mini movie reviews {#12}

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narnia.  from my instagram.

Feels like a long time since I last posted something.  Life has been crazy busy – my family joined a new church and there are a lot of church-related activities going on.  I also picked up a new copywriting client, so that’s great (but also time-consuming).  Annnnd I have my writing.  So yeah, I struggle finding time to blog (and finding topics to blog about).  Anyway, you guys seem to enjoy my mini movie reviews, so here are some more. ❤

Thor: The Dark World (2013) – I had to see what many term ‘Marvel’s worst movie’ at least once, right?  Well, I did.  And yeah…it’s pretty bad.  Not the worst superhero movie I’ve ever seen but definitely the worst Marvel movie.  Loki was fun, as always, but Thor almost felt like a side character in his own movie (and since I have a newfound appreciation for Thor…).

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Minority Report (2002) – I know I’ve done a mini review of this film before but YOU GUYS IT’S SO GOOD.  John Anderton is hands down my favorite Tom Cruise role and one of my all-time favorite cinematic heroes in general.  You’ve got a breathtaking sci-fi world on the verge of becoming a dystopia.  You’ve got so much action and emotion and every single cast member acting their socks off.  It’s just…incredible.  You need to watch Minority Report.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – So sweet!  Tom Holland is one of the best things to ever happen to the MCU – his Spider-Man is adorkable and funny and actually looks/acts like a teenager.  And Vulture was a pretty good villain (a rarety for Marvel).  Super (haha) excited for Far From Home now.

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Dumbo (2019) – Not as bad as all the critics say.  Sure, it’s not going to wow anyone the way other Disney remakes have, but it’s a solid adaption of Disney’s original film.  And I prefer it because the aesthetic + the realism + the characters.  All three are better than the original and ‘Baby Mine’ actually brought me to tears in this adaption.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) – I wish I hadn’t known ‘whodunit’ going into this film.  Takes some of the zest out of the experience.  However, I still really enjoyed it.  The costumes + scenery are to die for (lol) and when you have such a great line-up of experienced actors…it’s usually got to be good.

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Josh Gad surprised me by being Not Annoying.

Shrek 2 (2004) – So, when I first watched Shrek, I was totally not expecting to like it.  Just didn’t seem like my thing.  But as I watched and then rewatched it, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the heart and soul and general zaniness of it.  Shrek 2 wasn’t quite as brilliant but it helped me remember just how much I love the Shrek universe.  It’s odd, but it’s not so odd that I can’t connect to it.

Dead Poets Society (1989) – I’m never going to be able to read Midsummer Night’s Dream without crying now.

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Doubt (2008) – Um…I don’t even know what to say about this movie.  It’s thought-provoking and confusing and, yeah, really confusing.  Basically, this Catholic priest is accused of child molestation but nobody really knows the truth of it and even after this long, tense investigation, the film never tells you what actually happened (or didn’t happen).  Hence, ‘Doubt’.  I still don’t quite know what to make of it.

Have you seen any of these movies?  Do you have any ideas for blog posts that you’d like to see from me?  Let me know in the comments!

Eva

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book review: the girl behind the red rope

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Ten years ago, Grace saw something that would forever change the course of history. When evil in its purest form is unleashed on the world, she and others from their religious community are already hidden deep in the hills of Tennessee, abiding by every rule that will keep them safe, pure–and alive. As long as they stay there, behind the red perimeter.

Her older brother’s questions and the arrival of the first outsiders she’s seen in a decade set in motion events that will question everything Grace has built her life on. Enemies rise on all sides–but who is the real enemy? And what will it cost her to uncover the truth?

Wow.  This book.

So, I’m a huge fan of Rachelle Dekker’s book, The Choosing (the other two books in the series not so much though).  It was a truly chilling/thrilling faith-based dystopian literally like nothing I’ve ever read before.  And while I’ve never read a Ted Dekker book (except for House which I cordially loathed) he’s known for putting a creepy vibe into his stories that I dig (in small doses).

I say all that to explain why I was excited for The Girl Behind the Red Rope.  And it was pretty great!  I think it’s super, super cool that Ted and Rachelle wrote a book together (I’d really like to know their process/who did what/all of that).

The world of TGBTRR is your typical creepy cult thing – like The Village or The Wicker Man or Children of the Corn (I’m guessing with all those references ’cause I’ve never seen any of those movies).  You’ve got a matriarchal society where the leader receives all sorts of visions and stuff from a sort of demonic guy?  That only she can see most of the time?  (It’s really hard to explain the plot without giving spoilers.)

The plot is super twisty and keeps you guessing a LOT.  There are multiple point of view characters and they were all pretty well written (the POVs and the characters both).  Loved the tenseness of the story, the supernatural elements, the focus on fighting your fears and trusting God…really good.  Of course there’s the requisite Dekker weirdness in places but it actually was more on the level of Peretti than full-blown Dekker (IMO).

Overall, fans of Ted and/or Rachelle Dekker will really enjoy this book.  As will anyone who likes suspenseful thrillers with a supernatural twist and strong, gutsy characters.

Have you read anything by the Dekkers?  Is this book on your TBR list?

Eva

book review: the string

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A sociopath is running a deadly social experiment on a university campus. Markus Haas is the first to refuse to play the game. What unravels is a sequence of impossible decisions and a race against time to stop the sociopath before others pay the ultimate price.

I keep wanting to call this book ‘The Sting’ for some reason. (Isn’t that an old Robert Redford movie or something?)  ANYWAY.  This was a pretty good book.  Some of the more thrilling scenes with the Conductor gave me horror movie vibes and actually had me wishing that the author had gone full-tilt into creepiness (I do like being scared sometimes).  The line-up of characters going against the Conductor were mainly The Good Guys (with a few twist betrayals, because of course).  I think Haas was a good protagonist for the book and Cody was my fav.

There was one thing about The String that did seriously bug me: the fact that, although this book is put out by a Christian publisher, there’s really no Christian content to speak of (except for a couple vague references to God/praying).  Sure, there’s no swearing in situations where these unsaved characters would be blistering the air with curse words.  And despite the villain’s creepiness and general villainy, there really isn’t much gore or violence.  But this book is, for the most part, secular.  I’m fine reading secular books – I’m just disappointed that a Christian publisher wouldn’t have more faith content in one of theirs. (Ugh.  I sound legalistic or something.  It’s hard to explain my thoughts properly…but basically, I do want to see how Christians would react in these situations.  How integral their faith in God would be as their lives are threatened by a madman.  So yeah.)

Overall, I’d totally recommend this book to fans of slightly creepy thrillers that aren’t chock full of bad language. (I’ve already recommended it to one of my brothers, so that shows you that I think it’s actually quite good.)

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Eva

mini book review: yours truly, thomas (+ mini book rant)

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For three years, Penny Ercanbeck has been opening other people’s mail. Dead ends are a reality for clerks at the Dead Letter Office. Still she dreams of something more–a bit of intrigue, a taste of romance, or at least a touch less loneliness. When a letter from a brokenhearted man to his one true love falls into her hands, Penny seizes this chance to do something heroic. It becomes her mission to place this lost letter into the hands of its intended recipient.

Thomas left his former life with no intention of ending up in Azure Springs, Iowa. He certainly didn’t expect a happy ending after what he had done. All he wanted to do was run and never look back. In a moment of desperation, he began to write, never really expecting a reply.

When Penny’s undertaking leads her to the intriguing man who touched her soul with his words, everything grows more complicated. She wants to find the rightful owner of the letter and yet she finds herself caring–perhaps too much–for the one who wrote it.

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I requested this book for review because I like stories that are centered around letters + the power of the written word.  It started out solidly enough, mainly because I’d never heard of the Dead Letter Office.  Really interesting and I wish more of the story had been focused in and around the office.  But instead, Penny leaves really quickly for the town of Azure Springs…and that’s where Yours Truly, Thomas became too cliched for my tastes.

You’ve got the impossibly perfect hero who bares his innermost soul via dialogue in a way no self-respecting guy in Ye Olde West would (especially not to almost total strangers).  You’ve got the quirky, cLumSY heroine who is radiantly beautiful (a fact everyone comments on all the time).  There’s the Evil Villain who has, like, almost zero motivation.  There’s also the homespun, tough love wisdom of The Small Town Wise Woman.  It’s just…too much, you guys.  Too cliched.  And pretty boring. (Because the plot + declarations of love + ending are also run-of-the-mill.)

Give me depth in Christian historical fiction.  Give me romances that spans months and years and have actual problems and forgiveness and passionate love that makes you actually believe in the happily ever after ending.  Give me twisted villains with a boatload of hurt and harm and scar tissue a mile deep (yet who aren’t beyond redemption because this is supposed to be Christian fiction).  Give me heroes and heroines who face Real World Problems and are their own people (even – especially – if you took away the romantical aspect of the plot).  Give me small towns where not everything and everyone is perfect, but people still care for each other in spite their differences.

I feel like P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks: “This entire [genre] is flim-flam! Where is its heart? Where is its reality? Where… is the gravitas?”

Anyway.  That’s my rant for the day.  Enjoy. 😛

Oh, and I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my [brutally] honest review.

Eva

mini movie reviews {#11}

About Time (2013) – Time travel has always been one of my favorite plot devices and I think this film employed it pretty well.  The last few scenes hit a bit closer to home than I was expecting (Tim and his dad’s relationship).

Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (2018) – Totally wasn’t expecting to enjoy this film as much as I did!  I could probably write a whole blog post about how much I adore Chris Pine’s Spider-Man (he should have had a bigger role!) and I really dug how fresh and inventive the storytelling/visual style was.

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The Road to El Dorado (2000) – I always think/wish this movie was better than it is.  There are some genuinely funny moments and ?the dark-haired guy? is pretty cute, but it’s a forgettable movie overall.

Teen Beach Movie (2013) – I need to watch some actual 60’s teen beach movies now. 😀

The Firm (1993) – AHHHHHH.  Tom Cruise was so good in this!  When I watch movies by myself I tend to get way more invested and tense than when I watch them with my family and ‘The Firm’ did a number on my nerves.  It’s so twisty and well-acted and I loooove the soundtrack.

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Mission: Impossible (1996) – This movie actually makes me tear up because of The Nostalgia.  It sticks so close to the tone of the original show and I love that.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019) – I’m bummed because I expected HTTYD3 to be the best Dragon movie yet…and it didn’t live up to those expectations.  It’s a good movie with some genuinely poignant moments (seeing Stoick again, the epilogue…) but it kinda fell flat.  The villain was too similar to the second movie’s villain and the magic of the first two films just wasn’t there.

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The Grinch (2018) – THEY TOOK THE BEST LINE OUT OF THE STORY AND I CAN’T FORGIVE THEM.  You know, the “maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store – maybe Christmas, in fact, means a little bit more”.  So, yeah, I kinda hate this movie.

The Parent Trap (1998) – I prefer this version to the OG.  It’s brighter, funnier, has more Dennis Quaid…

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My Girl (1991) – I knew what was going to happen.  I knew it and I steeled myself and then I literally could not keep the tears from running down my face.  Great movie though.

A Face in the Crowd (1957) – I discovered this film via an Austin McConnell video and I really enjoyed it.  It’s pretty chilling in places and there’s more to absorb than one viewing can give, so I’ll definitely be watching it again.

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Have you seen any of these movies?  Which films have you enjoyed lately?

Eva

book review: wooing cadie mccaffrey

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After four years with her boyfriend, Cadie McCaffrey is thinking of ending things. Convinced Will doesn’t love her in the “forever” way she loves him, Cadie believes it’s time for her to let him go before life passes her by. When a misunderstanding leads to a mistake, leaving her hurt, disappointed, and full of regret, she finally sends him packing.

But for Will, the end of their relationship is only the beginning of his quest to figure out how to be the man Cadie wanted him to be. With the dubious guidance of his former pro-athlete work friends and tactics drawn from Cadie’s favorite romantic comedies, Will attempts to win her back. It’s a foolproof plan. What could possibly go wrong?

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What I was expecting (based on the cover/blurb): a sweet, fluffy, quirky contemporary romance.

What I got: a complicated, honest, heartwarming contemporary romance.

Romance isn’t one of my favorite genres but when the opportunity to review this book came up, I couldn’t pass up the cute cover and a story that centered around classic rom-coms.  Only, it isn’t really?  Rom-coms are definitely integral to the story, but in an almost harmful way and I much prefer the real, human side of Wooing.  If that makes any sense. 

To put it another way, there was enough authentic emotion in this book to make me forgive the gushy, unrealistic romantic stuff.

I liked Cadie, as a heroine.  I liked how she owned up to her mistakes, had a career/knew what she wanted from life, and was vulnerable and open in the moments where it counted.  I struggle with showing my emotions so she was a bit of an inspiration in that regard.  I didn’t like Will as much.  He was kind of pushy?  And a bit insensitive?  But the last couple of chapters went a long way toward clearing up confusion around some of his actions, which was nice.

Overall, I think Wooing Cadie McCaffrey is pretty much the perfect romantic novel: a little serious, a little fun, and a very fast read.  I don’t read the genre a lot but when I pick up a romance novel, I want it to be just like this. ❤

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Eva

book review: romanov

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The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them, and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of saving herself and her family are either to release the spell and deal with the consequences, or to enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya has only dabbled in magic, but it doesn’t frighten her half as much as her growing attraction to Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her.

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.

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My mind is still reeling from the shock of this book.

In a good way, I promise!

I think everyone knows that I’ve been eagerly anticipating Romanov, Nadine Brandes’s newest book.  And I wasn’t disappointed. 

I find it interesting that it opens with Nastya burning her diaries because the Anastasia book in the Royal Diaries series ends with Anastasia burning her diary.  So you could almost read the books back to back, you know?

Speaking of Nastya, she was a great heroine!  It takes a lot for me to truly love a main character (I don’t know why, it’s just a thing with me) but I’ve loved and cheered on and rooted for all of Nadine’s protagonists so far. Nastya is a mixture of compassion and mischief and deep wounds (emotional and physical) and seeing her story through her eyes was such a powerful thing.  I think Nadine did a great job of bring Anastasia, the real Anastasia, to life.

Remember how I talked in a previous post about how I was leery of Rasputin being portrayed as a good guy?  Well, I thought he would be an actual character in Romanov, but he wasn’t and his actions (as discussed by other characters) were left open for interpretation, so that’s all good. 😉  I loved all of Nastya’s family members, even the ones who weren’t fleshed out very much.  There was so much goodness and kindness and joy in them, even while they were prisoners.

Zash is probably my favorite character in Romanov, to be honest.  His entire character arc is, like, one big spoiler so I won’t say much about that.  But I’ll just say that I have a thing for broken, wounded heroes who struggle to find redemption and Zash delivered that on every single level.  I liked how the relationship between him and Nastya was strengthened and then fractured and then slowly rebuilt again and again and again.  It was complicated and real.

The only thing I didn’t one hundred percent love about Romanov was the magical side of things.  It was really interesting and inventive and necessary to the story, but it was a little more magicky than I like.

Nadine’s writing is at its most beautiful in Romanov.  There were so many sentences and phrases and bits of dialogue and description that filled my writer’s heart with joy.  I’m not one for recording quotes obsessively so I (unfortunately) don’t have examples at hand, but trust me: if you love beautiful prose, Romanov is the book for you.

And then, finally, there’s the theme of Romanov: forgiveness.  Without going into personal details, I found this theme hugely appropriate for me, at this point in my life.  And Nadine did such a good job (as usual) of weaving the theme through the story and characters in a way that never felt preachy.  Not once.  It’s amazing.

I know I said ‘finally’ last paragraph, but I just wanted to add that this book made me cry and cry hard.  I still have a lump in my throat.  But at the same time, it’s one of the most hopeful books I’ve ever read.  

Romanov is gorgeous and heartbreaking and triumphant all at once.

You really need to read it.

Eva