works in your life and the lives of those around you. You understand it to be God’s Word, even if that doesn’t make any sense to the unbelievers in your life. You enjoy learning about the facts that support what you already know, but you don’t depend on them for faith.

Faith comes from the Spirit, and that’s the fundamental reason we believe what we believe. That applies to the authority of the Bible as much as any other aspect of Christianity.

What have you seen God’s Word do in your life or the lives of others? 

love, grace

Favorites Roundup: June/July ’18

A roundup of some of my favorite things in the last few months…

Favorite Books

Image result for love walked in This is a new-to-me author and also a new-to-me style of literary fiction. It’s a beautiful book and I’ll definitely check out more by her. (Content recommended for ages 16+.)

Image result for wires and nerve Got this for my birthday and…read the whole thing on my birthday. Marissa Meyer never disappoints.

Favorite Movies

Image result for the sound of music I went to Salzburg as part of my trip so obviously watching this (for like the 4 billionth time) was a must. It never gets old…and there are so many layers that I didn’t even catch when I was a kid.

Image result for goodbye christopher robin The story of the real-life Christopher Robin…I really enjoyed this movie, especially the first half. I didn’t like the way it jumped ahead in time at the end, but I can forgive it for that.

Favorite Podcast Episode

“What About That Quiet Time”, from the Uniquely Woman podcast, was a thought-provoking dive into where our term “quiet time” comes from and why it’s hurting our spiritual walk. Definitely worth your time to listen to!

Favorite Articles/Blog Posts

Favorite Videos

 

What was your favorite read of June and July? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Confession Reflections: The One Key to the Christian Life

Close-up Photography of Bible

Recently I’ve begun studying the Westminster Confession of Faith during my personal devotions. I’ve grown up in the PCA church, and decided that it was time for me to really understand my denomination’s core beliefs and make sure that I agree with them.  And as I read through, I want to share my thoughts and reflections on various topics with you! 

Today: from Chapter 1, Of the Holy Scripture, section 1. 

This section of the Confession talks about the two ways that God reveals Himself: in the created world, and in His Word.

I love the idea that creation reveals God. His power and creativity are obvious the moment you step outside and see the trees, the sky, and everything He has made.

I’ve especially loved learning about space in my astronomy class this past school year, and I don’t understand how anyone can possibly think that such vast beauty happened by chance. How could the Earth have ended up in exactly the right spot for life to form, the right distance away from the Sun, by chance? How is everything so perfectly suspended in nothingness, moving like clockwork, by chance?

Here’s my favorite: did you know that Jupiter is positioned in exactly the right place to make it Earth’s bodyguard, that it catches asteroids and other debris long before they can hit the Earth and destroy humanity? How can something like that be arranged by chance?

This is why there is no excuse for not believing in God. Every mountain and tree and star proclaims His existence, practically screams it, and no one can say they “didn’t know”.

But of course, creation is not enough, and that is why God gave us His Word. The splendor and wonder and beauty of the natural world is meant to draw us to Scripture, to lead us into reading the Bible, trying to discover everything we can about the God who made us.

And as we read, we learn everything else we need to know: who God is, who we are, how the world works, how to find salvation, and how to live our lives.

The Bible is absolutely critical to the Christian life; reading a devotional every morning isn’t going to cut it. We must get into God’s Word regularly. Only by reading it will we know the truth. Only by reading it will we be able to decide for ourselves what we believe. Only by reading it will we be able to resist temptation, live by the Spirit, and glorify God with our lives. If we really call ourselves Christians, we have to read it, study it, and love it.

Reading the Bible isn’t a legalistic rule, a “have-to” that makes you a good Christian. It’s a privilege, a “get-to”. The God of the universe has given us His Words! Yes, it may take diligence at first to create the habit. But the more you read, the more the Holy Spirit will fill you and cause you to enjoy Scripture, to crave it and thirst for it.

So start now. Pick up your Bible and start reading. A little every day will go a long way.

love, grace

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Entertaining, but Predictable, Action Flick

Image result for ant man and the wasp

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) 

My Rating: 3 stars

Age Suggestion: 13+

About the Movie

Directed by Peyton Reed

PG-13, 2 hours 5 minutes

As Scott Lang balances being both a Super Hero and a father, Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym present an urgent new mission that finds the Ant-Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past. (from IMDb)

My Thoughts

This movie, to me, was entertaining and had some good elements, but overall wasn’t anything special. The stream of Marvel movies coming out in the last few years has become increasingly predictable and repetitive, and Ant-Man and the Wasp was no exception.

Paul Rudd, of course, was excellent. Abby Ryder Fortson (who plays his daughter) is also really good, especially for a child actress; her parts never feel overly cheesy and she fits right in with the rest of the cast.

The villains were lacking, however. There are several different “antagonistic” characters throughout the movie, which meant that most of them weren’t given the screen-time or development they needed to go from cookie-cutter to complex. But even the main villain character, despite the way the movie focused on her and gave her a backstory, felt like she had been recycled from every other movie Marvel has made. There was nothing unique about her, or her character arc. Honestly, I think the movie could have been better if her storyline had been taken out completely. There would have been more room for the family dynamics and funny shenanigans that made the first movie so memorable.

Speaking of shenanigans, I will always love Luis and his buddies. Their scenes were almost as funny as the first movie, and I just wish there had been more of them.

I also appreciated that the action sequences were not monotonous or overly drawn-out, which is a hard feat to accomplish.

(This is pretty mild for a Marvel movie. There’s some mild swearing and a brief imagined scene of intense kissing, but the action sequences are relatively tame unless you’re bothered by the quantum-physics elements.)

Overall, I felt that the biggest problem was that the movie lacked theme, making it cookie-cutter entertainment with no point. Dr. Pym is not a heroic figure; he is selfish and absorbed in his own goals, no matter what that means for the people around him. But this is never commented on, and we’re expected to continue rooting for him as the “good guy” even when we can almost sympathize with the villains more.

There was so much room in the movie for an exploration of when it’s okay to break the law for the greater good, and when it isn’t; the value of a single life; the purpose of a hero; and much more. Yet that was barely touched. I got action, humor, and emotion…all of the ingredients that should make for a good movie. Yet it ended up feeling shallow.

I crave movies that make me think, that are deep and purposeful, or that tug on my emotions in a meaningful way. This one, while fun, just didn’t deliver.

What do you think? Have you seen Ant-Man and the Wasp? If so, do you agree with my opinion? What are some of your favorite movies that are entertaining while offering deep themes? 

love, grace