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Movie Review: Jupiter Ascending

I freely admit that I went to see this movie solely because the primary antagonist is played by Eddie Redmayne, who is currently my favorite freckle-faced actor. I wasn't expecting much from the rest of the movie, and 'not much' is exactly what I got. Don't get me wrong, the special effects were very well done and sometimes breathtaking, but Jupiter Ascending is what I simply call a special-effects movie: i.e. there are numerous, often pointless fight scenes, explosions, or plot aspects that exist solely so that audience can be (hopefully) wowed by the special effects. I expected this after I saw the trailers, and indeed, there was a space fight about every ten minutes of the film (79% of them involving a shirtless Channing Tatum). 
    As for the plot, it was half original, half cliché. It tried; it really did. A young half-Russian woman, Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), hates her life as a janitor and dreams of buying a telescope to study the stars like her late father did before she was born. However, worthwhile telescopes do not come cheaply, and her motley Russian family doesn't have the money to waste on a telescope, and neither does Jupiter. Her cousin convinces her to donate some of her eggs to a fertility center for $5000, but chaos ensues when the nurses and doctor turn out to be shapeshifting aliens intent on killing Jupiter. She is rescued by Caine Wise (Tatum), a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, and fifteen minutes of special effects fights and falls from tall buildings ensue. Caine takes the perplexed and frightened Jupiter to meet Stinger (Sean Bean), another genetically engineered soldier who explains to Jupiter that humans did not originate on Earth—the planet was seeded by Abrasax Industries about 100,000 years ago and will be "harvested" when the planet's population becomes too large, whereupon the people will be disintegrated into a sort of youth serum and sold to those who can afford the exorbitant price. Jupiter discovers that it is the Abrasax family who wants her dead, because her genes dictate her the heir to the Earth, and it is worth more than any of the other planets combined. Balem Abrasax (Redmayne) currently holds the title to Earth and will not rest until Jupiter is dead; meanwhile, his siblings Kalique and Titus vie for control of Jupiter as well. 
       I liked the plot, but I think too much was crammed into two hours and seven minutes; there was too much information given quickly and in short scenes interspersed with mind-numbing battles in space. Plus, I honestly couldn't understand what Sean Bean was saying most of the time, so that made it even more difficult to track the plot and people because he was explaining many important things to Jupiter. This story might make an awesome TV show, if done well, but there was simply too much to explain in a mere two hours, and the characters suffered for it. Jupiter is your typical, plucky heroine (although I was amused by her rather forward declaration of love to Caine about twenty minutes into the film). We are told Caine is complicated, but he seemed to be your typical super-skilled, gruff fighter who doesn't let anyone but the beautiful heroine into his wounded little heart and ends up falling hard for her even though he doesn't want to. 
      And then there's Balem. I was legitimately glad when Jupiter whacked him across the face with a metal pole—let me repeat that: Balem is played by Eddie Redmayne, and yet I was glad when he got pummeled! That should tell you how dislikeable this fellow was; not only did he whisper 99% of his lines (which I think was supposed to be intimidating but left me wondering if he was recovering from strep throat), but he had a weird obsession with Jupiter because she was the reincarnation of his mother, and he couldn't seem to grasp that she wasn't actually his mother. Jupiter had to remind him of this at least twice ... and then she hit him with a pole. To be fair, he'd been kicking and punching her for the last five minutes, so he certainly deserved it. 
       So to sum it all up: Jupiter Ascending is heavy on the cool effects and weak on everything else. I'm glad I saw it (some of the special effects and costumes really were beautiful), but it certainly won't make my top-ten list of wonderful movies. Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars. If you want to see Eddie Redmayne in a truly wonderful movie, check out The Theory of Everything (he's been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actor category and won the SAG and BAFTA awards for Best Actor, along with numerous others. Yeah. He was that good.). And of course, Les Miserablesthe man can sing
        That's all for now, folks! Have a restful Sunday :) 

A Glowing Review of FR!

I received this wonderful review on my Fallen Rose Amazon page earlier this week and thought I'd share it with you (in case you needed any convincing to order a copy). ;) 

"Get ready for a trip that is sometimes harrowing, sometimes thrilling, sometimes romantic, and always full of surprises when you read Fallen Rose. This is a sequel to Young Falcon, and while I'm sure it can be thoroughly enjoyed as a first read, I strongly recommend reading Young Falcon first. You will get to know the fascinating characters and see how their earlier decisions and actions--and their perilous adventures--led to the epic struggles of this book. The central character, a young girl named Elysia, is caught up in a battle waged by the forces of a power-hungry despot against the elven cities. Her story intertwines with other narratives in ingenious ways, often taking the reader's breath away and making it almost impossible to set the book down. The author's teeming imagination and descriptive powers will leave readers of Fallen Rose eagerly awaiting the third volume in the 'Sons and Daughters' series." - Mary E. Weed

Convinced yet? If not, head over to the reviews page and check out additional adulations of the newest book in the Sons and Daughters series, Fallen Rose! People of all ages have loved both YF and FR, so don't hesitate to order a copy today and learn what all the buzz is really about! Carry on, lovely people! 

Dust Bowl Dance

One of my favorite topics about which to write is the struggle of the poor and the innate prejudice between the rich and those living in poverty (in regards to the 18th and 19th centuries). A few years ago, right after I saw Tom Hooper's Les Misérables, I began a novel about a young French orphan named Aurélien Courtemanche and his struggle to survive on the streets of Compiègne during the late 1800s. Unfortunately, it never got any longer than 32 pages, but researching the living conditions of French beggars during the 1800s was fascinating and heartbreaking, and the subject of the poor vs. the rich remains a special one to me. In fact, my 900+ page story, The Rat Race, deals immensely with this topic; if I had to give you an extremely quick summary of this story, I would say it resembles a world where The Hunger Games meets the Olympics and The Great Gatsby (maybe with a little bit of Les Misérables thrown in there somewhere). 
 
 
         Anyway. I say all this so you'll understand my love of Mumford & Sons' song, "Dust Bowl Dance." I discovered it a few weeks ago on an album that my friend N.B. gave me a year or two ago, and it has been playing on repeat for the past week :D There are few songs that really capture the spirit of a story I'm writing, and while The Rat Race does not take place in the Depression era, "Dust Bowl Dance" reminds me strongly of its protagonist, Sam Decker, who is living in extreme poverty when The Rat Race begins. 
     Another song that inspires me regarding this theme is "At the End of the Day" from Les Misérables; it was after watching this scene in particular that I decided to write a story about extreme poverty. Every time I listen to this song, it sparks something in me that I can't quite explain. Is it pity? Perhaps. Or maybe it's compassion, I don't know. Either way, we haven't all been blessed with a beautiful home, three meals a day, clean water, and a Christian family, and I am humbled when I think of how blessed I truly am to have all these things. Writing about extremely poor conditions gives me a small glimpse into the lives of people who must deal with poverty every day, but thankfully, I am able to leave, whereas they are not. So I leave you with these thoughts from Deut. 15:7-8 and 1 Sam. 2:7-8:
 
"If there is a poor man among your brothers ... do not be hardhearted or tight-fisted toward your poor brother. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs." 
 
"The Lord ... raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; He seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor." 
 
Be thankful for what you have, and always extend compassion to those who have less. God bless! :) 

Cop Cars, Stretchers, and Near-Fainting Experiences

Fun title, right? Well, that's what my day consisted of today. Looking back on it, I'm laughing at the oddity of my day; this morning, I was perfectly fine and expecting a perfectly ordinary day. But as I was sitting in one of my psychology classes, watching a video about prenatal development with a moderate level of interest, I began to have intense cramps in my lower abdomen. I figured they would pass, but they persisted and intensified, and I soon began to experience an alternately warm and cold tingle all throughout my body (which I know from past experience is a sign that I'm going to faint). My hands were also almost completely numb, and my mouth was dry. I put my head down on the table in hopes that this would pass, and by the time class was about halfway over, I knew I could not stand up. So I spent the rest of class in that kind of agony where you can only shift back and forth in pain and hope it ends soon. When class (finally) ended, I put my hand up weakly and was like, "Dr. Brown, I can't stand up." Then I promptly started sobbing, and apparently I was white as a sheet, trembling, and cold to the touch. My kind professor, her GA, and a random girl from my class waited with me until a cop / stand-in paramedic came, and he asked me lots of questions and then called some real paramedics. They came a while later ... with a stretcher. *insert mortification here* They thought my blood sugar might be low since I hadn't eaten much, but that wasn't it, so the girl and the cop drove me over to the doctor's office (in the cop car, I might add), and the girl waited with me until I saw the doctor. He deduced that I have a bad stomach virus in which my intestines are leeching all of the water from every other part of my body, hence the numbness in my hands and my dehydrated appearance. (Think me odd, but when he told me that, I legitimately thought that was really cool ... or, it would be if it wasn't excruciating!) 
      Anyway, I am currently guzzling water, battling the pain of my greedy little intestines, and hoping I feel better tomorrow! Please pray for me; the doctor said the virus should be gone in about 48 hours, but it could be a really painful 48 hours. Hope you all had a good day! :) 

Baby Niece!

My brother and his wife are expecting their first baby in June, and since they live in Germany, we're going to go visit them this summer (I'm ridiculously excited). And the little one is a girl, we just found out, so I'll be bringing lots of tiny little dresses for my niece when we go! :) Her name is Mattie, so if you read about a Mattie in the next few months, that's who I'll be talking about. I will, of course, be posting an obnoxious amount of pictures from our Germany trip this summer (brace yourselves), so be looking forward to that, and I hope you're all having the best Monday you can have! :) 

Website Reforms!

You probably didn't know I have a website. Well, I do, and it's currently undergoing some repairs. With any luck, we'll have it up and running soon, and then I can post right from this here blog to my website! And Facebook and Twitter and whatever else kids are using these days (seriously, if I didn't need technology for marketing, I'd forgo the Internet). Anyway, I'll be sure to keep you updated on my site :) 
      Carry on, lovely people! 

Movie Review: Hick

I promise I don't usually watch movies like this, but I very much admire Eddie Redmayne's work, and this was one of his films that I hadn't seen yet. Anyway, this won't be a very long review, but there are a few things about this movie I'd like to discuss. First of all, this is an intense and gritty film—if you're not into movies that portray the hardships of life as they really are, this is not the movie for you. 
     Luli, the thirteen-year-old daughter of two drunks, dreams of escaping her run-down hometown of Palmyra, Nebraska. She runs away from home after both her parents abandon her and almost immediately runs into trouble. A handsome but vaguely sinister young cowboy named Eddie Kreezer (Redmayne) picks her up on the side of the road as she tries to hitchhike her way to Las Vegas, and Luli is thrown into a dismal, bleak world that threatens to swallow her whole. 
     Now, there is an abundance of language in this film, along with plenty of drugs and drinking. Morals seems non-existent to the people Luli encounters, and (spoilers) she eventually becomes a victim of rape. But despite her hardships, Luli perseveres, keeps her chin up, and narrates the events of the film with a childlike wisdom and strength that will strike a chord of sympathy and admiration with viewers. Hick could potentially leave its audience with a sense of hopelessness, but Luli's unwillingness to submit to her circumstances is inspiring. I don't usually like strong female characters (that's a discussion for another post), but I genuinely admired Luli and found myself rooting for her. 
     Normally I would take some points off for language, but I felt that these people were so real and three-dimensional that I didn't object to it (as much as usual; I still didn't like it). But overall, Hick was a fascinating and bleak portrayal of the struggles that some people endure, and it was actually one of the more thought-provoking films I've watched in a very long time. Overall, I give it an 8 out of 10. 

P.S. Moral of the story: don't hitchhike. 

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