NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

The Greatest Showman

I just had the opportunity to see this new movie musical yesterday and I thought a movie review would be fun. First off, The Greatest Showman has awesome music. I happened to hear the soundtrack before seeing the movie and I was already hooked. These are very fun, catchy and beautiful songs and I loved getting to enjoy them within the movie plot. I did have a bit of trouble with the songs being integrated into the movie. I don’t know if the lip-sinking felt off, or it just didn’t seem natural to burst into song in some moments, but it just wasn’t as natural as I’ve seen in some other musical movies. So even though I loved the songs, something about watching them on screen, was just off. It may have been just me though. My sister didn’t notice anything odd about it. And I have to say the song with Zac Efron and Zendaya swinging through the air was just beautiful to watch.

Anyway, on to the plot. I didn’t really know what was going to happen in this film and I liked that, so I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. But I can say that I was pleasantly surprised on the value of family this film gave off. Even though our main character gets distracted by all of the attention and fame he gets from his circus success, he ultimately values his family above all of that. In addition, the assortment of odd individuals that make up the circus also form a special bond and think of themselves as a family by the end of the movie. The love story between P T Barnum and his wife, and Philip and the acrobat was also quite touching.

In fact all of the characters in this movie were very realistic and the acting was fantastic. All in all the movie was a lot of fun to watch and very uplifting. And those catchy songs are still buzzing around my head too. So if you haven’t seen this movie yet, I hope you check it out before it goes out of theaters.

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Coco versus The Book of Life

I got to see Coco over the weekend and I really enjoyed it but it couldn’t help but remind me of the Book of Life. Since these two movies have so much in common, I thought it would be fun to compare them. So in case you haven’t seen these films and want some context, here are two previews:

So let’s start off with their similarities. In both films, the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead and remembering your ancestors is a big part of the story. And both films show dead relatives coming back to visit on the Day of the Dead and involve the protagonist getting to see the dead’s world and then coming back to the real one. There is also a large emphasis on music and our protagonist in both films wants to be a musician even though his family is against it. These movies are also both geared towards younger audiences because they are family films and are animated.

Now let’s look at some of their differences. First off, the animation style is very different. Most of the Book of Life is told as if the characters are puppets and so their proportions reflect this and they can look a little goofy. It works in the story, but I tend to enjoy the more realistic style of Pixar’s animation in Coco. Pixar has a way of just making beautiful scenes in their movies and this happens again in Coco.

Speaking of breathtaking scenery, the scene where Coco first sees the Land of the Dead is quite breathtaking. But these two films, though based on the same mythology, take a bit of a different twist on what this afterlife is like. In Book of Life, the Land of the Remembered is where people go when they are remembered and it is a colorful place ruled by the benevolent La Muerte. Whereas the Land of the Forgotten is ruled by the less lovable Xibalba. However these rulers are not mentioned at all in Coco, and it’s world seems more based on reality with many similarities to our own world. Also, when someone is forgotten, they simply disappear from the land of the dead. It is even suggested that everyone will eventually be forgotten which is heartbreaking.

There is also a big difference in how these two stories play out. Book of Life revolves around a romance and a love triangle which makes sense with our older main character Manolo. In the end he proves to his family and Xibulba that he doesn’t have to kill the bull to win but instead he can use his music to win and show love. In essence he is proving his family wrong. I love the story, but I really like how Coco takes this a step further.

Miguel in Coco is much younger than Manolo and is not interested in romantic love. Instead he wants to pursue his passion for music and become a musician. But his family has a deep hate of music and he ends up running away to pursue his dream. Miguel does get to prove his family wrong in the plot, and show that music is not bad and as his family, they should support him. But he also learns a lesson; that family is more important than music, and chasing after a dream at the cost of family is not worth it. I really like that everyone learns a lesson in this film and I think it brings more depth to the movie.

The music in both of these movies is very good. Book of Life uses a lot more popular music with a Mexican twist in addition to a couple of original songs while Coco has exclusively new music written for it’s story. I don’t know if I could choose one soundtrack over the other, but it is fun to hear new songs from Coco.

And the last thing I’ll say, is that while both movies have their twists and turns, and both have well written stories, I think Coco is more surprising than Book of Life. It’s pretty easy to guess where the love triangle is headed in Book of Life’s story and even though there are obstacles along the way, it’s easy to guess the ultimate outcome. Coco, however, has several unexpected twists that I don’t want to ruin for anyone who hasn’t seen the film yet. So I’ll just say I think Coco did a better job at doing the unexpected. But since Book of Life came out first, they might win on originality.

In any case, both of these movies are very enjoyable and I hope you get to see them sometime soon. Though I don’t believe in this version of the afterlife and I’m glad that my happiness is not dependent on someone else remembering me, I did enjoy the stories these two films tell.

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Hamilton

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I’ve finally listened to the soundtrack for this new Broadway musical. Many friends and especially my sister have been bugging me about listening to it for quite awhile now. I would rather have seen it in person, but I do not live in New York, and even though it is coming to my state sometime next year, I highly doubt I’ll be able to get a hold of some tickets. But thankfully, the whole play is available to listen to online. So I’ve enjoyed a few weeks of slowly listening to the whole thing.

I can definitely see why this musical is such a hit, the songs are very catchy and also very relatable. I’ve often thought of the lyric “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now. History is happening and we just happen to be living in the greatest city in the world.” And it kind of strikes a chord with me. I know there is a lot of unrest in our country right now, and sometimes it’s easier to just ignore it, but it is happening, and we get to be a part of it. You and I are living in an important moment in history and it’s happening right around us. I really like how that lyric captures the moment. And even though it can be scary to be living in the middle of change and unrest, it’s also exciting to see how you’re a part of something bigger.

One of my other favorite parts of Hamilton deals more with the relationships. The play uses a large portion of the story to focus on Alexander and his wife Eliza. The songs where they fall in love are wonderful and definitely worth listening too. But after Eliza is hurt by Alexander’s affair and then their son is killed in a duel, one of my favorite songs comes next. “It’s Quiet Uptown” shows how Alexander and Eliza learn to forgive and help each other. They come back together after all they’ve been through and it’s so beautiful. It reminds me that no relationship is beyond God’s ability to heal. He knows the deep hurts, our pain, and the wrongs done to us, but He can help us forgive.

So overall, I really enjoyed this new Broadway show. If you’re sensitive to language and some more adult themes, you may want to be cautious with this play and especially with “Say No to This.” But otherwise it’s a great story and really great music!

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Movie Reviews

Alright, I have been to the theater so many times in the last couple of weeks that I figured I should just cram all of my reviews into one post. So here we go, let’s review Arrival, Moana, Dr. Strange and Rogue One. We’ll start with the one I was most excited about: Moana.

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I love kid’s movies and whenever a new Disney movie comes out, I am eager to see it. This movie may not have become as huge a phenomenon as Frozen, but it still has a good story, and very good music. I enjoyed the visuals and the growth of the characters in this film. From the previews, I was not expecting Maui to be the antihero. But I actually liked it and I’m glad he gets a redeeming story-arch. Walking away from this movie, I wasn’t all that impressed, but since Disney has released some of the music onto YouTube, I’ve been getting all of it’s songs stuck in my head. And it’s not just the main theme song that gets repeated, all of the music is catchy and enjoyable. I get a new one stuck in my head each day. This probably comes from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s style, who also wrote music for the successful Hamilton show on Broadway. So, even though this wasn’t my favorite Disney movie, the music was well worth the cost of the movie ticket and I’d even consider going to see it again.

Here’s a clip of one of the songs in case you’re interested:

Next let’s go to Rogue One.

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This was a very highly anticipated addition to the Star Wars franchise and my sister wanted to see it so bad that we actually got our tickets early and saw it on opening day. Even though we were both excited to see it, there wasn’t an immediate “I love this movie!” feeling after leaving the theater. A lot of emotional things happened in this movie and honestly, some of it was a bit hard for me to follow. I enjoyed the movie and I think it blends in nicely to the series. I especially enjoyed the references to other characters in the Star Wars universe and the epic appearance of Darth Vader. But it was hard to get attached to the new characters. And I’m almost glad I didn’t get attached what with the ending we’re given. (Spoiler Alert) They all die. But even with that as the ending, it was still a good movie and I think most people will enjoy it.

Next we’ll dive into the Marvel Universe’s latest creation: Dr. Strange.

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I had no basis for this character and what his backstory should be as I came into the theater. All I knew was Benedict Cumberbatch was playing the lead. I do enjoy his acting, so I was looking forward to the movie. And it was pretty good for a superhero movie, though I think it wasn’t what I was hoping for from Marvel. Honestly he’s probably just not the type of superhero I enjoy watching. Every superhero should have a flaw but since his is arrogance, it’s just not as enjoyable for me to watch. Plus his whole powers thing is kind of weird and too magicy for my taste. I did enjoy the few comedic elements in the film, as Marvel always gives us. But I think I enjoyed Ant Man’s comedy style more and from the new Spider-man movie trailer that movie will probably be more my style.

And lastly, we’ll look at Arrival.

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This movie was not even on my radar but some of my family wanted to see it, so we headed to the theater and sat down to watch another alien movie. I am not a huge fan of alien movies, and I usually avoid them. But this one was more interesting. It focused more on the problem of communication and not on a kill the aliens and save the world set up that I’m used to seeing. Also, the film did a great job of staying realistic. I really could imagine my college shutting down because of the arrival, and everyone calling each other and freaking out while people in the army and government try to figure out what to do. The only downside I could see was it had some slow parts. And I wasn’t quite satisfied with the ending. There is a romantic relationship in the plot, but through the movie we’re shown that it won’t work out, and me and my girlfriends agreed the movie would have been much better if at the very end, we saw the two main characters getting back together.

So anyway, there’s my movie reviews so far. If you’re interested in any of these movies, go ahead and see them, I think they’re each worth it. But if you’re going to the theater for a fun family movie that everyone can enjoy together, I’d say go with Moana.

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Christian Music

Hymnal, Book, Sing, Music, Faith, Christian, God

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So I was having a conversation with my sister in the car about what makes a song “Christian.” I mentioned that even though many songs have Christian themes in them, they aren’t all considered “Christian music” or won’t be played on Christian radio stations such as KLOVE. As we discussed it, we came up with three categories of songs.

First off there is the general category of Songs with Christian Themes. This is the broadest category and each of the categories I mention next would also fit into this one. Any song that has Christian themes, whether it’s from a Christian or secular band can fit into this category. All types of music: country, rock, pop and whatever else, would all be included. Any song that could be seen as having a Christian element is in. So songs like “Three Wooden Crosses” by Randy Travis or “Sinners Like Me” by Eric Church or even “I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons could all be seen as having Christian themes. Though you probably wouldn’t ever sing these songs in a church, they still can glorify God and many people enjoy them.

The next category I would call Pop Christian Music. This includes music that you would hear on Christian radio stations and include artists like Toby Mac, Big Daddy Weave and For King and Country. These songs are intentionally uplifting and focus on God, though many of them can sound similar to other secular pop music. Though fun to listen to, there are many songs that you wouldn’t necessarily sing in church either, such as “Grace Wins” by Matthew West or “Made to Love” by Toby Mac. Some songs are just harder for an entire audience to join in singing with and have rhythms that are harder for a congregation to pick up on.

That brings us to the last category of Worship Music. This includes all of the rich history of church hymns along with the more recent popular music that can be sung in a congregational setting. Though each church may have it’s own preferences for music and not include some of these songs on what they want to play on a Sunday morning, many churches do use them. At my own church we’ve sung old hymns such as “Come Thou Fount” and “Amazing Grace” and newer songs like Hillsong’s “Oceans” and “Wholly Yours” by David Crowder Band.

But whatever you choose to listen to, it can all point you to the One worth praising, the One who made music in the first place and is worth singing about.

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Music’s Effect

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Have you ever noticed how much music affects you? Whether it’s during a movie or at a church worship service, music has a way of stimulating our emotions. It’s a powerful thing, and may effect more than we’d like to admit. Music can set the mood; at a party you want upbeat music but while you’re studying sometimes relaxing is the way to go. I’ve even noticed that depending on what music I’m listening to in the car, I drive differently. So what kind of music do you let affect you? Is it uplifting? Is it exciting? Is it just fun or repetitive?

I’ve found all kinds of music that I enjoy, but one of my favorite memories is going to a little church in Limbe, Haiti and joining in their worship music with fellow believers. I didn’t know the language, there were very simple amps and microphones, and no instrument besides the drum. But it was truly inspiring. I filmed a few clips on my little camera and made a video. If you feel like watching, go ahead.

I know music can be an expression of the soul, and not everyone likes the same kind of music. But if you feel the urge to listen to some of my favorite songs, I’ll post them here. I hope they lift you up today and maybe encourage you to worship God. By the way these are in no particular order since my favorite song changes with my mood or on how recently I’ve heard it.

“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” one of my favorite hymns. The video has an interesting retelling of the man who wrote the hymn.

“The House of God Forever” is a song based on Psalm 23. It is very calming and a good reminder of God’s presence with us.

“See You Tomorrow” is a soundtrack song from How to Train Your Dragon. It’s so fun, I just love it.

Well I could put music up all day, but what are some of your favorite songs that your love to listen to over and over?

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