Helen of Sparta, Making Her Own Fate

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Helen of Sparta by Amalia Carosella is a wonderfully written tale covering the period of time when Helen (daughter of Zeus and Leda) was the captive of Theseus (son of Poseidon and Aethra). While it does explore Helen’s character prior to her having met Theseus, this is really just the set up for the world as well as the characters.

Not only does Amalia show that she had done her research on the mythology surrounding Helen, but she does so by weaving a beautiful story to give the character (who may be known as Helen of Troy by some) time to tell her side of things. Helen is a strong female lead in this novel, having to fight the gods on whether her fate is sealed or of her own design. It’s heart wrenching, but also heart warming as she finds love and support in places she never thought she would.

While Helen of Sparta also follows Theseus through some of the middle chapters, it is still focused on Helen during that time, only going into depth in order to give the audience a better knowledge of how certain decisions were come to by the other major party in the story. It only builds up the novel, by giving the other characters depth, instead of scattering thoughts by having more than one point of view.

Overall I give Helen of Sparta 5/5 stars, recommending this novel to any mythology buff and/or anyone who enjoys a strong female lead. Beautifully constructed and wonderful depth given to characters glossed over in current mythology.

Live by the Silver Linings Playbook?

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The Silver Linings Playbook, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, is a film that has won many awards, including a BAFTA, an Oscar and an Academy Award while being nominated for several others. While this is a film adaptation of a novel, I have yet to pick up the novel, so my review will not be all encompassing from that standpoint. Silver Linings Playbook follows Pat, Bradley Cooper’s character as his mother, against doctor’s orders, brings him home after a time in a mental institution. With an ex-wife he is trying to win back and a new girl, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who not only battles her own demons but also wants to win Pat’s affections, life is more than difficult to handle at times.

While I’m certainly no expert on dealing with mental disorders, even I can tell that this film was written and performed beautifully. It’s always hard to get it just right, as sufferers from the same illness may have diverse reactions to the same situation, but in this case they went with it and made a killing. The actors, in addition, bring nuances to the film that might be lost in script form, but certainly bring it to life while watching it. I was drawn in and felt their tumultuous emotions during the two hours of film time.

As the movie progresses, you find yourself immersed in Pat’s new life and how he isn’t coping well; wanting to win his ex-wife back even though she has a restraining order against him. Until he is given something to focus on, encouraged and enforced by Tiffany, he has a hard time making his life into a functional, happy one. He learns, over the course of the movie, that what he thought he wanted and would make him happy once more and what actually makes him happy are two very different things. With this emotional turnabout, the audience is relieved to see him making a wonderful choice in order to continue his life without dwelling on the past and his stint in the mental institution.

While this film has an R rating and would not be suitable for minors due to some violence and mostly a lot of swearing, I would suggest it to anyone 16 and up, as long as they had a mature mindset. It’s a well-written, beautifully performed story about finding happiness and coping with your problems. I definitely don’t recommend this if you are looking for something more funny and romantic, although it is technically a rom-com; it’s a bit more on the serious and bittersweet side. Still, I give Silver Linings Playbook a 5/5 stars!

Lucy: One Girl You Never Want To Know

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Lucy: a movie starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman is a slightly ridiculous science fiction movie that should have had a more coherent plot if it wanted to keep audiences interested for the entire 90 minutes it was on screen. As much as I love the two big-name actors that are fronting this movie, the writing of the screenplay was atrocious at best. I knew, going into it, that it wasn’t likely to leave a lasting impression based on the rating it had received (58%) on Rotten Tomatoes, plus a lovely movie review blog I follow here on WordPress (Justine’s Blog) that discussed her thoughts on the movie. In any case, I decided that for a fun night out with my boyfriend, we would go watch Lucy.

At first the premise wasn’t so bad, Sure, it posits that humans only use about 10% of their brain and though it is not a true fact of life it is presented as one. For a good plot I’m ready to believe anything (like aliens exist, zombies have taken over the world, the world has been thrown into another ice age…), so I let it go. In fact, for a good half of the film it seemed as though everything was going to tie together. Even when we watched Lucy, the main character, become a drug mule and get beaten up as a plot device to get the new drug into her system. The new drug, unsurprisingly, makes Lucy super-powerful and capable of accessing 100% of her brain.

You see, here is where things start to get a little wonky. I could suppose that it’s all the writer’s take on what could happen if humans were able to use all of their brain and that the hypothesis could be that the said human (Lucy, in this case) would become God-like in qualities and powers possessed. However, the fact that Morgan Freeman’s character, the man who has been studying the 10% functionality and theorizing what would happen if brain power were boosted past that threshold, was correct in all of his concepts threw me. Science and more specifically theories are meant to be proved incorrect. “In all science, error precedes the truth, and it is better it should go first than last.” Hugh Walpole once said. The beginning part of the quote is the part I’d like to focus on—”error precedes the truth”. This is almost always true (i.e. the world was flat—until it was proven to be spherical), and when theories are posited you expect even a tiny little itty bit of them to be at least not-so-right. (See X-Men, Alphas). I just found his spot-on hypotheses to be really sketchy.

Continuing on in the movie, Scarlett Johansson undoubtedly gave a phenomenal performance (as did Freeman), but the plot got lost partway through. Suddenly everything changed from Lucy wanting nothing more than to get out of the situation she was in and go back to her normal life with finals and partying, but then she got all caught up trying to get her brain to get to 100% functionality—seemingly for no reason. I tried to go with it, as any audience does when a plot twist is thrown at them, but it was difficult to understand where the movie was going by now.

The finale of the movie (which I won’t spoil for you, don’t worry), was lackluster and seemed like a cop-out in the face of all the questions left over from the movie. It seemed like they were trying to go for some enlightenment or a big ‘aha’, but no one in the audience seemed to get it. Whether it went over our heads or it just wasn’t made clear, I’m not sure. I just know that no one left the theater satisfied.

The Expendable 100?

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The 100 is a show on the CW (formerly WB), into its second season and going strong. As a post-apocalyptic show, featuring a cast of mostly young adults, it’s no wonder that this show is a hit. I certainly have no quarrel with it, although I have noticed some plot holes here and there. Mostly I find the characters to be well-rounded and very humanized. Characters you start out hating end up showing surprising developments that make you love them and yet others take a drastic turn for the worse and you regret having loved them early on in the series. With this sort of approach to the series, I find that the series is less of the teen romance drama that everyone was certainly expecting, and more about survival and the politics, the growth of characters.

You follow the group of 100 teens who were chosen from their home on The Ark (a space station that holds thousands of occupants of different nationalities that managed to escape Earth’s toxic conditions) and sent down to Earth—somewhere no one has been for 97 years. Except they find out that they aren’t the only ones down there. While trying to figure out how to live on their own in the harsh environments that this new, post-apocalyptic Earth provides, they also have to deal with a war breaking out between themselves and the people who have managed to survive on the Earth throughout its transformation from what it was into what it is now.

The series definitely had a solid beginning and comes from an interesting idea. There are certain things about it that have fallen through: it was never explained how the indigenous people of Earth survived during the nuclear fallout; during the first couple of episodes the forest is revealed to glow brightly at night and yet it is never seen again; mutated creatures have been seen, and yet they are never a major plot point or have anything to do with the struggle to live on Earth. There are many subjects that were either dropped after a big scene about it, or just were never covered to begin with. While this doesn’t take away from the story itself, it does limit the viewer’s immersion into the world they have created. The audience should never have to ask questions about the setting, it should just be shown.

However, as these over looked subjects are really just me being nit-picky, I can easily wave them off and happily continue to watch the series. I give The 100 a solid 4.5/5 stars and recommend it to anyone who has a particular liking for the dystopian, post-apocalyptic genre. It’s well-written and definitely different from other shows out there.

Selfie: A Satirical Take on Generation X

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Selfie is a Fall 2014 television series starring Karen Gillan and John Cho (read: Amy Pond and Sulu). With this star-studded ensemble there’s no wonder the show is a hit. Although Selfie is mostly a satire on my own generation and it’s self-obsession, I thoroughly enjoy the show and it’s comedic take on the topic.

With a hilarious take on those who are lost in their cell phones and their online reputations, along with stellar characters who become more self aware as the season goes on, this dramedy (drama-comedy) really hits big with the viewers. Even putting aside the two main characters of the series, you have a wonderful and diverse cast who bring heart and soul into the show. There are so many great points to this show including balance in your life, how to make and keep friends and take responsibility for yourself. So not only does this show touch on many real-world problems that people have (although they satire it be over-exaggerating), but this means that there are many aspects to the characters that you, as the audience, can connect with. For instance, Eliza Dooley (Karen Gillan) tends to let the amount of followers and likes she’s receiving online effect her daily life—in my generation this certainly can be the case: girls document their daily outfits in order to gain approval and a sense of self-worth. Henry Higgs (John Cho), meanwhile, exemplifies the part of us that try to work hard for what we have, read books and live well. What both of these characters lack, however, is connections to others. They are so worried about their own lives that they have trouble forging connections outside of that which last.

I can hardly find anything bad to say about this show, as I love the characters, the premise and the ridiculous situations they get themselves into. It’s a good laugh and certainly an excellent show to watch in the evenings. I highly recommend this show to anyone and everyone. It’s just started this year, so catching up is easy and brings some levity to your lives. A 4.5/5 stars for Selfie from Parkyr’s Perspective.

Big Hero 6, Great Movie and More

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Big Hero 6 is a relatively new film, based on a Marvel comic and rated PG, this is a well-rounded story that is very cute and grounded. With Ryan Potter voicing the main character, Hiro, you won’t be disappointed. Even more stellar of a performance was that of Scott Adsit, playing the voice of Baymax—your personal health care companion: it’s hard to have inflection and emotion come through a robot voice, but they made it happen just enough that it truly touches you.

There were a lot of great aspects to Big Hero 6, including the character development which is one of the main story arcs, as well as helping others. Among the sub-themes was family, friendship and justice vs. revenge. All of these themes were wound together, showing a beautiful story of love and loss: how blaming others for a tragic death is not healthy and doesn’t help to bring the deceased back. How even though people tell you that the deceased isn’t really gone due to the love in your heart and memories you carry with you, it still hurts to not see them smiling at you when you expect to see just that. That’s a difficult pill to swallow and rarely covered with children’s films, who often have characters who are seemingly unbothered by the death of a close friend or who cannot get over it. It was refreshing and, though a bit sad, it was well-grounded through these themes.

However, this story wasn’t all sadness and depression. There were plenty of adorable scenes, such as any scene with Aunt Cass, who was much needed comic relief and positivity. A more prominent character that gave that as well was Honey Lemon, though she was much quieter and tended more towards the positivity with Fred, another prominent character, providing the comic relief. Even Baymax earned quite a few laughs at the theater, getting into situations that were a little ridiculous (getting stuck in a window).

Overall I would give Big Hero 6 a 5/5 stars and definitely recommend this film to anybody. Yes, it’s a bit serious and sad in some parts, but it teaches a great lesson to those willing to hear it. Way to go, Disney, for adapting this comic into something suitable for all ages!

We’re the Millers: Inappropriate Humor, All the Laughs

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We’re the Millers is a romantic comedy from 2013 starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis. Sudeikis’ character, David, is a small-time drug dealer in a tight spot after he gets robbed. When David gets voluntold to go fetch some drugs from Mexico he recruits Rose, a stripper; Kenny, a kid living in his apartment complex; and Casey, a couch-surfer to pretend to be his family and help him drive under the radar across the border with the drugs. As you can imagine, the chaos that ensues is ridiculous and more than a little crass, but seeing as that is exactly my type of humor the movie sat well with me.

Certainly, there were some jokes that were a miss, but for the most part it was a direct hit to the funny bone—the plot may have been predictable, but the characters drew you in enough that it didn’t matter. The interpersonal relationships among the characters was both interesting and humorous, adding depth to a movie that could have been a flop otherwise.

I was pleasantly surprised that there was character development all over the place, a likable cast and valuable minor characters. There were many references to how strong the women were and how amazing they were for being that way given their situations before the movie’s plot came by and swept them up in it. This definitely made the movie more likable for me, as there has been a sore lack of strong female characters in any genre in past years. With the recent surge in them, I’m always pleased to find them well-written and well-rounded in surprising genres such as romantic comedies. Props to the writers of this film for not only getting the leading women right, but also writing every other character like they were actual human beings as opposed to 2-dimensional cutouts to fill a role.

The only thing I would warn of is the brand of humor and subject matter. This movie was not suitable to anyone younger than 17; however I do give this movie a rating of 4.5/5 stars, only detracting for the predictable plot.