Monday, July 30, 2012

An Award!

The Versatile Blogger Award

I have been nominated for my first blogger award: "The Versatile Blogger Award"!  Thanks to Liz at her lovely blog Sunny Side Up for tagging me.  To participate, one has to list seven random facts about himself (or herself) and tag 15 other people.  So, here it goes!

  1. I don't like country music.  I listen to a wide variety of music, rock being my favorite genre, but I just do not enjoy the way country sounds.  Of course, I have nothing against fans of country music, as a matter of fact the majority of the people at my dream college are huge country fans.  But, I don't think I'll ever be able to embrace it.
  2. I'm a face-painter.  Meaning, I paint faces at carnivals, fairs, etc.  It's a job I never thought I'd be able to do, since my artistic talent is non-existent, but after being taught the proper techniques, I can pull it off pretty well.  It is a fun job, but it is also harder than one would think.
  3. I hate math.  Math has always been my worst subject in school, and for a good reason.  I would rather sit in a traffic jam, watch Holes (the second worst book-to-movie adaptation I have ever seen), or listen to The Zac Brown Band than have to do math problems. 
  4. I'm a PC person.  Our family bought our first Mac computer (used) about a year ago, and I cannot stand working with it.  Please tell me: why did they have to re-work the keyboard and add their own special "command" button?  It is so frustrating when I try to use a keyboard shortcut, and it doesn't work because the special button changed the way the whole system works (one of my many Mac quips).
  5. I read my family's directions.  No one else in my family reads directions.  I do not mind reading them, and so I read them for everyone else.  And sometimes, when I play video games with my brother, reading the directions comes in handy! :)
  6. I've never had a Twinkie.  This is always a shocker.  Honestly, they just do not sound that good to me.
  7. Cinderella is the only Disney Princess Movie I have seen.  This is another one that always shocks my female friends.  I loved Cinderella as a little girl, and still think it's an adorable story.  But, for one reason or another, I was not allowed to see any of the other ones when I was younger, and still have not seen them.  And now that I'm older, I can understand why my Mom kept some of them from me...
So, there's some crazy facts about me, some of them more interesting than others.  Because I do not follow that many blogs, and the majority of the blogs I do follow have been nominated already, I'm going to cheat and skip the nomination process (sorry!).  Here and there I like to recommend other sites/ blogs, but in all reality the only ones I follow that would like being nominated have been previously.

Also, just to let all of you know, I've added a small box on the right side (scroll down to see it) where I list the upcoming books, music, and movies that I am going to review.  If you have any requests, leave me a comment with the title, and I will let you know if I will do it.

Enjoy the facts and stay cool!  God bless!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Five Summer Reads

I apologize for the length of time between posts this summer!

In order to give you all something to read when I'm not posting, I've compiled a list of five books that are great summer reads.  They are five of my personal favorites, and not too heavy (hence, why they are good summer reading); all are spiritually nourishing and will keep you turning the pages!  The highlighted titles are links to reviews I have previously posted; I've given a brief description of the books I have not reviewed in the past.  Enjoy!

The Great Divorce
-C.S. Lewis

Hold on as C.S. Lewis takes you on a bus trip from Hell to, well, almost Heaven.  This book is absolutely incredible; Lewis's unique perspective on Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven will surely open your eyes to the beauty of God's mercy and the contrasting appearance of man's nature, changing the way you think about life after death for the better.  A beautiful, vivid, and mind-blowing novel that will have you both laughing and crying the whole way through!

-David C. Downing

Mr. Blue
-Myles Connolly

This book is short, simply written, and not hard to understand, yet it has life-changing potential.  It follows the life of a "modern-day St. Francis" from the perspective of someone who, though he doesn't entirely understand him, falls in love with him (not in the romantic sense- just to clarify).  Mr. Blue is a deeply religious person who, like St. Francis, chooses to live in poverty.  He is filled with a child-like joy and wonder at the world, though at times in the novel the reader catches glimpses of an intense soul hidden within this happy-go-lucky creature.  Please read this book, fall in love with Mr. Blue along with the narrator, and allow his life to change yours!  A novel you're sure to read more than once!


-St. Therese of Lisieux

Rediscovering Catholicism
-Matthew Kelly

Matthew Kelly, an inspirational Catholic speaker, brings his interesting perspective to everyone in an engaging book highlighting the beauty of Catholicism, and the amazing things the Catholic Church does that the news will never tell you.  Think that Catholicism is a "boring" religion?  Think that the Church is outdated and "too old" to help you now?  Think again, and read Matthew Kelly's easy-to-understand guide, written to bring you back home smiling.  If you enjoy it, look into his talks (he is an entertaing speaker).  Though his message is basically the same, it's still  worth listening to the CDs as he is as easy to listen to as he is to read.


Please do read all of these, or at least try a couple of them.  There are three fiction and two non-fiction titles, and they are all fairly short.  I hope you enjoy these, for they have all (especially Mr. Blue, The Great Divorce, and The Story of a Soul) come to hold a special place in my heart.

May God bless you and keep you cool as the summer continues!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Spider-man Marathon!

I just completed my Spider-man Marathon by going to see The Amazing Spider-man in 3D.  This being the first time I've seen these movies, I want to review them all while my first impressions are fresh in my mind.  As always, these reviews are condensed, and do not explore all of the moral lessons and implications that a movie may involve in order to avoid giving away the plot resolutions, and to keep the reviews from becoming too lengthy.  Also, I have had to leave some major plot descriptions out in order to review all the original three without spoilers.  For more in-depth analyzations, go to the "Links" tab and look under the "Movies" category.  Otherwise, enjoy! 

Spider-man (2002)

Peter Parker is somewhat of an average guy living a somewhat average life.  He is a genius with science and math, but is constantly picked on by kids at school.  He lives with his saintly aunt and uncle, because his parents are MIA (where they are or what happened to them is not even explored in this movie).  He is a senior in high school, and his biggest problem is the girl next door- Mary Jane- who he is hopelessly in love with, but unable to attract.  Another minor problem arises when the father of his best friend Harry pays more attention to him and his brains than to Harry, who has been ignored and shunned his whole life by his wealthy father for not being smart enough to impress him.  Then one day a loose exotic spider changes everything by biting Peter's hand, and transforming him into a buff, wall-climbing, super-hero with 20-20 vision and web-shooting wrists.  Luckily, this transformation is just in time, because as Peter transforms during a troubled sleep, a mad scientist performs an experiment that creates a monster and endangers the entire city.  Being an immature high schooler, Peter must learn the hard way that "with great power comes great responsibility", and that true love often requires serious sacrifice as friendships, loved ones, and New York City become endangered and in need of a hero.

What I Liked:

Peter Parker is a great guy.  One can relate to him as he watches the movie unfold; he is easy to root for, and evil is always clearly defined.  His love for Mary Jane is sweet, as he is always there to support and encourage her during rough times, even denying himself for her sake in the end.  Also, the lessons Spider-man learns are powerful, and Aunt May's character is a source of constant wisdom and comfort.

Possible Concerns:

Unfortunately, this movie has a bit of a "cheap" feel because of Mary Jane's clothes.  Her stomach is almost always showing, and when it's not her chest is.  There are a couple serious kissing scenes, though it goes no further.  The bad guy isn't that scary, but there are some intense scenes that could be difficult for young children (one death in particular is pretty horrific).  There is also the occasional curse word scattered here and there.

Spider-man 2 (2004)

Peter Parker has learned the responsibility that comes with being a super-hero, but he's having difficulty balancing normal life and NYC's hectic crime scene.  Jobs, school, and relationships become strained, and life just seems to be going the wrong direction.  To make matters worse, his web-slinging abilities seem to be failing him, causing him to fall from dangerous heights without a way to stop himself.  As he begins to tire of his double-life, his faith in himself wavers, and he is tempted to pack the suit away for good.  But, as a failed energy experiment creates a menace that threatens to destroy everything he holds dear, will Peter rise to the occasion, or ignore his tugging conscience and opt to live a "normal" life?  His decision won't be easy, and will require extreme personal sacrifice.  When all he holds dear becomes endangered, it will be up to him to save the day.

What I Liked:

Thankfully, Mary Jane's clothing choices become much more modest and her overall character improves.  The moral messages are incredible, and Peter Parker remains an incredibly down-to-earth, endearing character.  Spider-man also identifies with the citizens of New York to a deeper extent in several scenes where he is de-masked while saving innocent victims, showing all audiences that he is just a regular guy, doing his best to make the world a safer place.   And, since all of the introductory information is out of the way, the action and plot progress very quickly.  But, the ultimate message of this movie is the importance of self-sacrifice and putting others first.

Possible Concerns:

Scattered profanity, scary imagery, and serious violence in select parts- not for sensitive eyes.

Spider-man 3 (2007)

Completely opposite of the beginning of the second movie, Peter Parker begins this movie leading an almost perfect life, with everything falling into place.  But, success and the affection NYC have turned Peter into a prideful man.  He is becoming arrogant, thinking himself above everyone's help and incapable of mistakes.  And, when Mary Jane comes to him for comfort and help, his encouragement always seems to turn into tales about himself.  This cocky attitude combined with a strong sense of revenge as the real murderer of someone near and dear is revealed is a recipe for danger.  Hence, he does not react correctly when a dark substance takes him over while he is sleeping, turing his spidey suit from red to black, and bringing a stronger sense of power with it.  But, this power is evil, and as he accepts it instead of fighting it, it transforms both the normal guy and the super-hero.  Peter must learn to conquer his demons and resist temptation in order to save himself and the ones he loves.  He will hurt many people on the way, and hopefully he will remember his real identity before forgiveness becomes impossible.

What I Liked:

This movie shows that no one is above temptation, and that everyone needs help sometimes.  It also shows the evils of revenge, pride, and the need to never forget one's identity.  My favorite part about this theme is the way the church bells play a huge role in Spider-man's victory over his dark side, which takes on many different forms before the movie ends.

Possible Concerns:

One of the bad guys in this movie is considerably scarier than the previous ones, looking extremely disturbing.  Also, when Spider-man goes on a "bad streak", he does some immoral things that I sincerely wish could have been avoided.  But- his evil side is not glorified, and is shown to be disgusting and wrong.  A bad word here and there, along with a lack of redeeming himself for how he treats Mary Jane makes this movie more concerning than the first two in the trilogy, so those with younger children certainly will want to preview this first.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

No, this is not Spider-Man 4.  The Amazing Spider-man is a re-make, going through the key events of the 2002 film all over again, but with a whole new perspective and cast.  This time, Peter Parker's personality, financial situation, and love interest are much different.  Yes, he is still a genius who gets picked on in school.  But, this Peter Parker doesn't give the viewer the same "good guy" sort of feeling.  There is nothing wrong with Garfield's portrayal, his super-hero just isn't as upbeat as Maguire's Spider-man was.  Peter's journey towards using his power correctly, his love story, and his whole moral outlook are very different.  It feels much more realistic and well-done than the first three, but it has some serious character-development weaknesses that keep it from being "better" than the originals.  Overall, it's just a very different movie.  One does not have to see the first three to understand what is going on, or to better enjoy the movie.  The only reason to watch the first three before going to see this one is for comparison purposes.  But, this is definitely an enjoyable movie worth paying to see in theaters to appreciate the awesome graphics.

What I Liked:

The female character has a much stronger family basis, and her character seems promising.  Though this movie doesn't elaborate on her much, it leaves room for a deeper character to emerge in the next one (because there certainly will be at least one sequel, stay after the movie ends for a spoiler clip after the first credits!).  Unfortunately, her skirts could have been about a foot longer, but up top she was pretty well covered.  What happened to Spider-man was much more realistic, seeing as how he suffered a bullet wound and would come home with a bruised face as a result of his crime-fighting.  There's an incredibly moving scene during a rescue on a bridge, and one not-so-nice character ends up becoming a likable guy by the end of the movie.  Also, the soundtrack and graphics are incredible.

Possible Concerns:

A bad word here and there, intense violence, one startling moment where a character pops up unexpectedly, Peter's attitude isn't the best, and during the beginning of the movie when he hasn't started using his powers for the right reasons, there are some instances where he doesn't act very gentlemanly in his fighting.  There is also a scene where he is in the process of changing, so his hands are sticky and he doesn't realize it.  He reaches out to pat a woman apologetically after causing beer to spill on her, and then his hand is stuck on her shirt.  A fellow man then forces his hand away from the woman, but the woman's shirt is ripped off in the process, leaving her standing there in lingerie from the waist up.  Luckily she is not in the main screen for long, but this may be a good moment to cover young children's eyes (he's in a subway, or metro, when it happens, and he is awoken by a man's cold beer can being placed on his head- just to give you a warning sign to look for).  There is kissing, but it is not nearly as intense as the kissing in the first three movies.  Also, there are not really any deep moral lessons in this movie, though it looks like there is potential for better moral messages in the coming sequel.

I enjoyed all of these movies in varying degrees.  The second was the best as far as moral messages are concerned, and the newest one was the most visually appealing.  If super-hero movies are something you enjoy, I would recommend them.  I would hesitate to show them to anyone sensitive to violence or scary images, and if shown to younger children you may want to have your finger on the fast forward button for some of the kissing scenes in the first and second movies.  I recommend them as a good choice for a teenage movie night.  The first one is my least favorite: Mary Jane's outfits are distracting and the messages aren't as strong.  But, it is still necessary to appreciate the famous line: "With great power, comes great responsibility".

Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Here comes the Spider-man!

All images copied off of Bing.