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Night Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews Jan 22 2017 · 126 views

Night Review :kaukau: Quick show of hands: who hasn't read this book? I'm just curious. Where I come from, this Nobel Prize winning book was required reading in my freshman year of high school, but maybe that isn't so in other states and other countries. Of course, even if it is required reading, perhaps you haven't got to high school yet, so you haven't read it.

In my opinions, everyone should read this historic book, and they shouldn't wait until high school to do so. Parents should read it to their children when they're still in elementary school. I don't think someone should withhold Night from someone just because "they aren't old enough." It's an important book to be familiar with. It affects your worldview when you immerse yourself in its contents.

As someone who appreciates literature, I also should note that on top of this being a moving true story about one of the most significant events in the twentieth century, but it is also written by a master of storytelling. Elie Wiesel tells his story not just as an historian, but as an artist. He speaks with a rare and special voice that one can only have if one has gone through and been permanently affected by his experiences. He manages to succeed in expressing his suffering through his words, which is very hard to do. It is quite fortunate that of the few Jews who survived the Holocaust, at least one of them should have his ability to speak as clearly as he does on the subject of that long, long night.


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Was God On Vacation? Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews Jan 20 2017 · 131 views

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:kaukau: A while back, an Iowa state representative by the name of John Kooiker gave me a book after church. He was an old friend of mine, an elder I looked up to and regularly talked with after services had convened. I meant to read it right away.

Around ten years later, I finally got around to it. It's a shame that it took me this long. I should be far more eager to complete a book when someone gives it to me. It's the polite thing to do. And anyway, I didn't read it because I remembered John Kooiker. I read it because my father read it in my stead when I first took it home. All these years, my old man has been asking me if I've gotten around to reading that book. He really wanted me to read it, because he loved it, which is no surprise. The book is about a Dutchman who did amazing things during World War II. My father's a Dutchman, so the story was relevant to him.

Like the judge giving in to the persistent widow, I listened to him after a while. A decade later, I finally picked the book up and put my nose to it from start to finish.

Overall, it was an interesting account. It's the true story of Jakobus "Jack" van der Geest, who was a teenager when the Germans first invaded the Netherlands. That much I knew from what John Kooiker had told me when he handed me the book. The first few chapters is about how he fought in the Dutch underground, got reported on by his neighbor named Reita, ended up being shipped to Buchenwald, was mistaken for a doctor and forced to help the Nazi doctors with their experiments, became so thin that eventually he got away with faking death, being thrown into a pile of dead bodies, and eventually crawled out at night and killed the Nazi officer patrolling the pile, at which point he took the officer's clothes and sneaked out of the concentration camp.

This is non-fiction, so I don't think that it's a big deal to give away spoilers. However, I'm not going to write up a summary of Jack van der Geest's story in this review. I very well could. After all, I knew most of the things that were going to happen in this book because my father told me about several of Jack's stories. However, perhaps you want to read this for yourself instead of just getting a brief description of his adventures from me. I don't want to take away your reason for going out and buying this book.

What I will say is that Carol Ordemann, who transcribed the story for Jack, didn't necessarily do the best job. I noticed several typos, among other things, which is an objective flaw in its writing. A published book shouldn't have any typos. It's extremely unprofessional to have them. That's the other complaint that I have about Ordemann's writing, that it isn't very professional. The story is in the first person, which makes me wish that van der Geest didn't seek out someone else to write the book for him. I'm not expecting him to have the writing ability of Elie Wiesel, but I still would imagine that he'd have enough of a knack for storytelling to write this book himself. As it stands, Ordemann's first-person writing doesn't feel very personal and doesn't put me in his skin. It feels emotionally distanced. Also egregiously, there are times then Carol writes a person as having said something "while smiling" or some other expression, and it's really frustrating because it sounded to my ear like she was creatively filling in the blanks of various scenes in order to make them feel more like first-person recollections and not like they were actual memories of van der Geest. This book could have felt a lot more reliable, but I didn't trust the illustrator when actual scenes were being illustrated. Did I trust the overall story and the events therein? Yes, but not the details of the conversations, which in the meantime were flat.

Another problem that this book has is the title. van der Geest briefly implores if God is on vatation while in Buchenwald, but but he then figures that God is on his side when he escapes, and the subject isn't explored again. Once more, I bring up Elie Wiesel, author of Night and God On Trial, who brought up the death of one's faith beautifully, poignantly, and personally in his memoirs, and does a good job of making the reader feel very invested in the question of God's goodness. Was God On Vacation? doesn't explore this question and give a lot of insight into just what van der Geest was going through spiritually, or if he thought that much about his spirituality at all. There are brief mentions of God throughout the book, but they aren't brought up with a lot of conviction, or a sense of urgency that says that says that the Divine is an important subject for conversation. It isn't thematic of the book. It's just a small detail, which makes me think that it doesn't belong in the title, especially when Jack van der Geest only struggles with the question in one of the early chapters.

It's frustrating, because the story truly is a good one. However, I think I'd rather retell it myself in my own way, as a folk tale, to my children. It's a story that's better told than read.


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Hacksaw Ridge Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Movies, Reviews Dec 08 2016 · 91 views

Hacksaw Ridge Review :kaukau: This is going to be an incredibly brief review. Basically, this movie is exactly what you'd expect after watching the trailers. There are no twists, no surprises. it's pretty straightforward. It's masterfully directed, as is to be expected from Mel Gibson. The one thing that I wondered during the movie was whether or not the majority of the movie would be spent in the training camp, where Private Doss would spend a great deal of time petitioning to be allowed to not carry a gun, since that part of the movie went on for a while. However, it was a long movie, and there was quite a bit of time also dedicated to the actual part where he's on the battlefield.

There isn't much swearing in Hacksaw Ridge, or much to merit the R rating. The rating comes purely from the intensity of the battle scenes. People get shot in the head, and the enemy comes from nowhere. It's pretty frightening. Hands down, the most intense part is the gore. You see the soldiers walking over the intestines of their fallen comrades, and rats and maggots eating up the dead bodies. There are people who have their legs blown off by grenades, and you see them get carried off, with ribbons of loose flesh trailing behind on their stumps.

If you can handle watching that, then I do encourage that you go watch this movie. Due to the subject matter, it's a really good drama that doesn't slip into the boring territory.

I'm also tempted to say "Oh hey look, a really good film about religion!" Which is sort of is. Often times, movies about a person's faith are really lame and kind of prejudiced, but this is a good one. Granted, Doss was a Seventh Day Adventist, and I have major disagreements with those guys, but still, it's refreshing. Perhaps a movie of similar quality will one day be made about a guy from my branch of the faith.

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Doctor Strange Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies Nov 09 2016 · 129 views
Doctor Strange, Marvel, review and 1 more...
Doctor Strange Review :kaukau: On the same day that I watched Doctor Strange, I also treated myself to As Good As It Gets, a 1998 comedy that got nominated for Best Original Screenplay. As you can imagine, this heightened my awareness of how so many superhero movies can be generic. That's exactly what the plot of Doctor Strange is: a retread of everything we've seen before, just with a new set of superpowers.

Except these superpowers aren't clearly defined. Even though there's a bit of exposition explaining how his powers work, it isn't enough. I still don't understand what he technically can and can't do. Therefore, I can only conclude that he can and can't do whatever is convenient for the writers. If the writers want a scene to play out a certain way, then his powers are written one way for that scene. They will be written another way for another scene. I don't know how many people will notice this about the movie, but I did, because I like to get nerdy and try and think of the possibilities of what I would do if I had the hero's powers. When I watch a Spiderman movie, I definitely like to imagine what all I could do with his very specific power set. However, with Doctor Strange, I can't quite imagine what it would be like to get creative with his powers, because I don't understand what his powers are, or why they work the way that they do. They get a little bit into the metaphysics of it, but it isn't nearly enough, and this is one of those situations where I feel that the story could have benefited from more exposition. However, this is a Marvel blockbuster, so I know not to expect that.

Meanwhile, Strange isn't the most original character. He definitely has a variant of the Tony Stark vibe going on, and he doesn't quite stand out as an original character. He's a brilliant genius with an abundance of natural talent and technical know-how, who gets a bit cocky and can be a bit of a dirtbag while still being the kind of guy that you can root for. Doesn't that sound a little bit familiar? He even has the same goatee as Tony. His powers are new and unique, but his personality isn't.

The venerable doctor still has more of a personality than Mads Mikkelsen's villain, though. Like just about all Marvel villains outside of Loki and Kilgrave, this villain is thinner than paper and doesn't leave much of a lasting impression. Someone maybe got paid a couple of dollars to write him up, and everyone else paid an eight dollar entry fee so that they could watch this movie and totally not notice him. The only thing that this villain has going for him is that he's played by Mads Mikkelsen, who does villains quite well, but even then I'm conspicuously aware of how he's a million times better as Hannibal Lecter, arguably the greatest villain of all time. This new guy is a serious downgrade for him. He's not even that intimidating. He defeats a bunch of people off screen, and he's as competent as he needs to be in order to pose a serious threat to the world, but he's remarkably average in other scenes when the writers need Strange to survive a fight. Why is Mads so unstoppable when he's up against the armies of other wizards? Why does he conveniently possess that level of competency? Why is it that the villain is a better wizard than all of the other wizards? Because the movie needs someone to be just enough of a threat to keep the plot going, but I'm still not entirely sold that he could have been such a huge threat in the first place. Top that off with his lack of any reeal features as a character beyond being a simple plot device, and I just don't like him. In fact, I distinctly remember my first impression of him being how vague of an impression he made. His name is Kaecilius? What's the ethnic origins of that name? Is that Latin? Except he looks really German. Although his hair looks oriental. If you want someone to make a strong impression, you have to pick traits that make sense together and compound on each other. It's like his different characteristics are canceling each other out, creating an un-character.

Chiwetel Ejiofer's character is a bit more developed, although not by much. I see huge similarities to the Operative from Serenity, in part because it's the same actor. However, his motivations aren't quite as well-defined or thematically prevalent as the Operative's. I mostly took to thinking of him as the Operative, Jr. Still, it isn't bad to have a character like that in this movie.

Overall, Doctor Strange is exactly what thee trailer shows it to be. It's exactly the story you'd expect, and it has all the visual effects that it's marketing team has been boasting of and more. Truly, the visuals are the best part of this film, and I do regret not seeing this in 3D. It was definitely designed to look good in that format. So, if you're planning on on watching this movie because it looks like it will blow Inception out of the water, by all means go ahead. In spite of how harsh this review sounds, I actually did enjoy the film, because like all Marvel movies, it's packed with fun. It just doesn't hold up to a more serious artistic inspection.

Seriously, see this in 3D. I watched it in 2D so that I could tell you to watch it in 3D, you got that? You will not be disappointed.



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Philomena Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Movies, Reviews Oct 07 2016 · 123 views

Philomena Review :kaukau: Here are my cursory thoughts: it's good, and I liked it. It doesn't stand out, but it's a solid movie that made sense as a Best Picture nominee. Judi Dench also delivered a solid performance and got nominated for Best Actress, although there were a couple of performances in this movie that I was more impressed by. First, there were the flashback scenes of Philomena as a teenager, and the actress cast in that role genuinely felt like a younger Judi Dench. The performance that really stands out, though, is Steve Coogan as Sixsmith, the journalist tasked with covering Philomena's human interest story. He didn't get nominated for an Academy Award, but his acting deserves some recognition. Philomena also got nominated for Best Original Score, which is the Academy Award that I probably pay the most attention to, so the score was pleasing, although I can't say that it was hypnotizingly good.

The big thing that I didn't realize until the credits started rolling was that it was based off of a true story. Given the content of the movie, that's really upsetting. Basically, Philomena deals with the phenomenon of forced adoptions in Ireland, and how nuns would go out of their way to make sure that adopted children were never reunited with their parents. The nuns were definitely the "bad guys" in this story, so I can think of a number of Catholics who would be upset by this film (my grandmother wasn't one of the, but I can see my sister having a fit over this), but it's not like the movie made up anything, since the nuns really did do this in real life. The movie makes sure to point out that they were bad examples of Catholics, though, and make Philomena out to be a good example. Sixsmith, meanwhile, was an agnostic, and overall the movie doesn't really take sides when it comes to religion, choosing to represent both worldviews sympatheticalkly. Politics are also lightly evoked, briefly, and the movie also does a good job of not taking sides in this arena as well.

One of the major characters was gay, and he was in real life. No big deal is made out of it, but it does affect the plot very slightly, so it's not as though it's completely ignored. He is depicted positively. I did my research, and the name of his lover was apparently changed, I'm guessing to keep his privacy. Overall, the movie is actually fairly close to real life.

So anyway, I'd recommend Philomena if you're in the mood for a decent true story, especially if you want something with a BBC atmosphere to it, since it definitely shows that this has a British director.

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Storks Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies Oct 03 2016 · 114 views

Storks Review :kaukau: A couple of friends of mine got married recently, and they called me today with news. Since I've been living sans Facebook these last several months, I'm late to the party: they're having a baby. Not only that, but he/she's due in three weeks. That was pretty big news to suddenly dump on me.

Anyway, so I saw this movie called Storks. Mind you, not a masterpiece of a movie. It starts off with stupid slapstick humor, and is abrasive in its pacing. A lot of stuff gets thrown at you, and it just isn't very elegant. You're introduced to Junior, a stork, who seems like a fairly normal stork, but apparently he's in line for an incredibly big promotion. He's about to become BOSS. I don't know what qualified him for a promotion, and there wasn't any buildup to it, but that's the information that suddenly comes out of nowhere, and it literally (I'm not misusing the word "literally," because there's slapstick, remember) blows his mind. Apparently he doesn't know what qualifies him, either. Too bad, you'll never find out. He's also unlikable, which can be said about pretty much every obnoxious bird in this movie.

There's a human girl called Orphan Tulip who lives with the storks because the homing beacon that was supposed to lead her personal stork to her family got destroyed. The storks detest her, because she's a quirky person, thinks outside of the box, causes a lot of mayhem with her crazy experiments, and has a heart of gold. It's a cheap two-dollar characterization, but hey, I found her adorable. Part of me wonders if I've been manipulated by her adorableness like all of the people who love the Minions, but I'll defend myself here. The writers seemed to actually have good intentions when creating her character. She may be the result of sloppy writing, but that's not the same thing as greedy by-the-number writing. I feel like the writers actually enjoyed writing her character, which brings me to the second thing that distinguishes her from the Minions: her dialogue is good.

The dialogue is probably the best thing about this movie. It fires off like a machine gun, keeps on going at a rapid pace, and rarely stops. People often talk over each other, interrupt each other, and quickly backtrack on the things that they were saying in order to adjust to shifts in the conversation. It's the type of dialogue that I would probably write, actually. It reminds me a little of British humor in that it doesn't stop to give you time to laugh, but it's still very American in its energy and over-the-top nature. Something about the humor makes me believe that this story was written by very sarcastic personalities.

Because of this sense of humor, I would say that Storks is tailored toward teenagers and young adults who will find this sort of bantering dialogue funny. After the credits were done rolling, I remember commenting that it had a lot of adult humor. That is to say, this humor feels like it was written by adults who didn't bother tailoring their humor for children. The humorous arguments about what it means to advance in the stork business, for example, and the jokes on parenthood, won't entertain children in the same way that it will entertain more mature audiences. And by mature audience, I don't mean that it's R rated. This film is solid PG. In order for children to really appreciate this film, they need parental guidance.

The concessions made for kids in this film are in its slapstick humor, of which there is a lot, especially if you count the animation style as being "slapstick." I don't particularly enjoy it. Most of it was stupid, but that's just me. It's like like it redeems the film like the dialogue.

The one other redeeming feature of the movie is that it actually has a nice moral. Getting promoted isn't the most important thing in life. It's also important, when you're a parent, not to become a workaholic and to be able to spend a little bit more time with your kid while he/she's still young. It's not profound or anything, but in a world where Minions is the second highest-grossing animated film of all time, I appreciate it for what it is. Like the dialogue, this moral is for adults. That isn't a bad thing, so long as you go into the movie looking for a more mature experience.




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Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Movies, Reviews Sep 25 2016 · 123 views

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Review
:kaukau: I really wanted to like this movie. I had every reason to look forward to it. Idris Elbe received a Golden Globe nomination, and if nothing else the subject matter deserved my respect. Mandela was a great man. Normally biographical dramas about great people make for good films.


Unfortunately, there isn't much to say for this movie. While I can agree that Idris Elba's performance was good, that's about the only good thing that I have to say for this movie. It was pretty easy to put my finger on what ruined everything else, too. Long Walk to Freedom didn't feel long at all, because it had quite possibly the worst editing that I've ever seen. I've had to think for a bit about whether or not it deserves that exclusive spot at the very bottom, but it was bad enough to be in the running.


This goes above most people's heads. Editing? What makes for "good" and "bad" editing? Good editing is something that most of us take for granted, and we rarely ever complain about bad editing. I'm not sure many of us know what bad editing even looks like. Watch Long Walk to Freedom, and you'll understand what bad editing is, and why editing makes such a big difference in a movie.


Imagine this: you're watching a scene, and you're not sure where it's going, and before it has a chance to go anywhere, it ends. It just...ends. Next scene. Scenes are generally meant to built up on themselves and come to some sort of conclusion before transitioning into the next scene. In this movie, that rarely happens. The scenes in this movie are all way too short. For the first hour of the film, all of the scenes were less than a minute long. I say this without exaggeration. It wasn't until an hour into the film that there was even one scene that lasted for more than a minute. In the second half of the movie, the scenes get a little longer, but not much. The movie runs on an uneasy staccato of short spurts, and the scenes rarely transition into each other, so it's not like there was a rhythm anywhere in that staccato.


In the beginning of the movie, you get a brief glimpse at Nelson as a child roaming the planes. Then it ends. You see him living in the city, and he meets a girl. Before I'm even aware that there's chemistry between them, they're dating, and by the time I realized that they were dating, they were married. Interspersed throughout all of this were scenes of the injustices of South African society, which makes it difficult to follow exactly what's happening in Mandela's life. I don't have a good sense of time. Meanwhile, Mandela suddenly has grown children already. This comes out of nowhere. I had no idea that the story had already progressed to much. Mandela then has an affair, engages in more revolutionary activity, gets sent to jail, gets a divorce, and then remarries, all within the first half hour of the film.


Throughout all of this, you don't get a good long look at Mandela. None of the scenes linger enough for you to develop a feel for Mandela, or any of the people that he associated himself with. Every detail of the film feels like it's part of an opening exposition, and not part of the actual story. I kept on waiting for the actual story to start and for the movie to start flowing. That never happened. Nothing seems important, because the


Because of the editing, there was never a nice long scene that fully illustrated the injustices of apartheid and let it all just sink in, so the movie fails as a period piece. Because of the editing, the movie is poorly paced, and you don't have a good grasp on the titular long walk to freedom. Time is very confusing. I also care a lot about music, and this movie's score got nominated for a Golden Globe, but the editing really ruined the score, since it didn't have the chance to really build up over any scenes. The music was always rushed, and felt awkwardly shoehorned into scenes. Finally, and most egregiously, the editing does Idris Elba's acting injustice. I feel like he was delivering his performance one small burst at a time, and it's like you're only getting small glimpses of him. The performance should be good enough that you should be drawn into it, and the editing should allow for that to happen.


I can only assume that there will someday be a much better film about Mendela, one that's edited like a normal movie. Until then, this is the main film about him. That's unfortunate, especially since I watched this with my sister who knew nothing about Mandela and didn't feel that she learned anything about him in this one. A film about him should be enlightening and educational, and some director with a love of history is going to want to make Mandela's story truly come alive someday. That's something that I look forward to.


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The Cursed Child Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Literature, Reviews Sep 22 2016 · 166 views
Harry Potter, The Cursed Child and 1 more...
The Cursed Child Review :kaukau: What's one of the most sacred things that thou shalt not spoil? Obviously, the new Harry Potter book. You spoil that, and you might as well get thrown out of the window from the top story of a tall building.

I would like to avoid a dramatic fall to my death, so I'm avoiding anything that even remotely sounds like a spoiler. And yet, I still want to give an opinion on this book, so there are a few things that I feel obliged to say to the prospective reader who's wondering whether or not this book is worth reading.

Let me start off by saying that the last time a Harry Potter book was released, it was carefully thought out, and all of the books prior to it were clearly leading up to it. It has clever writing and good plot twists that J.K. Rowling built up to from the very beginning. This book doesn't feel like a natural continuation of the series, however, and it's quite evident that J.K. Rowling was only partially involved inn crafting its story.

Because The Cursed Child reads like a fanfiction. Not a horrible fanfiction, since at least it's entertaining, but a fanfiction nonetheless. If I could boil down my description of this book to one word, that would be it. What can I say? Practically everyone is out-of-character, and then "cool" things happen that feel like they happened just because a fan thought that they were cool, but otherwise feel contrived. There were also details in the story that contradicted established elements of Harry Potter lore, which resulted in plot holes. Somehow, three writers with very obvious talent got together an write a fanfiction for a sequel.

That's all I have to say about it. There's nothing wrong with liking it, if you read it and decide that it isn't that bad, since it does have a story that at the very least can be entertaining, but it just doesn't have the greatness that the original series had. Maybe Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will be better, but overall it just feels like people are turning a story that was already complete in itself into an unending franchise.

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Sully Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies Sep 20 2016 · 141 views

Sully Review :kaukau: With most movies even predictable ones there's some basic level of suspense keeping you at the edge of your seat. Since most of us know the outcome of the miracle on the Hudson, though, this film is a little different. This is one of those movies that you hold up as an example of why you don't need suspense to keep a movie interesting. The focus of Sully lies more in educating the viewer on this historic plane crash and what happened afterward. The story is known to us; the exact details are not. One should go into this looking forward to learning more about the miracle on the Hudson.
So what Clint Eastwood presents us with is an experience that's meticulously researched. He does everything to be realistic, and to capture the technical aspects of the airline industry. It's not uncommon for films based on true events to embellish things, or change some details for the sake of making things work better on camera, but going from the general feeling that I get, a lot of the details here feel more like they were put in out of loyalty to real-life rather than out of need for added drama. Very little in this film save for one exception that I'll get to later feels like it came from a film-maker's imagination. I really felt like I was watching airline pilots, and not some romanticized version of them.

It should be noted that the title of this film is Sully, and not The Miracle on the Hudson, and the film isn't strictly about the plane crash itself. The plane crash itself is a very simple story that can't take up a whole film. Rather, the main story of Sully is that of the aftermath, and the investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to figure out for the record what went wrong, and what could have been done differently. The stakes for Sully are very personal his job is on the line if its proven that he put his passengers at a greater risk by landing in the Hudson instead of trying to make it to a nearby runway.

Of course, we know that the investigation comes out in Sully's favor, otherwise this movie wouldn't exist, and Clint Eastwood would have cast the villainous Ralph Fiennes to play Sully instead of the noble persona of Tom Hanks. Like I said, this film doesn't have much suspense, but it manages to stay dramatic. Perhaps that drama is a little bit of a problem, though, because this is the one area of the film that's dramatized. In order to give this film conflict, the NTSB is cast in a negative light. Their routine investigation is depicted as though it were a prosecution, determined to blame Sully for endangering the passengers and strip him of his career and dignity. They were way too willing to assume negative things about him, and their arguments against his heroism were weak and very obviously overlooked certain details, which the film mentions. It was bad enough that the real Chesley Sullenberger, who otherwise really liked the film, asked for the names of those heading the NTSB investigation to be changed so as not to defame them.

Perhaps the most egregious part of this dramatization is that Sully depicts the investigation as being hasty, lasting for only a few days, when in real life the NTSB was much more cautious and objective, taking eighteen months to investigate the plane crash. For the life of me, I don't understand why the screenwriter changed this. Sully is a short movie, and there isn't much space to give Sullenberger a character arc. It would have made more sense to show how this investigation affected him over the course of a year and a half. It would have even been more dramatic to watch the tension build up in the titular character over time. For whatever reason, Clint Eastwood didn't throw the script back at Todd Komarnicki and tell him to make the investigation longer and meatier, not to mention more accurate. He didn't, and I don't understand that.

Aside from that major flaw, I also had mixed feelings about the flashbacks. There were a couple of flashbacks from Sullenberger's younger years that didn't feel necessary at all, and his PTSD hallucinations of the plane crashing felt like they were put in there just to appeal to the visual medium, and hallucinations are a pet peeve of mine. If Captain Sullenberger really did have PTSD, though, which is likely enough, I'd be okay with the latter of these two minor issues.

Overall, it's a fairly good drama that I didn't regret watching. While the screenplay has some faults, Clint Eastwood makes a lot out of it, and his directing is easily the best part of this movie. Do I think that Sully is as good as American Sniper? Not so much. I definitely like the longer time frame for that story, but of course that movie had its faults, too, so I can't say that it's objectively better. Besides, there's something unique and refreshing about watching a drama that's so short and to-the-point, which makes it a perfectly paced film. Certainly, Sully is a well-edited film, and it's easy enough to watch that I might very well watch it again when it comes out on DVD.


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Kubo and the Two Strings Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies Sep 13 2016 · 229 views
Kubo, review, animated and 1 more...
Kubo and the Two Strings Review :kaukau: 2016 has seen the release of several outstanding animated movies. Disney has been hitting things full throttle and has been making outstanding advancements in animation. Just look at Zootopia, where not a single background character stands motionless, and they manage to fill the frame with millions of subtle details. You could also look at Finding Dory, where Pixar has been pushing the limits in what they can do with lighting, and they also managed to animate a a boneless octopus. If you pay close attention animation, you know that these achievements are spectacular, and that it isn't at all easy to do what these animation companies are doing. On top of it all, Disney and Pixar have crafted great stories that challenge the viewer, either to look at stereotypes in a reasonable light or to relate to a fish with short-term memory loss. These are great stories. These are great movies.

Which is why my sisters were a little offended when advertisements claimed that Kubo was the greatest animated movie of the year. "Really? Haven't they ever heard of Disney?" Their presumption was, apparently, that only Disney-style animated movies can be great.

I will stand by what those critics were saying. It's all subjective, but I simply can't put it behind what Disney and Pixar have accomplished this year. It's good; it stands out; and it's memorable. It made the lasting impression that I like to see in an animated movie.

If you're like my sisters and have trust issues when it comes to animated films outside of the Disney domain, since they can often be cynical, crude, Shrek-like, and exploitative, take comfort in knowing that this film is PG and has a strong storytelling spirit. It wasn't conjured up just to earn a cheap buck, like Minions or The Secret Life of Pets. It's a film for the family, and yet is distinct from Disney and has an identity of its own.

Most especially, the animation is beautiful. Technically, Disney and Pixar's animation is the best there is in the world, but it still isn't as beautiful as Kubo's. In this movie, every other frame puts me in awe. This movie is simply wonderful to look at. I don't know what the technical demands of this animation were, and if Kubo made any innovations, but the end result is too stunning to discount. The director Travis Knight made sure that everything about this film was filled with elegance and played to the strengths of animation. He has an eye for beauty and employs it constantly, turning Kubo and the Two Strings into a mystical series of idyllic paintings. Some people have a good sense of rhythm, others have a good sense of humor, and Travis knight has a great sense of beauty. On the simplicity of its beauty alone, the movie was worth the price of admission.

The visuals weren't the only thing to be simple and beautiful, though. Kubo is a somewhat short film, and keeps its story to the important stuff. This shortness really helps with the pacing, since the story arrives at each of its stages in relatively short order. The scenes last long enough for you to be satisfied with them, but they don't go on so long that they make you impatient for the next big thing to happen.

Perhaps the story could have have been filled with a few more events during the rising action, but Kubo is a straightforward Hero's Journey that doesn't need much more than a few basic plot points, and it also proves that a story can be one of those without ripping off Star Wars (I'm looking at you, Eragon). The details of this journey might sound a bit familiar. At the beginning of the film, Kubo is a kid living a life in a normal community, until adventure calls and he's thrown into an epic quest to find three important artifacts in order to confront the big villain. Does that sound familiar? It could be because these are the elements of classic myths and epic poems, and this movie tells them in a fresh way. It's simple and primal enough that a child can watch it regularly without it getting old, just as I did with my old Disney VHS tapes back in the day.

Finally, I appreciate that this movie is willing to treat death as very real and offers its two cents on the subject, as well as what it means to be human, and it says it in language that I think that kids can understand and that adults can appreciate. There are a few scenes that might scare younger children, hence why its rating suggests parental guidance, but they play well into the Kubo's themes. In many ways, this animated film is pretty serious once you actually think about it, much as Zootopia was. So if you liked the one, I see no reason why you wouldn't like the other. Kubo has quite a bit to offer.



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Username: Jean Valjean
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Age: 23
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Heritage: Half Dutch, 25% Hungarian, 12.5% Swedish, 6.25% German and Irish
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