watching, reading, and writing stories

Ready Player One

This past weekend I got to see Ready Player One in theaters. I haven’t read the book and all I knew about the story was what I’d seen from the previews: There’s this future world where everyone hangs out online in this virtual world, for work and pleasure. The person who created the virtual world, called the Oasis has died and left a treasure hunt in the world so that whoever follows the clues and finds the Easter Egg first wins control of the whole game.

If you’re interested, here’s a preview:

It was an intriguing set up and I was excited to see how the movie would play out. I really enjoyed seeing all of the visual effects and the references to pop culture, though I’m sure I missed half of them. I also really enjoyed the characters and how their online avatars were similar to their real selves, but often different in surprising ways. And the plot was very engaging and had plenty of twists and turns that were fun to watch.

The movie made me think about how much of our current world is tied to the internet and being online and how a virtual world like the one in the movie doesn’t seem too far from the future. But the movie gave a great message of remembering the importance of reality, and that even though the online world is fun or exciting, real life and real human interaction is important too.

So I would recommend this movie, it has a lot of action, some comedy, and sometimes the sense of a mystery or heist movie as well. It was very enjoyable to watch, except for the Shining portion of the film. I just don’t like horror films, so that part was a little too creepy for me. But the rest of it was really fun and interesting. And even if you’ve already seen it, it seems like the kind of movie you could watch again and again, just to find more of the less obvious references spread throughout the film.

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Star Wars The Last Jedi

My sister’s Rey Outfit

I haven’t done a movie review in awhile and honestly, it won’t take me as long as another story I’d like to share from my recent trip to Big Bend. And since it’s the holidays and everyone is in a rush, including me, I’m going for short and sweet.

Now I’m not a huge Star Wars Fan. I enjoy it, and I know a lot of things about it, thanks to my sister. But I’m not… how should I say this, over invested? Anyway, I think this makes it easier for me to enjoy the Star Wars movies, I’m not nit picky when it comes to these movies and I really enjoyed all of them, more or less when I first saw them. Looking back, movies like Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were not that great. And actually I wasn’t too fond of Rogue One either, just because everyone died. But in general, I enjoy these movies, but I’m not so attached that I get mad if it isn’t as good as I was expecting.

So anyway, I really enjoyed The Force Awakens and I’ve been looking forward to The Last Jedi for a long time. So me and my sister went opening night to see the new movie. And I can honestly say I enjoyed it. It went well with the first movie in this newest trilogy and it was a good continuation of the story. I enjoyed seeing Rey and Finn and Poe develop more as characters and learn something more about themselves. Finn finally accepted being a Rebel, Poe learned to care more for people than just being a hero, and Rey learned that she didn’t have to find her family to have a place in the world. I also was happy with the direction Luke Skywalker’s character took. It seemed very realistic and he did bring his own sort of humor to the story.

There were also a lot of epic fight scenes and hilarious dialogue in the film that kept me engaged and enjoying the story. Poe’s opening quips with General Hux were particularly memorable as was Rey getting smacked by a plant when she was trying to feel the force. So if you enjoy a good action movie, with some spot on humor I think you’d enjoy this film. And if you liked The Force Awakens, I’m pretty sure you’ll like this movie too. But if you were really set on finding out who Rey’s parents were and didn’t like the direction the new films were taking, you might be disappointed. But I enjoyed it and I hope you do too.

In any case, I hope you enjoy the holidays and take some time to be with family and friends and remember that relationships are more important than presents. Merry Christmas everyone!

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Civil War

Official poster shows the Avengers team factions which led by Iron Man and Captain America, confronting each other by looking each other, with the film's slogan above them, and the film's title, credits, and release date below them.

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I’ve been joking with all my friends that I’m going to spoil the Civil War for them, then I say “Lee Surrenders and Lincoln dies.” But of course they aren’t talking about the American Civil War, they’re talking about Marvel’s latest movie: Captain America: Civil War. I will try not to give away any big spoilers, but in case you don’t want to see anything about the movie, just go watch it for yourself.

So, first impressions after the movie: wow a lot happened. This movie is over 2 hours long and there are so many characters now in this Marvel Universe, that it can be a bit hard to keep track of them all. I have to admit, I got a little lost with the villain in this movie. He didn’t have red skin, or a metal arm, so I didn’t always realize it was the same guy when he kept popping up in different places. But I think that was part of the point: villains aren’t always trying to take over the world. Sometimes, they’re just normal people who are reacting to their situation in the wrong way. One of the main themes in this film is revenge, which makes sense, I mean we are dealing with the Avengers here. But so many characters are dealing with the loss of someone they really cared about. Tony Stark’s parents and more specifically his mom, were killed when he was younger, one of Steve Rodger’s last friends Peggy Carter dies, a new character loses his father in a terrorist attack, and even our villain has lost his family.

But how the characters respond to this loss is varied. In Cap’s case, Peggy merely died in her sleep. She was old, it was her time. There’s nothing he could do. So he deals with her death in the best way. He goes to her funeral and moves on.

Tony seems to have moved on from his mother’s death, but this is because he doesn’t know who is responsible. He has nowhere to place blame, so he tries to just deal with the sense of loss with technology and recreating how he would have said goodbye to his mom. However, when he discovers who is responsible, he immediately thinks that person should pay, and tries to kill them.

Our villain has lost his entire family and blames the Avenger’s team for their role in it. Though it was not intentional, and the Avengers were trying to save lives, he still holds them responsible and decides to seek revenge by breaking up their team.

And our last character who is dealing with loss, or at least the last one I’m going to look at is the Black Panther. When he first loses his father, he reacts the same way as the villain and Tony: he wants revenge. He tries to kill the person who he blames for the attack, even though we eventually find out that person was framed. As he continues to seek the real cause of his father’s death, he eventually finds the villain. But instead of killing him, as he had unsuccessfully tired to do to the original suspect, Black Panther comes to a realization. Seeking revenge is not the answer, killing this person will not make everything better.

I love this message, especially as a Christian. I couldn’t help thinking of the Bible verse: “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the LORD.” (Romans 12:19) Seeking revenge is consuming and hurtful, not only to others, but to yourself. Jesus teaches us to instead forgive our enemies.

So anyway, this movie was fun, it had plenty of witty dialogue and cool action scenes. The characters were believable and enjoyable to watch. So I hope you enjoy watching this movie as well.

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The Jungle Book and Community

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I was hanging out with some girlfriends this past Saturday and one of them mentioned seeing a movie. I suggested the Jungle Book, since I thought the remake looked interesting and I’d heard some good things about it. The suggestion was met with exclamations of “Yes!” So a few hours later I went with 3 close friends to the mall to see this remake of a childhood classic.

In many ways this movie holds true to the original animated Disney movie. Most of the characters are the same and they even have updated versions of the classic songs “The Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You.” However, there are some noticeable changes, most of which I enjoy. For example, we get a lot more screen time and character development with Mowgli’s wolf family, especially his mother. This was sorely lacking in the original movie, and I appreciated seeing the pack or family mentality woven into the film.

The movie also has a darker tone than the original. There is a lot more action, fear, and a more developed villain. Sher Khan doesn’t just hunt Mowgli, he is the one who killed his father. And he even kills the wolf leader because they don’t hand Mowgli over to him. And Kaa isn’t a bumbling snake that easily loses his prey, instead she is a cleaver seductress that would have killed Mowgli if Baloo hadn’t shown up.

Mowgli is also shown to be a very unique and likable character. He realizes he is not like the other creatures around him and develops his own solutions or “tricks” to problems, such as making a scoop to collect water. He gets in trouble for these “tricks” at first, but later it is seen to be his strength. He also is very aware of other’s needs and wants to help. When he sees how his staying with the wolves is causing a conflict, he decides to leave, and when he sees a baby elephant stuck in the mud, he helps it out.

I also love how Sher Khan is defeated in this film. Instead of Mowgli tying a burning stick to his tail, all of the animals of the jungle pitch in to help Mowgli. Ultimately Mowgli is the one who has to trick the tiger into his death, but I really loved seeing all of the other creatures taking part in the action. It reinforced the importance of the pack, or community. I especially enjoyed this because I love the message for us as well.

If we try to face our problems on our own, it’s hard and we probably won’t make it. But when we look out for each other and care for each other, we can overcome huge things. I’ve seen this firsthand with how my city has gone through disastrous flooding over and over again. If we just let our neighbors deal with their own issues and don’t offer to help, the whole community suffers. But when we come together to bless each other, it strengthens everyone.

We all need friendship and community to get through life’s personal or communal tragedies. And this movie does a good job of showing that. At the end of the film, I expected Mowgli to go back to live in the man village, just as he does in the old movie. But he doesn’t, instead he stays with his real community, his jungle friends who he’s helped and who have helped him. They really have become his family.

So I hope you take the time to go see this film, I really enjoyed it and I think you will too.

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Miracles From Heaven Review

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So I saw this movie last week and since I couldn’t think of any other topic to write about this week, I thought I’d review it. This is another in a long line of Christian based films that have come out in recent years. It is nice to have high quality films in theaters that have faith based messages and compelling stories. This particular movie is based on a true story of a girl in Texas with a horrible stomach issue that was slowly killing her. In the course of the film she undergoes several tests, treatments, and a lot of pain. She gets to the point of not wanting to live anymore and her family takes her home for the time she has left with them. And then she has an accident and falls inside a dead tree. Miraculously she does not have any serious injuries from the fall and is also cured from her disease.

It is a heart wrenching story and I admit I cried several times during the film. I have had family members and friends go through horrible heath problems and it’s so hard to feel like there is nothing you can do about it. But what I really loved about this film, is that is shows not only the big miracle of this girl being healed, but it also showed the little miracles or ways that love was shown throughout the film: A friend taking care of the remaining kids while the parents rushed off to the hospital, or a waitress taking off work so she can show the mother and daughter around her hometown and lift their spirits. All those little moments of caring for someone else more than yourself, was a little miracle, a little reminder that God cared.

And what excites me about this, is that we all can be a part of God’s miracles, of His work in this world. We can show love in those little ways by encouraging a friend, praying with them and for them, bringing over a hot meal, or even crying with them over what’s happened. God’s miracles are all around us and He wants to use us to do them. He invites us to be a part of what He’s doing. So I’d like to encourage you today to say “Yes!” to Him and obey when He asks you to do something. It may be as simple as opening the door for someone, or smiling and saying thank you to the cashier. It could be buying someone a meal or watching someone’s kids so they can have a night out. Whatever it may be, God can use your little acts of obedience and love to do amazing things that affect eternity.

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Zootopia and Discrimination

Well, I got to see Zootopia today and boy was that a great movie. I love any movie with an animated world and a good story. And Disney has done a phenomenal job with this one. Not only were the characters well developed, likable, and the story intricate, believable, and entertaining, but this movie strikes a cord with our own current reality. Just as in Zootopia, we cannot help but look at people’s appearances, whether it’s their height, weight, skin color, how they dress, or whatever. We stereotype and discriminate based on people’s appearances. Until we actually stop and get to know someone for who they are, it’s hard to move past these first observations.

Zootopia is able to deal with these adult themes and issues of discrimination and prejudice by creating an animal world that mimics our own. Instead of “white” and “black” or “wealthy” and “poor” we get “predator” and “prey.” But just as in our own world, what you look like on the outside is not what makes you who you are. The villain could be a predator or could just as easily be prey. It isn’t just what you look like, or how you’re treated that defines you, it’s what you do, what you say, how you react, and how you live.

Our heroine Judy Hopps doesn’t give up, even when everyone around her says she can’t be a cop. She doesn’t let other’s discrimination keep her from being who she is. But even though she tries her best to be unbiased towards others and even does noble things like stepping in to make sure a fox gets fair treatment, her own prejudices are still evident. Seeing a person and not just outward appearances is something that she, like everyone, has to learn throughout her life.

I love how this movie takes complicated issues like stereotyping and discrimination and deals with them. There are plenty of surprises in this movie, and several jokes where Disney pokes fun at itself. (Hint: keep a look out for Frozen references). So I highly suggest checking out Zootopia, it’s a great movie for the whole family.

I’ll leave you with some fun photos from the cardboard set up they had at the theater:

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Star Wars Episode 7

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Well the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, came out and I finally got around to watching it. I grew up with the other films and have enjoyed the story over the years, though my family only ever owned 1 out of the 6 movies. But I was looking forward to this newest episode in the saga. And now I can say, it was not disappointing. This newest film did a great job of setting up a new plot while still connecting to the familiar stories we’ve already seen. I especially liked the new characters we are introduced to in this film, such as Finn and Rey. They are funny, relatable, and genuine and I’m looking forward to seeing how their stories continue.

The one thing I heard multiple times before I could see the movie was that it was basically A New Hope all over again. And I have to admit there are a lot of parallels between these two movies. To name just a few they both share a desert planet for an opening setting, the giving of important information to a droid for safe keeping, and the sacrifice of a mentor. After watching A New Hope again, I spotted even more similarities. I guess some people were disappointed by that, and maybe thought it made the film too predictable. However, I think that even though there are a ton of parallels between this new movie and A New Hope, that isn’t a bad thing. It’s a way of connecting with the old films, and there are still enough new things to keep me interested. It doesn’t feel like a remake of A New Hope, but more like the beginning of a new story in the same universe.

So if you liked the original Star Wars trilogy and you’re alright with a lot of similarities to A New Hope, you will probably like this film.

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