|Posted by Christine Nieman on December 1, 2012 at 10:50 PM||comments (0)|
The Help is a multi-voiced novel set in early 1960s Jackson, Mississippi at the cusp of the civil rights movement. Aibileen is a spiritual and caring African-American maid who works for a white family, helping to raise their young daughter, Mae Mobley. Her wisdom and strength resonate throughout the novel. Her friend, Minny, is another African-American maid, whose sharp tongue and fierceness often get her into trouble with the family she is working for. Lastly, Skeeter Phelan, recently graduated from college and returned home, goes looking for her childhood maid, Constantine, only to find she was let go by her mother for some unknown reason. This sparks Skeeter to wonder about the lives of "the help", the African-American woman who work for white families, raising white children but feel scathing discrimination after their children are grown up. Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter are brought together when Skeeter decides to write a book about the lives of these women. These three women transcend the racial divide, experience changes in perspective, and become bonded by friendship.
The novel, written by Kathryn Stockett, is beautiful in prose, but lags slightly in the plot. At times, the novel seems too involved in subplots and unfocused on the main story. Learning about the characters and their lives, especially Aibileen and Minny's past as maids and the background of Skeeter's relationship with her mother, is very interesting. It is the voice of each character as brought to life by Stockett that makes this novel a standout, as each of the three narrators tells their story and paints a picture of life in the racially tense town of Jackson in the early 1960s. The novel is overall enjoyable but is lengthy and may lag for some readers.
|Posted by Crusader Writer on November 28, 2012 at 9:45 PM||comments (0)|
Review by Franco Giacomarra
When Eon Production’s Dr. No was first released to general audiences in 1962, it was met with mixed reception from some of the most famed film critics of the day. This setback, however, did not stop general audiences from flocking to see it. The fascinating adventure of a gun wielding, martini chugging, womanizing secret agent to the British secret service captivated movie goers and became a word of mouth sensation. Though the film achieved wild success and grossed millions of dollars, no one at the time could have predicted that the arbitrary lighting of a cigarette coupled with the introduction of “Bond, James Bond” would later become the stuff of legends. Fast forward half a century later, and the James Bond film series is one of iconic status and has been a staple of popular culture ever since Sean Connery uttered those notorious words 50 years ago. Now in the year of its golden anniversary, the franchise is setting out not to build upon its already expansive tradition, but to create a more gritty and realistic Bond whose real world problems and conflicts will create a seamless transition into today’s modern age of film.
From the beginning of Skyfall, it is clear that leading man Daniel Craig is aging, and the writers do a brilliant job of playing off this element, rather than trying to avoid it. After an invigorating opening chase scene through narrow streets of Turkey which includes the overturning of no less than four fruit carts, Bond suffers a setback that threatens to end his career in espionage for good. However, he quickly realizes that this is not an option after the headquarters of MI6 (the British Equivalent of the CIA) is attacked by a mysterious cyber terrorist (Javier Bardem) who threatens to reveal the identity of all undercover agents embedded in terrorist organizations across the globe. With the aid of some of the organization’s newest assets, the most entertaining of which is a college aged upgrade of well known gadget specialist Q, Bond sets out to put a stop to the increasing death toll of British citizens.
Though this film includes all of the necessary requirements for a James Bond movie, its true originality lays in its daringness to take risks. Daniel Craig portrays a Bond who is weary and defeated from years of difficult and dangerous work, and is far from the suave invincible action figure of a man who audiences have grown accustomed to over the years. Skyfall exposes us to an emotional side of Bond that for decades had been off limits, but is fully explored in this installment, especially through his interactions with Judi Dench, who gives an Oscar worthy performance here as Bond’s no nonsense boss, M. Despite some lackluster locations and actions scenes that left a lot to be desired, Skyfall offers viewers a rare opportunity to experience a familiar character in a different way than ever before while still allowing them to enjoy the aspects of the franchise that have come to make it the huge success that it is today.
|Posted by Crusader Writer on November 15, 2012 at 8:05 AM||comments (0)|
Article by: PJ Guippone
For those who enjoy action/adventure films, this movie is for you. Compared to the first Taken, it fell extremely flat though. There was still the thrill found in the first, but the original never contained a dull moment. In Taken 2, the lead character Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) has to use his brain a lot more than his brawn. Since he was captured from his vacation in Istanbul, Turkey, along with his wife, he had to develop an escape before their inevitable death.
At first Bryan Mills doesn't know why he and his wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen) were kidnapped, or otherwise "taken". But while in containment, the leader of the crime group comes in to explain the reasoning behind the kidnapping. It is revenge for what Mills did to the leader's friends and family in the first Taken film, where Liam Neeson's character takes on the thugs in an Albanian trafficing ring, who had taken his daughter hostage. Mills knows that this man will kill both he and his wife, so he calls his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace) on a cell phone that he had hidden in his pants. He explains to her the predicament and what she has to do to help. Once Kim does what she has to do, the butt-kicking begins. But when Mills wife is stolen again the movie slows down once more and he needs to use his brilliant mind again. Then he uses his brawn once more to save her.
The movie still contains plenty of gunfights and fistfights, at least two top-knotch car chases, and plenty of Liam Neeson showing how awesome he really is. The writers even mixed in a few humorous lines that had the audience chuckling in the theater. Overall, Taken 2 is a good action flic. It fits the criteria for a grade A action film: guns, explosions, fighting, and other extremely manly things. Anyone with a thirst for action and adventure will enjoy it very much.
|Posted by Matt Coakley on October 22, 2012 at 6:35 PM||comments (0)|
By Matthew Coakley and Victoria Razzi
Earlier this October, Dave Grohl, frontman of the Foo Fighters, announced via the band’s Facebook page that the Foo Fighters will be taking a hiatus. Just days before, the band played their last show to date at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park, New York. Rumors of a breakup started to spread like wildfire after Grohl made a comment onstage regarding the band’s future. “We don’t have any shows after this,” he said to the crowds of people, “This is where we play as many songs as we can in a short period of time, because, honestly, I don’t know when we’re going to do it again.”
The Foo Fighters are at a very successful place in their career, as it is their 18th year as a band, and they have just finished touring for their Grammy-winning album Wasting Light. This left many Foo Fighters fans concerned about the band’s future. “I can’t give up this band,” Dave Grohl assured his fans, “and I never will. Because it’s not just a band to me. It’s my life. It’s my family. It’s my world.”
One of the main reasons for the band’s hiatus is that Dave Grohl is devoting himself to a different project: a documentary for Sound City Studios. Sound City Studios is a huge part of rock history, as it was the recording place of so many ground-breaking records, including Nirvana’s Nevermind, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Damn the Torpedoes, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, and many more. Dave Grohl will not only be directing the documentary, but he will also be creating a soundtrack for it. “A year in the making, it could be the biggest, most important project I've ever worked on,” Grohl proclaims.
Dave Grohl made sure to make it very clear in his letter that although the Foo Fighters are taking a break, the band is still a major part of their lives and they are not broken up. “I'm not sure when the Foo Fighters are going to play again. It feels strange to say that, but it's a good thing for all of us to go away for a while. It's one of the reasons we're still here,” he explained in his letter, “I never want to NOT be in this band. So, sometimes it's good to just… put it back in the garage for a while…”
|Posted by Stefano Giacomarra on October 22, 2012 at 3:35 PM||comments (0)|
Its not too often you hear of a band releasing three albums in the span of four months. Green Day has been well in the spotlight ever since April 11, 2012, when they officially announced on YouTube that a trilogy of albums would be released starting late in September. Uno! is the first of the trilogy and the bands ninth studio album. According to front man Billie Joe Armstrong, as stated in a recent interview, the album takes on a “Power-Pop classic Green Day sound.”
It is apparent right from the get go that Green Day have attempted to go back to the roots of their earlier albums such as Dookie and Insomniac, venturing away from the sound of their two recent rock opera epics American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown. The opening track, “Nuclear Family,” starts the album off with a bang, and succeeds at setting the tone for what’s later to come. The songs go well together, and the album has a nice, consistent flow to it. The music is well written, with Billie Joe Armstrong’s solo’s adding an almost classic rock feel to the songs (most notably in “Let Yourself Go.” Bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool are equally impressive, creating catchy bass lines and groovy drum beats that add to the guitar work Billie Joe produces.
I recommend Uno! to anyone with an appetite for pulse pounding rock n roll and for anyone just looking for a good album to listen to. Uno! is the start of what should be a fantastic trilogy.
|Posted by Christine Nieman on May 27, 2012 at 5:15 PM||comments (0)|
The Secret Life of Bees follows
Lily Owens, a young girl whose life was tragically altered by the
death of her mother. The novel picks up days before Lily's fourteenth
birthday in the summer of 1964, the same summer the Civil Rights Act
was signed into law. The book is et in South Carolina, where racial tensions
still strain the relationships between blacks and whites, Lily and
Rosaleen. Rosaleen is a strong black woman, working for Lily's family and
responsible for taking care of Lily, and is set upon by three white
racists. Rosaleen's stubborn retorts to their jeers lands her in
jail, and suddenly Lily finds herself uprooted, running away from
home with Rosaleen and seeking refuge with three black women
At some points, the writing is so descriptive and insightful, you can almost feel the South Carolina humidity and its easy to get lost in the world of beekeeping and Black Madonna worshiping, but in other areas the plot lags and lacks the fuel and excitement to immerse the reader in wondering what comes next. The characters are wonderfully written and bring a diversity and quirkiness to the story. The novel is an interesting character study but may become difficult to read when the pace slows down. Though this novel can be slow at times, it is a must read for anyone who appriciates history, civil rights, or just good literature.
Each year, students are required to read a list of books over the summer. Students must complete assignments pertaining to these books and will have some sort of assessment once they return to school in the fall. The goal of these assignments is to prepare students to come back to school with new material already fresh in their minds. Reading can boost a student's vocabulary and improve their reading skills. Over the summer it would be easy for students to just forget about schoolwork, but summer reading assignments assures that students at Lansdale Catholic get a head start on next year's work, making it easier for students and teachers to get back in the rhythm of the school day.
|Posted by Danny Maloney on May 26, 2012 at 10:45 AM||comments (0)|
Of all the excellent movies that have been or will be released this spring and summer, one film was quietly released that perhaps surpasses all in the message it conveys and its clever application of wit. That film is, of course, the British drama-comedy Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. What it lacks in publicity it surpasses in its excellent screenplay and expert casting.
The film tells the story of seven aging Brits, who, for different reasons, decide to retire in the beautifully advertised “Marigold Hotel” in India. Although they generally share a complete lack of knowledge about India or the situation, they decide to make to leap into the unknown, despite their age, and are, richly rewarded for their choice. The hotel is run by an ambitious young Indian native who has a great vision although the hotel is over-advertised and even run-down. As surprising as it may seem, this hotel provides a new habitat for the Brits to grow anew as strangers in a new land.
On the outside, the film immediately emits an impression of success because of its excellent casting of many of the greatest British actors of this day and age. Judi Dench, known for various roles, but perhaps best known in America for playing M in the Bond films, acts as the central character, Evelyn, a widow forced to sell her home and move due to her late husband’s enormous debts. Maggie Smith, who has graced the American screen for decades and most recently is known for her roles in the Harry Potter films and PBS’s Downton Abbey, plays an elderly retired housekeeper who moves to India, despite her racist fears of the country, for a quick hip surgery. Penelope Wilton and Bill Nighy play a retired couple who lost their savings in a bad investment and are seeking a more luxurious retirement in India. Tom Wilkinson, Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup round off the British cast. The film also stars Dev Patel, of Slumdog Millionaire fame, as the hotel’s young and positive proprietor. Coupled with the excellent and witty screenplay, the combination of the players and script provides excellent entertainment.
An interesting aspect of the plot is the portrayal of India. The film spends great depth in describing the beauty and variety of the land, but occasionally gets lost through these travelogue-like sequences. These slow scenes are always followed by the fast moving and poignant dialogue and therefore this particular aspect, which many, including myself, enjoy, is short at the most.
This movie contains too key messages, each included somewhere in the plot. The first is the ability of the elderly to keep living and reinventing themselves despite their age, a valuable lesson to the growing senior population. The second is more universal and can be found in a repeated quote that “Everything will be fine in the end and if it is not fine, it is not the end.” In a world that glorifies the quick and easy, it is a welcome message.
So I encouarge Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for all lovers of film and of life, in general, not merely the elderly, its target audience. This film will provide positive encouragement and a quiet refuge for a few hours until you must leave the the clever, witty world of the retired Brits in India.
|Posted by Christine Nieman on April 12, 2012 at 9:15 PM||comments (0)|
The Hunger Games is fast becoming a national phenomenon. The novel, the first of a trilogy by Suzanne Collins, follows Katniss Everdeen, a teenage girl living in a post-apocalyptic North America, named Panem. This dystopian future is dominated by the Capitol, a city awash in lavish spoils, and surrounded by twelve subordinate districts. Life in the most impoverished districts is difficult. The Hunger Games refers to a yearly televised competition, pitting adolescents, ages 12-18, from each district, against each other in a fight to the death. The twenty-four competitors, called tributes, are selected randomly and transported to the Capitol, but only one victor is allowed to return home to a life of luxury and spoils. Katniss's home, District 12, the coal-mining district, is plagued by hardships and disregarded by the Capitol and the higher districts. This next Hunger Games will challenge Katniss with unexpected, heart-breaking circumstances and decisions she could never imagine.
The Hunger Games is such a success because of its quick pace and compelling storyline. The reader becomes invested in the characters, anxious to know what comes next. The trials faced by Katniss draw the reader in and the nail-biting suspense is intensified with every turn of the page. The first person narrative provides a descriptive, fluid account of Katniss's world. Overall, this novel is a quick read. It is gripping and suspenseful as it follows Katniss's stream of thought.
The novel was also recently adapted to a film of the same name. The film is both extremely faithful to the novel and excellent in execution of the difficult subject matter. In addition to its excellent adaptation, the film captures the essence of the Capitol, District 12 and the dangerous arena of the Hunger Games. However, the film ventures outside the realm of Katniss's mind, adopting an omniscient point of view that releases some of the tension created by her first-person account. The film presents essential material differently from the novel and is unable to convey the full emotions of the characters. Its visual presentation and faithfulness to the book make it worthwhile to be seen, after you've read the book, of course. Remember, the book is always better than the movie.
Also recommended: Catching Fire and Mockingjay, the next two novels in the Hunger Games Trilogy.
|Posted by Danny Maloney on April 10, 2012 at 4:30 PM||comments (0)|
Perhaps one of the most critically lauded films of the last few years is The Artist, the first silent motion picture to receive an Oscar since the first Academy Awards in 1929. Besides its distinct lack of audible dialogue and vintage black and white coloring (or lack thereof), most know very little of this film which earned all the acclaim that it received.
Reminiscent of the classic 50’s musical starring Gene Kelly, Singin’ in the Rain, The Artist tells the story of George Valentin ( Jean Dujardin) a silent film star, in the vein of Valentino, who seems to be at the top of his form in 1927. Trailed by his iconic dog, George Valentin seems unable to do wrong. By a mere mistake, he comes into contact with a fan, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) who he advises on how to rise in Hollywood. Shortly afterwards, Peppy gets her first role and George loses his last. In a last effort to preserve the art of silent film, George produces what is meant to be an artistic triumph, hence the title of the film, that will save silent movies and his career. Not unexpectedly, it fails, and as Peppy rises to stardom in the “talkies”, George loses everything, especially his pride. Throughout the film, the main characters’ roles reverse, Peppy becomes a star and George loses his stardom. By the end of the film, it is Peppy, not George, who is looking out for the other.
The Artist is a film that indulges in emotion and glorifies the small, especially the quiet moments in life. While few moments of the film are actually completely silent, as the beautiful score goes on behind most moments, the lack of dialogue is unnoticed. The moments of comedy and romance are so genuine to view, audio is not needed. In fact, in some moments, dialogue or background noise (besides the perfect score) would detract from the overall piece.
The Artist is also a beautiful homage to classic film. In addition to the obvious setting and ambiance of film, there are several slight nuances that are appreciated by most movie-lovers. Valentin’s dog Uggie, who often stole the show, is obviously tip of the hat to faithful movie mutts, most notably Asta in the Thin Man series. The story of one member of a couple falling from popularity and the other rising from obscurity is a story that is familiar to A Star is Born. Valentin’s tragic fall and Peppy’s monumental rise is also a faithful representation of how many Hollywood studios simply tossed aside their stars for the bigger and the better in “talkies.” One could almost compare The Artist as a lighter rebirth of the Sunset Boulevard story.
Technically a foreign film (most of the stars are French), The Artist is a powerful reminder of the international appeal of movies in the eve of the talking picture. Across the globe, people can enjoy the gentle art of a movie in the same form. The Artist reminds us that emotion requires no sound and brings to mind that age old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, a million words could not improve this film.
|Posted by Francesco Giacomarra on March 21, 2012 at 2:40 PM||comments (0)|
If a person has never heard of the Phantom of the Opera, then it is fair to say that he probably lives under a rock. The story of the deformed ghost and his infatuation with a beautiful Swedish soprano who will never love him back is simply something that is ingrained into our subconscious via pop culture references and spoofs. Being a fan of the musical version created by Andrew Lloyd Webber, I was very excited to read this book and see what extra details it might provide to this already magnificent tale. After finishing it, I can emphatically say that my expectations were fully fulfilled, and Leroux’s 20th century gothic romance left me hungry for more.
The first thing about this novel that stood out to me was the writing style. From the prologue, the author presents himself as a researcher who is studying the case of the mysterious Phantom of the Opera. Contrary to traditional third person prose, this gives the plot a much greater sense of realism, and as I read on, I found myself turning around every so often as to make sure there was no masked madman trying to abduct me through the mirror in my bedroom.
Another reason I loved this book was simply because of the story itself. This is a classic tale filled with layers and layers of rich literary gems. Reading this book is very much akin to peeling an onion. The deeper you go, the more you uncover about this riveting tale. For instance, on the surface, The Phantom of the Opera appears to be a pure mystery and suspense story as illustrated by the strange events that go on in the dark shadows and labyrinthine corridors of the eerie Paris Opera House. However, read even more diligently and you will find that this novel is first and foremost a love story. The Phantom of the Opera is a riveting work that journeys into the deepest regions of the human heart. Its sheer ability to blend poignant moments with suspense and horror is what makes it a timeless classic.
Gaston Leroux has created one of the greatest characters of all time in Erik the Opera ghost. The manner in which he is developed in this book is astounding. Initially, we know nothing about this mysterious man. He walks in the shadows and spends all of his time striking terror into the hearts of innocent people through supernatural occurrences and cruel acts, even to the extent of murder. As the story progresses, we see that Erik is a tortured soul with feelings and emotions who longs for nothing more than to be accepted and loved for who he is. This realization is why the Opera Ghost is such a lasting character. Though we see him as a heartless monster with only evil in his heart, in truth he is just like you or I and everyone can relate to him. Who on this earth has never felt alone? Who has never loved another so deeply that they would do anything to keep that love within reach? For this exact reason, Erik has earned a place on my shelf as one of the most essential characters to come out of literature in the last century.
Gaston Leroux’s classic novel is a story that has been and will continue to be read for years and years to come because it has a lasting message of beauty and ugliness, both interior and exterior, that every reader should experience. I would recommend this book to anybody looking to find a satisfying narrative with an enduring impact.