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

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

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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

La La Land: Old-School Movie Magic

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La La Land (2016)

My Rating: Three and a half stars

Age Suggestion: 14+

The Movie

Two proper L.A. dreamers, a suavely charming soft-spoken jazz pianist and a brilliant vivacious playwright, while waiting for their big break, attempt to reconcile aspirations and relationship in a magical old-school romance. (from IMDB)

Starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

Rated PG-13

My Thoughts

This movie, while not flawless, was sweet and entertaining and right up my alley. The plot, though simple, is a time-honored story of artists seeking to “make it” in the big bad world of performing, and succeeds at bringing a kind of old-Hollywood glam into the modern world. I wasn’t always sold on the more out-there musical sequences (it works in Singin’ in the Rain, but you can only ask a modern audience to take suspension of disbelief so far), but somehow they still pulled off an updated but thoroughly classic musical movie.

I have to say, I’m not a fan of Ryan Gosling’s singing voice. I think he did great in the role overall, but his voice wasn’t good enough to really carry an entire musical. I didn’t really like Emma Stone’s, either, until she sang “Fools Who Dream”. Then it seemed like she just came out of her shell completely and I couldn’t have asked for a better singer. If only she could have sung like that the whole time…

(the one time I didn’t mind their voices was when they were singing “City of Stars” together in their apartment. It’s realistic that a couple just hanging out and singing together aren’t necessarily going to sound Broadway-ready, and it actually made the scene sweeter.)

But the music overall is great! The songs are well-written and beautiful and I love the instrumental soundtrack.

My one big problem with the movie is somewhat of a spoiler. So if you haven’t seen it and you don’t want me to spoil the end, skip past this next part.

SPOILERS BEGIN

Here’s what I hate:

Two people fall in love. For various reasons they have to part ways. Years later, one or both of them is married. The girl’s husband is played up as kind of a fool, or at best just mediocre. Then the lovers run into each other again. They can never be together now, but it’s obvious that they still care about each other. The girl doesn’t seem to really care about her husband at all.

Regardless of how good a book or movie is, if it has this plotline in it, I don’t like it. Because if you marry someone it hopefully means you love them enough to forget about other people you may have loved in the past. Plus, whether you love your husband or not, it’s just not okay for you to fantasize about a previous lover once you’re married. And why do they always have to make the husband seem so mediocre next to the other guy? It’s possible that she married another really great guy!

Ahem. Rant over. I loved the rest of the movie, I just really don’t appreciate that it ended this way.

SPOILERS END

 

*Content Warnings*

Like I said above, this movie is pretty clean as far as romance goes. The two main characters do end up living together outside of marriage, but what we see never goes beyond kissing.

The biggest reason I recommend this for ages 14 and up is because there is quite a bit of language, mostly mild, but with a few very bad words. So it really depends what you’re comfortable with, personally. I don’t mind a little bit of language, as long as it’s not constant, but if you’re really bothered by it you might not want to watch this movie.

 

Quibbles aside, I really did enjoy this movie. It’s rare to have such a clean, old-fashioned romance movie these days, and so I would definitely recommend it if you like romance but can’t conscientiously watch a lot of today’s rom-coms and chick flicks. It isn’t really a comedy, but it made me laugh out loud several times, while still having serious and beautiful moments as well. And for someone who loves musicals, it was just the perfect, sweet movie for a comfy summer night.

What do you think? Have you seen La La Land? If so, did you like it? If not, will you watch it now? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace

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Book and Movie of the Year 2016

Book and Movie of the Year 2016

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It’s already time for another book and movie of the year post! I had so much fun doing this last year and so I’m excited to do it again.

The choice, especially for books, was slightly agonizing, but I’m happy with the titles I’ve picked. In the end I just had to go with a gut feeling about which books most deserved this title.

Disclaimer: I am not getting paid to promote C.S. Lewis. Futhermore, this blog is not sponsored by C.S. Lewis, who happens to be no longer living anyway so how he would sponsor my blog, I don’t know. 

All jokes aside, I was a little concerned about choosing another C.S. Lewis book for my Book of the Year (last year’s was That Hideous Strength), but what can I say? C.S. Lewis is truly one of the greatest authors ever, and out of all the books I read this year, this one was the best. I do not take this choice lightly, and I didn’t want to choose a lesser book simply so that I wouldn’t have the same author two years in a row.

(It’s my award. I make the rules. And I say that the book can be by the same author two years in a row.)

So with that out of the way, I present to you…the 2016 Book and Movie of the Year! 

Book of the Year: The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

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Runner-up: The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart 

The Last Battle is the final book of the Narnia series, the culmination of every plot in the other books. I had definitely read it before, but I was so young I didn’t remember, and this year was the first time that I sat down and read the whole Narnia series, from start to finish within a few weeks, on my own. The Last Battle blew me away.

The endings of the other books are all so bittersweet, with the children returning to the real world, unsure if they will return. But not this one. This one displayed the great climax of human history and the great resolution of final peace and joy. The ending is made even sweeter because of the previous books, all of the characters reunited in eternal happiness. This book somehow captures what the feeling may be like when Christ returns, and it is a picture of heaven that I will never forget.

The runner-up is a whole series, because taking one book out of the series robs it of its magic. The four books together make The Mysterious Benedict Society series what it is: a wonderful story of friendship and good defeating evil. While a children’s book, it has such important messages for all ages, and is a story that everyone can enjoy. It is a happy story that is deep and meaningful at the same time, a rare find in this age of dark and depressing or light and fluffy books.

Movie of the Year: Big Fish (2003)

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Runner-up: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005) 

I don’t think Big Fish is a movie that can really be explained. I can’t explain what it’s about, or why it had such a huge emotional effect on me, but I’ll try anyway.

The movie is the story of a father and son, shown in the present and in flashbacks through the father’s life. All during the son’s childhood, the father told wild stories about his own life, passing them off as truth. As an adult, the son greatly distrusts his father and resents those stories.

The movie explores their relationship, especially when the father becomes very sick. It explores the power of stories and the lasting effect they have on our lives. The ending had me crying my eyes out, and the whole movie is fun, humorous, entertaining, deep, beautiful, and sad all at the same time.

And yes, more Narnia as the runner-up. This year I watched a Narnia movie for the first time, and was really pleased with how well it was adapted! The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is visually gorgeous, well-cast, and stays very true to the book. I’m hesitant to watch the rest of the movies from things I’ve heard, but this one at least did a very good job and left me happy and satisfied.

 

What do you think? Do you like my choices? What are some of the best things you read and watched in 2016? Tell me in the comments!