mini book reviews {#1}

As promised.  Maybe a little late, but still…two posts in almost two days is pretty good for me, I think. 🙂

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~Wonder by R.J. Palacio – I re-read this one is prep for the movie and I’ve gotta say…Wonder is one amazing book.  I read it in a day.  And I’m giving Owen Wilson a huge thumbs-up as Nate Pullman.  He’s pretty much perfectly cast.

~The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Elusive Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy – Sir Percy’s adventures never, ever, EVER get old.  I love everything about these books and most of the characters.

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~The Siren by Kiera Cass – Not sure if I like this better than the Selection series, but it’s different and swoonable and so atmospheric.  I’d probably read it again.

~The Divergent series by Veronica Roth – First book: LOVE.  Second book: Slightly boring and Four is more than a little out of character in the beginning.  Third book: What. Even.  Four: All the heart emoticons, Four-style (<4).

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~Just Deserts by Eric Walters – According to my brother, almost every Eric Walters book is a copy of the last, but this one breaks the mold.  Genuinely moved me in a few places, and y’all know that I’m attracted to stories of huge jerks who become awesome human beings through a series of unfortunate events (#lightningmcqueenFORTHEWIN).

~Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman – Interesting, but ultimately a depressing look at how people cope (or don’t) with the trials of life when they don’t know Christ. *shudder*

~Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín – Movie was wayyyyyy better.

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What have you been reading lately?

Eva

mini movie review {#3}

I’m not going to be able to do a ‘what I’ve been reading/watching’ for these last three months – #life – so here’s some more mini movie reviews.  I’ll probably do one for books tomorrow or the day after.

The Santa Clause (1994) – Okay for a one-time watch, but not much more.  However, Tim Allen is awesome, both in this movie and in Real Life.

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Free Birds (2013) – I found Free Bird’s portrayal of the Pilgrims to be offensive and ignorant.  Besides the voice acting, there’s little to love in this movie.

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982) – An old favorite.  Swoon over the music/costumes/romance/Sir Percy himself.  I love how the stories of The Scarlet Pimpernel and El Dorado are combined.

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From Time to Time (2009) – MAN.  This had such great potential!  But all those British actors were wasted on a boring plot.

Enchanted (2007) – The songs in here are brilliantly beautiful.  Plus, Robert.  Just…Robert.  Amy Adams is a sparkling presence, as usual, and the whole thing fits together like, well, how the glass slipper fit Cinderella’s foot.

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The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004) – And speaking of princesses, this film was a delightful romp.  Not A+ quality entertainment, but plenty enjoyable nonetheless.

Rio Bravo (1959) – Dean Martin. ❤  That’s all.

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Dangerous Crossing (1953) – A typical film noir.  Sort of a ‘The Lady Vanishes’ plot; intriguing without being too predictable.

How the West Was Won (1962) – The best thing about HTWWW, besides all the familiar faces, is the whole Epic Family Saga.  Definitely one of my favorite genres (if it is a genre) and I thought it was done quite well here.

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Tangled: Before Ever After (2017) – No, no, no, no, NO.  What have you done with my beloved characters?!

The LEGO Batman Movie (2017) – Um…wow.  This one really blew me away.  All the villains, for one.  And the FEELS.  Serious feels. (This is the only Batman movie I’ve watched, by the way.)  Robin was nowhere near as bad as I thought he’d be.  And there was a Tom Cruise cameo (sort of) which made the whole thing even better.

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What movies have you been watching lately?

Eva

mini movie reviews {#2}

Some of the awesome (and not-so-awesome) films I’ve watched in the last several weeks…

Pete’s Dragon (2016) – It started out so good, with the songs and the scenery and all that, and then it devolved into stupidity and boredom.  Plus, Wes Bentley creeps me out. (Ditto for Robert Redford.)

The Sheepman (1958) – Westerns + Glenn Ford = perfect combination.  Shirley MacLaine is growing on me as an actress, too.

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The Shop Around The Corner (1940) – My favorite Jimmy Stewart role of all time; he’s an absolute sweetheart in this!  The story is fun and romantic and wayyyy too adorable.

North by Northwest (1959) – One of Hitchcock’s finest, though not a personal favorite of mine.  James Mason is TOPS, though, and seeing Martin Landau in something other than Mission: Impossible was neat.

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Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) – Boring.  And there was that freaky thing near the end that makes you wonder just how sane Disney was.  Only thing I liked about this one was Sean Connery.

Pride and Prejudice (1940) – And all the Jane Austen fans say “What?!”.

The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) – One of my mom’s favorites and, like The Four Feathers (also 2002), I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.  It was dark and gritty and rather awesome.

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How many of these movies have you seen?  What films have you watched recently?

Eva

mini movie reviews {#1}

And when I say mini, I mean mini.

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Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951) – Mehhhhhhh.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) – The book transitioned onto the screen so brilliantly, it’s incredible (so is the casting).

Mary Badham and Gregory Peck on the set of To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). The two kept in touch after filming, and she continued to call him Atticus until the day he died. | Awwww...:

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – SUCH a classic; Jimmy Stewart is perfect and so are all the kid actors.

Lifeboat (1944) – The Lady Vanishes has some serious competition for the title of ‘favorite Hitchcock movie ever’.

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Arizona (1940) – Jean Arthur still annoys me, but the story is actually pretty interesting.

Laura (1944)  – Elegant, glamorous, sophisticated, mysterious…am I describing the titular character or the film itself?

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The Violent Men (1955) – #obsessedwithGlennFord

3:10 to Yuma (1957) – #obsessedwithBenWade

Blackboard Jungle (1955) – #obsessedwithRichardDadierandSidneyPoitier

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) – I’ve seen this three times.  Great noir.

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The Birds (1963) – Rod Taylor actually grew on me this time around and I enjoy the small town setting.

Frankenstein (1931) – Boris Karloff was a lovely person, and I mean that un-sarcastically.

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What movies have you seen lately?

Eva

book review: the lost girl of astor street

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Lydia has vanished.

Lydia, who’s never broken any rules, except falling in love with the wrong boy. Lydia, who’s been Piper’s best friend since they were children. Lydia, who never even said good-bye.

Convinced the police are looking in all the wrong places, eighteen-year-old Piper Sail begins her own investigation in an attempt to solve the mystery of Lydia’s disappearance. With the reluctant help of a handsome young detective, Piper goes searching for answers in the dark underbelly of 1924 Chicago, determined to find Lydia at any cost.

When Piper discovers those answers might stem from the corruption strangling the city—and quite possibly lead back to the doors of her affluent neighborhood—she must decide how deep she’s willing to dig, how much she should reveal, and if she’s willing to risk her life of privilege for the sake of the truth.

From the glitzy homes of the elite to the mob-run streets of 1920s Chicago, Stephanie Morrill’s jazz-age mystery shows just how far a girl will go to save her friend.

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First of all, take a look at that cover.  Drink it in.  Gorgeous, isn’t it?  Well, let me tell you that the story inside fully measures up to the glamour and elegance and intrigue that the cover promises.  Just so ya’ll know before I go any further into this review, I was given an advance copy of The Lost Girl of Astor Street in exchange for my honest review.  I didn’t know much about the story before I started reading, just that the cover was pretty and it was historical YA fiction and I kinda sorta knew the author from the writing blog that she co-runs.  Oh, and A FREE BOOK.  Always exciting, right?

Anyway, I started reading and got sucked in pretty quickly.  And it ended up surprising me.  For one thing, since The Lost Girl of Astor Street is a YA novel, I expected there’d be a love triangle (especially since there’s at least three available guys that Piper could’ve become involved with) and I determined I’d slog through it and focus on the other aspects of the story, but there wasn’t a love triangle at all.  Huzzah!  What I got instead was an adorable, swoony romance that complimented the mystery side of the story without overpowering it. (I like my romantic subplots to be sweet and to the point.)

I quite liked all the characters.  Piper, of course, was determined and stubborn and actually quite inspiring since she’s the same age as me and doing so much with her life.  I did think she cried a little too much, even considering the extreme circumstances swirling around her, but that could just be me.  Lydia was a dear, as were Walter and Emma and Matthew.  Mariano was the BEST, in my opinion.  I even liked Nick.  It was so fun to read a solid, interesting novel with immensely likable characters who were easy to fall in love with.

The setting of The Lost Girl of Astor Street was beautifully drawn, both the place and the time period.  It’s always satisfying to start reading a historical novel and realize that the author has researched everything so well, and that’s what this book did for me.  1920’s Chicago was a fascinating place to ‘live in’ for several hours and as I read this on my Kindle, I kept checking to see how much I had left, not because I was bored, but because I didn’t want the story to end.  Oh, and I enjoyed the Italian mafia angle to the story – I’ve always been fascinated by The Mob for some reason, so that was cool.

Overall, The Lost Girl of Astor Street was a thoroughly enjoyable read that I’d recommend to fans of Downton Abbey and period dramas in general (books, movies, and TV shows).

Eva

mini movie review: the man who shot liberty valance

{This post is part and parcel of the John Wayne Blogathon.}

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

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The film begins in 1910 when a successful aging U.S. senator Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) and his wife of twenty-five years Hallie (Vera Miles) return to the small western town Shinbone, where they met, to attend the funeral of Tom Doniphon (John Wayne) a man known in the town as a good man but undistinguished.  However, as Ranse begins to tell Tom’s story, it is evident that there is more to him – and Ranse and Hallie – than meets the eye.

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What a movie.  The opening scenes alone are enough to put a lump in your throat, even if you’re only seeing it for the first time and you don’t even know what’s going on.  There’s so much aching poignancy and melancholy in both of the ‘present day’ parts (the one at the beginning and the one at the end).  As for the middle of the film, well, it’s one of the most entertaining, thoughtful westerns I’ve ever seen.  The story is tight and fast-paced and there’s something about the stark beauty and simplicity of black & white that I love, especially in this film.  And, again, it’s pretty emotional.  I definitely teared up a couple of times.

And the characters!  TMWSLV is bursting with lovable characters.  Vera Miles as Hallie is one of the standouts of the film, in my opinion, with her expressive acting and strong character.  She’s one of the best female characters I’ve ever seen in a Western movie.  James Stewart is great, as usual, and as for the bad guys…Liberty Valance is played by Lee Marvin and he makes for a delicious villain.  Very scary, very memorable.  And one of his sidekicks is played by Lee Van Cleef!  It doesn’t get any better than that.

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But I watched this movie for John Wayne, really, so I’ve saved talking about him and his character, Tom Doniphon, for last.  Now, truth be told, John Wayne isn’t one of my favorite actors.  And I haven’t much cared for him in any of the films I’ve seen him in thus far (this, The Horse Soldiers, and The Longest Day), but I went into my re-watch of TMWSLV with an open mind, determined to be fair.  And you know what?  I actually didn’t mind him much at all – in fact, there were several parts where I liked him quite a bit.  Of course, it helps that Tom is such an awesome character: sure he’s rough around the edges and he’s tough (naturally) and more than a little rude at times, but it’s near the end where you really realize how much he cares for Hallie and just how heroic he is.  So I quite liked him.

Overall, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of my favorite westerns ever and John Wayne is a big part of that.  Have you watched it yet?

Eva

movie review: cars

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While traveling to California to race against The King and Chick Hicks for the Piston Cup Championship, Lightning McQueen becomes lost in a run down town called Radiator Springs after falling out of his trailer.  While there he slowly befriends the town’s odd residents, including Sally, Doc Hudson, and Mater.  But will he decide to stay or leave?

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You know, sometimes I wonder why I love this movie so much.  I mean, it’s about cars.  And it’s a pretty run-of-the-mill plot when you think about it (‘arrogant jerk winds up in a small town and learns to be a better person/car’).  And the first time I watched Cars I did think it was boring and clichéd and over-rated.  So what changed?  I really don’t know.  I watched it once and hated it and then I watched it a second time a while later and and found myself becoming so emotionally involved in the story + characters that I’ve loved the movie ever since.  I’ve seen it maybe five or six times now, all the way through, and countless re-watches of certain parts (because my siblings have watched it so often and I’ll be doing other stuff and wander in whenever to catch my favorite parts).

Anyway, the point is that I love Cars now.  It’s swiftly moving up my list of favorite animated movies (and favorite movies in general).  I know with all the other great films Pixar has put out recently it tends to get dumped with the Monsters movies and A Bug’s Life (if it weren’t for all the merchandising, I think it would fade away into the background altogether), but Cars is one of my favorite Pixar movies ever.  If not my absolute favorite. (I’m totally doing a Pixar blogathon one of these days.  Just so you know.)  Yes, the story is a little predictable but the great visuals, awesome characters, and emotional core that drives (pun totally intended) the whole thing really pull the movie together, in my opinion.

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My favorite thing, hands down, about Cars is the characters.  Definitely.  It’s rare that I like a main character the most (side characters/villains are usually much more interesting than the hero/heroine) but Lightning McQueen is the BEST.  I love his name, I love all his snarky comments (except for the “Well, it matches the rest of the town” line because that is unacceptable), and I love how he softens so gradually toward Radiator Springs and its inhabitants.  It beautifully subtle.  And we really see the town through his eyes ’cause everyone is pretty weird in the beginning and it’s neat to see how, as McQueen becomes more familiar with everything and everyone, we do, too.  And then there’s how he’s so changed by the end of the movie… *sniffff*

Doc Hudson tugs at my heart.  His story/character arc is bittersweet, especially when you remember that Cars was Paul Newman’s last film – I don’t think he could have had a more poignant role for his last one, even if he did only do the voice work.  (Also, did you know that Paul Newman was a professional race car driver?  So cool.)  Mater, however, is another story.  I tend to dislike sidekicks like Mater (Olaf, anyone?) and I always go into Cars thinking that I can’t stand Mater, only to find that he’s actually not all that bad.  In fact, I get emotional over a couple of his lines.  (“I knew it! I knowed I made a good choice!”  “In what?”  “My best friend.”)  Plus, he’s actually pretty funny most of the time. (It’s Cars 2 where he really gets annoying.)  As for the rest of the characters: I like Sally, but she’s really only there as The Love Interest.  Luigi and Guido are favorites, as is the Sheriff.  Chick is awful, the King is sweet, and Mack is great (John Ratzenberger cameo!).  Don’t know much about Ramone or Flo, Lizzie or Red (though Red is still makes me smile).  Fillmore and Sarge crack me up.

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Everyone always gushes about the ‘When She Loved Me’ montage in Toy Story 2 as being so tear-jerking but, for me, it doesn’t even come close to the ‘Our Town’ montage.  Nope.  Not even close.  IT’S SO SAD, GUYS.  They built a town and it was perfect and busy and wonderful and then the stupid highway came through, but they still stayed and…I’ve just got a lot of feelings and, again, I don’t know why exactly.  It’s not as obviously emotional as some other scenes Pixar’s come out with, but it hits me in the heart all the same.  That, plus the dance-on-the-new-road, plus the ending of the big race, are the three scenes that make always me cry. (Also, Doc Hudson.  Because of reasons.)  It’s a pretty feelsy movie for me, which I still can’t wrap my head around because it’s just, y’know, cars.  What’s so emotional about cars?  A lot, I guess.

Wow.  This review ended up being way longer than I expected.  Thanks for reading it all!

Have you ever watched Cars?  What’s your favorite Pixar movie?

Eva