Movie Review: Legally Blonde

So it’s been a really, really long time since I saw this movie, but I decided to watch Legally Blonde while doing some chores around my apartment.

“Elle Woods is a California blonde with couture clothes, fabulous friends and the hottest boyfriend on campus. So when Warner Huntington III suddenly dumps her and heads for Harvard Law School, Elle takes matters into her own perfectly manicured hands. She enrolls too! Now getting Warner back should be a snap, right? Wrong! Elle’s about to begin the toughest fight of her life – for love, honor, justice and respect for blondes everywhere!”

There are a lot of reasons why this movie didn’t appeal to me when it first came out and I was younger. I guess one of those reasons is that I was younger and I allowed the stereotypes and other people’s opinions to influence my tastes.

One of the best parts about this movie is all the support that they all give each other. Elle decided she’s going to go to Harvard Law and her counselor just says, okay, well, you need great recommendations from your professors, at least a 175 on your LSATs, and a great letter. Her counselor doesn’t say Elle can’t do it, her counselor just tells her what she needs to do in order to be successful. Elle then enlists her sorority house to help her study. She does nothing but study the entire time, while she’s on the elliptical, instead of partying, while she’s getting her nails done, whenever she can. Her studying pays off when she gets a 179 on her LSATs and is admitted to Harvard Law.

The day that the results of her LSATs arrive at the sorority house, the whole house celebrates with her, showing that the success of one is the success of many. They are supportive of her, even though they don’t necessarily understand her decision to go to Harvard Law. Her friends and her sorority house support her when Warner breaks up with her and they support her through her decisions during the entire movie.

Elle is actually very respectful of the people she encounters throughout the movie. I can’t think of any time when she is purposefully hurtful or disrespectful of anyone else. She accepts everyone exactly as they are and she offers suggestions to make people healthier.

I also liked how this movie showed that sometimes, first impressions are not always correct. When you first see Elle, you think that she’s a stereotypical rich blonde but she’s actually dedicated and smart. She takes the time to learn what she needs to learn and also is a person of integrity by not violating the trust of her client. When Elle first meets Vivian, they don’t get along and they work to show-up or embarrass each other, but as the movie progresses, they start learning to work together and to become friends.

Overall, I’d say this movie is a low three on my rating scale. I’m glad I have a copy of it now so I can watch it whenever I need a supportive, feel-good movie, but I don’t think it’ll be a movie that I could or would watch repeatedly.

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Video Game Review: Undertale

I’m not quite sure when I first heard about this video game called “Undertale” or how. I know that it showed up in my tumblr feed and a friend mentioned it back in October 2015. As I was currently travelling and very busy when she brought it up, I didn’t really think about it much. More time passed, things at work became busier, and I finally found myself with a bit of free time, so I decided to play Undertale, as it seemed like a fairly simple game that wouldn’t really take me too much time.

I was told way back in October 2015 that the best way to play the game was to not know anything about it so that you could give honest reactions. In fact, the exact comment on the game to me was: “Undertale is a special case, because the less you know about it, the better the experience. xD But I’ll say this: it’s very funny, it has excellent music, and it subverts genre expectations by being an RPG in which you don’t have to kill enemies.”

So what can I say about Undertale that won’t spoil the game for anyone who hasn’t played it?

There are three ways of playing the game: pacifist, neutral, and genocide. I guess playing the game in each path results in different character interactions and different options in the game. I can’t vouch for any of the other routes, as the only play through I did was the total pacifist option where I didn’t kill anyone. The battles were sometimes hilarious in their resolution and some of them made me feel a lot better about my choices to not kill them. However, there were two battles that seriously tested my abilities. The first major battle I just couldn’t figure out also involved a dialogue that said something along the lines of: “You remind a certain character that they have already killed you more times than you can count. The character nods grimly.” And the second major battle I just couldn’t figure out involved a lot of really frustrated, disappointed, and unhappy messages while I chatted with the person who recommended this game to me. With careful encouragement, and maybe a light hint or two, I made it through and I’m very happy that I did.

I will say that I definitely enjoyed the game. The characters are interesting and very deep. Each character is completely unique, has different goals, motivations, abilities, and passions. After meeting the characters, laughing with them or at their shenanigans, and hearing about their world, I didn’t really have the heart to kill them. I think it’s likely that I got more out of the character interaction because of my choice to not kill anyone and I was rewarded with a much more hilarious game with a lot of very amusing romantic pairings.

For a computer game with very “low” graphic quality and a retro-feeling, text-based gaming style, it was beautifully done. I absolutely agree with Sam’s Undertale review when she says that the telling of this story could only be done through a computer/video game. Every decision that you, as the player, makes during the game is used to create the rest of the gaming experience and the story wouldn’t make sense without your interaction, or without the choices you make, or even without how hard you have to work to get through certain sections.

The music to this game is so absolutely addictive that I ordered the soundtrack and I also set up my audio recording device and recorded something like half an hour of my game play. While the soundtrack has not arrived yet, I am excited about it.

Overall, I would say this game is a four on my rating scale. There are really only two reasons why I wouldn’t necessarily enjoy playing this game again, but I’m not going to tell you what they are because I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t played before. One reason is because of that second major battle that I just couldn’t figure out. The other reason? That one will be a mystery because I don’t want to ruin the ending 🙂

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Book Review: How to Train Your Dragon: How to Steal a Dragon’s Sword by Cressida Cowell

This week’s book was the ninth book in the How to Train Your Dragon series, How to Train Your Dragon: How to Steal a Dragon’s Sword (Young Adult 355 pages) by Cressida Cowell.

“A dragon rebellion is coming – filled with the meanest, nastiest dragons in the Archipelago. Razor-wings, Vampire Ghouldeaths, and Tonguetwisters are attacking Vikings and seem to be seeking one soul in particular: Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third! Only a King can save them … and only a champion with all of the King’s Lost Things can be King. In his adventures, Hiccup has collected quite a few ‘things’ himself. But can a scrawny Viking save the entire Archipelago from certain doom?”

There is absolutely no way I can talk about the best parts of this book without massive spoilers. So if you haven’t read this book (and, to be honest, the whole series to this point) and you want to be surprised by the events in this book, I recommend you stop reading this review right now so nothing is spoiled or ruined for you.

One of the things that I like the most about this series is that all the people who have every right to be a hero are the ones shown to be the most lacking as people. Snotlout, who is a large, beefy, Viking youth, should be a hero. Throughout the series, Snotlout is better at all the Viking tasks the Viking youths are trained in and he behaves as they are trained to behave, by being rude and a bully. Snotlout is shown to be one of the least fit potential leaders in all of the Viking tribes, and yet, he becomes chief of the Hooligans at the end of this book because of Hiccup’s slave mark.

Flashburn should also be a hero. He is a brilliant sword fighter and he works on multiple hero quests. But in the end, he’s selfish and focused only on what is best for him. Hiccup is the only character out of all of the potential leaders who continuously uses a variety of brains, skill, diplomacy, and luck to accomplish impossible tasks while also thinking of the welfare of the humans and of the dragons. He is an unlikely hero, but someone whose character is built out of compassion, which makes him a much more worthwhile hero than those who are supposed to be labelled as heroes.

This series just continues to get better and better. There are a couple of places in this story where you think that it’s going to turn out like some of the other young adult fantasy stories with a happy ending and everything, or where things will just magically work out for the hero, like things have in the past. But that’s not how this book works at all. Hiccup does manage to accomplish some really impossible things, as he has in all the previous books, but sometimes, things just don’t work out.

He finds the crown and gives hope to the Wodensfang and he has a good portion of the King’s Things. He wins the sword fighting competition and things look like they might actually work out. Then the witch with perfect timing destroys everything Hiccup has done and everything Hiccup could accomplish.

One of the most moving parts of this entire book is when Fishlegs stands up to all the Vikings and publicly states how he still believes in Hiccup, no matter what. And while Camacazi didn’t turn her back on Hiccup as the rest of the Vikings did, she also didn’t stand up for Hiccup at that moment like Fishlegs did. She was defiant in her own way and she understood when Hiccup drew away the entire dragon horde to follow him and save the Vikings. The loyalty of friends is truly shown when life is at its worst and this entire section was very powerfully done.

At the end of this book, Hiccup has lost everything; his friends, his family, all of the King’s Things, his status as a Viking, his freedom. And still he promises to fight to make the world a better place. Hiccup’s life has never been easy and he still works to do better and to make the world a better place. This is what a real hero looks like.

Overall, this book is easily a high three on my rating scale. I’m happy I own it and I’m positive I will read this book again in the future.

Cowell, Cressida. How to Train Your Dragon: How to Steal a Dragon’s Sword. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2011.

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Book Review: How to Train Your Dragon: How to Break a Dragon’s Heart by Cressida Cowell

Today’s book was the eighth book in the How to Train Your Dragon series, How to Train Your Dragon: How to Break a Dragon’s Heart (Young Adult 293 pages) by Cressida Cowell.

“Stranded on the exceptionally dangerous, and possibly haunted, Beach of the Broken Heart, Hiccup must face UG the Uglithug and complete the impossible task – or die trying. Along the way, he’ll have to battle Berserks, dodge Scarers, and save Fishlegs from being fed to the Beast, all while being hunted down by an old enemy with a dark secret about the mysterious Lost Throne. With Toothless by his side, and time to stage his rescue running out, what’s a Hero to do?”

I think this was probably the best book in this series for me so far. That’s probably because there’s a lot of emotionally charged parts of this book that deal with how history really isn’t anything like the fantasy stories read for entertainment purposes. In real history, bad things happen to the heroes and the stories that you hope don’t wind up being true about betrayal and selfishness are just a part of history. I guess that’s one of the biggest draws of reading fantasy and other genre fiction – for just a little bit, the reader can be transporter to a world where dragons exist and the characters are heroes who make positive change into the world in which they live.

But the real world isn’t like that.

There is a story of deeply bonded friendship in this novel and it’s a very moving story to read because it talks about family and hope and believing the best in people can change the world. There is also the opposite which happens in this book where believing the worst in people or misunderstandings can create horrible events that hurt everyone involved.

I’m not really going to say much more about this book because I don’t want to give any spoilers away. I did enjoy it overall and would probably rate it as a minimum of a high three on my rating scale. I’m glad I own it and I am highly likely to reread this book in the future, even if I don’t reread other books in the series first.

Cowell, Cressida. How to Train Your Dragon: How to Break a Dragon’s Heart. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009.

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Movie Review: Logan

Upon the recommendations of many and because I was already out running errands today, I went to see Logan.

“In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X somewhere on the Mexican border. However, Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are upended when a young mutant arrives, pursued by dark forces.”

I think that I must have seen this movie at the exact right time and exact right theater. I first attempted to go to the giant IMAX near me but had missed the first show of the day by about 15 minutes. I knew that there would be about that long just of previews, but the movie theater line was also very long and I knew I wouldn’t make it through the line in time for the movie. So I went to one of the older theaters and it was actually a lot nicer than the large IMAX where I’ve seen so many movies recently. I think the movie only had about five rows and maybe could seat 40-50 people. The seats were tall and comfortable and there were maybe 20 people total. It was nice to be in a non-crowded, small theater to watch a movie like this.

This movie was pretty much exactly what I expected, based on the two or so previews I actually saw and the comments I’d heard or read before I attended the movie today. It was a very dark and definitely not a common perspective on the cost and price for being different. The story-telling and the character development were both powerfully done. Even the characters that were only on screen for a short period of time were fully developed and had stories of their own. This movie lacks a lot of expensive CGI, explosions, and excessive special effects, but it more than makes up for it with fantastic story-telling. In fact, I think if movies spent more time on story and character development and less on flashy special effects, we would have a lot more quality movies.

Overall, this movie was probably a solid three on my rating scale. I don’t really want to say too much about the details for the movie or how I feel and why because I think that my thoughts might lessen the emotional impact and I wouldn’t want to do that for anyone.

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TV Show Review: Avatar: the Last Airbender: Book One: Water

Two years ago, in March 2015, I purchased and binge-watched the entire the Legend of Korra and so it only seemed fitting to watch Avatar: the Last Airbender. I started with the first season, Avatar: the Last Airbender: Book One: Water which was produced by Nickelodeon.

“Water. Earth. Fire. Air. My grandmother used to tell me stories about the old days, a time of peace when the Avatar kept balance between the Water Tribes, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and Air Nomads. But that all changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar mastered all four elements. Only he could stop the ruthless fire benders. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years have passed and the Fire Nation is nearing victory in the war. Two years ago, my father and the men of my tribe journeyed to the Earth Kingdom to help fight against the Fire Nation, leaving me and my brother to look after our tribe. Some people believe that the Avatar was never reborn into the Air Nomads and that the cycle is broken. But I haven’t lost hope. I still believe that somehow the Avatar will return to save the world.”

The first season of Avatar: the Last Airbender has twenty episodes, the Boy In the Iceberg, the Avatar Returns, the Southern Air Temple, the Warriors of Kyoshi, the King of Omashu, Imprisoned, the Spirit World (Winter Solstice, Part 1), Avatar Roku (Winter Solstice, Part 2), the Waterbending Scroll, Jet, the Great Divide, the Storm, the Blue Spirit, the Fortuneteller, Bato of the Water Tribe, the Deserter, the Northern Air Temple, the Waterbending Master, the Siege of the North Part 1, and the Siege of the North Part 2.

The first thing that I’ll say is that Aang is not Korra. I guess I’m one of the awkward people who watched the Legend of Korra before even touching Avatar: the Last Airbender so it’s very different for me watching Avatar: the Last Airbender. In a lot of ways, it’s interesting because I’m getting some of the history that was mentioned in passing from watching Korra. But it’s also very, very different because Aang is a very young, very immature boy and Korra, while young, is not nearly as immature as Aang. Aang does a lot of things that are beyond immature, but I guess that’s part of the charm and part of the character arcs. It allows Aang to learn and grow as a character.

There are a lot of really great characters, especially Katara and Sokka. It’s fantastic to see siblings as the heroes of a story. They disagree about all the things that siblings would disagree about, but they are also there for each other without fail. They also have completely different strengths. Katara is a symbol of hope in one of the biggest ways and Sokka is dedicated in a way that’s rare in any character.

Sokka has a very strong character arc, even in just the first season. In the fourth episode, the Avatar crew gets ambushed by the Kyoshi warriors, who just happen to all be women. Sokka feels like he is supposed to be some sort of macho man and that no women could possibly have defeated a great warrior like him and he challenges them, very disrespectfully. When they kick his butt again, he goes away in shame. But then, he realizes that being a great warrior isn’t dependent on gender. He apologizes in the most fantastic and humble way possible. He comes back into their practice area and admits that he was wrong in the rude way he treated them. He shows them the absolute maximum amount of respect and admits that he should have showed them that respect from the very beginning. He also requests, extremely politely, for them to train him. They agree to do so, but in return, he must abide by all of their warrior traditions, including attire and weapons, which he does. He respects their culture and their traditions and learns to be a warrior on their terms. This is absolutely one of the best examples of seeing and admitting your own weaknesses, admitting you have a lot of work to do, accepting other people who are different than you, and learning how to be a better person. Sokka doesn’t have any special abilities but he’s determined that hard work and dedication will demonstrate tangible results and he’s absolutely correct.

Katara is also a fantastic character for a variety of reasons. It’s interesting to me to see her always taking care of the camp. She gets the groceries and mends the clothes and is always considerate of others while the boys on the team lounge around and complain about how hungry they are. Katara also runs into a lot of sexism and she just goes with it, which is kind of frustrating. She isn’t allowed to learn how to water bend with Aang because she’s a woman and all the women of the Northern Water Tribe learn the healing arts and not how to be a warrior. Katara has to earn her right to learn to be a warrior, which Aang didn’t have to do because he’s the Avatar and he’s male. Katara also appears to be serving as the Avatar’s love interest, which is sometimes done in a cute kind of adolescent way and also kind of a creepy way. Since I’m not much of a fan of romantic subplots, I would rather that people could just travel together and save the world without romance being a thing. But I realize that my being asexual is different than everyone else who enjoys seeing romantic and sexual plots and subplots in absolutely everything.

Overall, I’d say this first season is a solid three on my rating scale. As unfair as it is, I really like the Legend of Korra a lot better and I’ve been judging this series and season against that. So it’s still a good series, but I really do like Korra better.

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Book Review: How to Train Your Dragon: How to Ride a Dragon’s Storm by Cressida Cowell

On Friday when I was waiting for the installation of new tires on my vehicle, I read the seventh book in the How to Train Your Dragon series How to Train Your Dragon: How to Ride a Dragon’s Storm (Young Adult 253 pages) by Cressida Cowell.

“Hiccup has three months, five days, and six hours to win the annual Intertribal Friendly Swimming Race – which he must do by coming in last. Along the way, he’ll have to discover America, battle Polar-Serpents, defeat his nemesis Norbert the Nutjob, and get back to the Isle of Berk. It’s a tall order for a short Viking. Can he do it?”

So it appears as though I haven’t read anything in this series since early September 2016. I was using the series as books to read while I was at the gym on the stationary bike, but my workout has since changed to be a lot more rigorous and intense, which means I don’t usually just hop on the stationary bike for 10+ miles anymore. After this book, I only have two more left in the series that I actually own which means that I will need to make a decision about whether to buy more in the series or just stop with what I’ve got. But I suspect that will be a decision for another day.

Even though it’d been several months since the last time I read anything in this series, the characters and world-building are easily remembered, as are most of Hiccup’s adventures so far. It’s important to remember the previous adventures because this series is cumulative, meaning that each adventure builds on the ones prior, as do the characters.

Something I hadn’t thought of before with any of these particular books or with the reviews I’ve written of these books is that if you were so inclined, there are a lot of black and white drawings throughout all the books and you could actually color if you wanted to. I know there are some book lovers and collectors out there that probably just read the previous sentence and cringed or freaked out or made insults involving words like “blasphemy” or something along those lines, but the truth is that treating everything we encounter as sacred or unchangeable is probably detrimental to our ability to interact with our world. Things are meant to be used. Books are meant to be read and loved. And if you are the parent of a small human who likes to color and likes these books, it seems to make sense to me that they could create their very own heirloom books by making them theirs. Maybe that would mean coloring them. Maybe it would mean taking the book everywhere with them so the book is abused and water-stained. I definitely have some books from my childhood that I treated very poorly, but that I still have fond memories of, maybe because I still have the worn, rabbit-chewed books. Obviously, I don’t have any small humans myself, nor do I ever intend on having small humans. But if I did have small humans to raise in my life, I would teach them to be respectful of things that don’t belong to them, to not destroy those things which do belong to them, and to not feel uncomfortable with taking ownership of those things in their lives. After all, things are just things, and as much as we’re taught otherwise, things really can be replaced. People can’t. And I think that somewhere, we’ve lost that.

Anyway, back to the book.

For all that these books are marketed towards a much younger audience, there’s a lot of really good knowledge and a lot of really deep points that you can find if you’re open enough to see them. For example, on page 250: “Maybe all Kings should bear the Slavemark, to remind them that they should be slaves to their people, rather than the other way around. And to help them never to forget what it feels like to be a child … to be small and weak and helpless.” This entire section focuses on thoughts about how Hiccup has decided that there is no such thing as a perfect world and that it’s his responsibility to instead work to make his home of Berk into the ideal he often dreams of, in regards to the value of people, lives, and ideas. He understands that he can’t just abandon his people because something else out there looks prettier or shinier or easier. In order to truly benefit the people, he has to be willing to be a leader to show them a better way and he knows it won’t be easy, but he’s still willing to make those individual sacrifices in order to bring a better life to his people.

And that’s really what being a true leader is to me. It’s not about posturing and making speeches and thumping your chest; it’s about doing what’s best for the people. It’s about putting the needs of your people before your own.

Overall, this book is a solid three on my rating scale. I’m glad I own it and I’m certain I’ll read it again at some point in the future.

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Movie Review: The Butterfly Effect

I guess I’m on a kick where I want to watch depressing movies. Today’s movie was The Butterfly Effect.

“A young man struggling to get over disturbing memories from his childhood discovers that he is able to travel back in time and alter events in his past. However, every change he makes transforms his life and that of those around him, often to unexpected and disastrous consequences.”

There is a lot of really horrible stuff, especially in the earlier parts of the movie with the younger versions of the kids.

I guess I just am spoiled in my life in that my exposure to the horrible things people can and often do to each other has been severely limited in my life. I wasn’t in a position when I was growing up where I was exposed to other kids who thought it was a good idea to torture or hurt other people or animals. I wasn’t exposed to situations where people thought it was okay to knowingly and willing hurt other people. Not that everything in my life has been perfect, but my life has certainly been a lot better than any of the situations portrayed in this movie.

But one of the key points of this movie is that messing with the past and messing with people is a really bad idea. For every time Evan went back in time to fix something he messed up, he very distinctly makes things much, much worse. He messes with people’s lives, all to try and give himself a better life. And eventually, he learns about the cost of what he’s doing to others and works to make a decision to help everyone.

Would you sacrifice potentially having the love of your life actually in your life if you knew that your absence from their life would make their life happier and better? I think that’s one of the reasons I actually own this movie and rewatch it every now and again, and one of the key lessons I’ve learned throughout the last several years especially. You have to live your own life to the best of your ability. You can’t build your life around other people and what you think is best for their lives. The only people who can choose what’s best for their lives is those individuals themselves. At the same time, though, you should work to be the best person you can be, to treat the people in your life with dignity and respect and to be a positive influence in the lives of those around you. You should never be afraid to love with all your heart, especially your family and friends.

Overall, I’d say this movie is probably a two on my rating scale. While I do watch it every now and again, I think one of the reasons I watch it is to make sure that I’m living my life the best I can and to remind me to be thankful for all the people and things I have in my life. My life right now is filled with a lot of amazing and fantastic people and I’ve met some of the most gorgeous and talented people in the last several years. People with dreams of becoming comic book artists, people who want to make a positive impact in the world, people who are teachers, writers, service men and women, construction workers, salespeople, entertainers, students, welders, homemakers, cooks, and every other pursuit of happiness on the planet, and I am thankful each and every day for all of their presences in my life, even if I rarely hear from them, if we talk every day, or if we aren’t on speaking terms, I am thankful for each and every one of them. I also live in a nice apartment with a comfortable couch and am surrounded by books. I don’t have to worry about buying food or paying rent because I’m financially stable and I often use my extra finances to help others who are not in such a stable place in their own lives. So while The Butterfly Effect isn’t like to be a movie I would recommend very highly to other people, it does make me remember to be thankful for what I have in my own life.

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Movie Review: Ex Machina

Not really sure what to do with my night, I decided to watch Ex Machina, which is a movie I know absolutely nothing about.

“A young programmer is selected to participate in a ground-breaking experiment in synthetic intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breath-taking humanoid A.I.”

I think that I am absolutely stunned by this movie and I’m glad I had no knowledge of it before watching it. I sometimes think and feel that previews ruin movies and I imagine that any preview I could have seen for this movie might have given away plot points or character arcs and I’m much better off for having known absolutely nothing about the movie before watching it. I think my lack of knowledge made the movie more suspenseful and more intriguing. This was also one of the very few movies that made me feel very stupid, which is also a very good thing. The discussions about programming and artificial intelligence and how all that works were just detailed enough to feel authentic and not so much that I had no clue what Caleb and Nathan were talking about.

There’s a lot of really advanced stuff in this movie. Programming, coding, linguistics stuff. And a lot of really in-depth stuff about interpersonal relationships and communications. It’s not very often that a movie makes me feels stupid. Or confused about what I’m watching. I didn’t know if this movie was supposed to be horror or sci-fi or a comedy or a drama or what. This movie was very dark, quiet, and creepy, but all in the best ways.

One of the most intellectually interesting parts of the movie for me was the discussion on heterosexuality. And additional thoughts on sexuality in general. Which brings up the portrayal of women in this movie. Obviously, Ava is an Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and Caleb’s role in the movie is to function as the human component of the Turing test. Caleb is specifically chosen by Nathan to participate in this test, for reasons that are clearly identified later in the movie but which I won’t reveal here in case someone is reading this movie review and wants to have as little about the plot and characters revealed as possible. Nathan also specifically creates Ava to be attractive because, as the quotes I linked to indicate, creating “something” perceived to be attractive increases the odds of “its” functionality, usefulness, and empathic responses in the humans.

This movie is extremely manipulative in the sense that it highlights a lot of ethical and moral dilemmas concerning life, the value of life, men who play gods, and what it means to discover the world for yourself. I’m glad I watched this movie and overall, I would say that it’s at least a solid three on my rating scale. I’m not sure how much I will rewatch this movie in the future, as it was uncomfortable in how manipulative the characters were and how well done this movie was concerning setting the tone and making me take a really long look at society. Plus, I have my own baggage with the movie, as Ava looks a lot like someone I used to know but still care about greatly. So overall, it’s a great movie and because it messed with me so much, I have no idea how I feel about watching it again in the future. Which kind of says a lot of how well this movie was done.

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Book Review: Storm Breaking by Mercedes Lackey

I finished the third book in The Mage Storms trilogy, Storm Breaking (fantasy 464 pages), by Mercedes Lackey yesterday, which was my next book in my Heralds of Valdemar marathon.

storm_breaking“As mysterious, magical onslaughts ravage Valdemar and the kingdoms of the West, the western allies have traveled far to locate the ruins of the Tower of Urtho, Mage of Silence, and excavate his legendary Vault, hidden stronghold of some of the most power magical weapons ever devised. They now know that the mage storms are an ‘echo’ through time of the prehistoric Cataclysm which permanently warped their world more than two thousand years ago. If they don’t find a way to stop these magical vibrations they will culminate in another Cataclysm – this time destroying their world for good. But Urtho’s Vault is not the only thing buried below the Dorisha Plains, and camped in the ruins of what was once the workplace of the most ingenious mage their world has ever known, the desperate allies soon realize that their solution may lie beneath their feet. The saving of their world just might be accomplished by the work of a man who has been dead for millennia!”

I think I would consider this entire trilogy a lot of really good insights into the way positive religions should actually work. All three of the books in this series have a lot of heavily religious commentary, but I think that this is probably my favorite series of books that deal heavily with religions. The world-building flawlessly incorporates a very diverse cast with vastly different belief systems who all learn to work together and also who all learn how to open their hearts and minds and work towards understanding why people believe the way they do. The whole premise of the Valdemar books is that there is no one, right way and that everyone should be able to live together and work together without discrimination.

The character arcs throughout this series are incredibly accurate. Karal demonstrates what devotion looks like, which shows his own internal questions about faith and those who are supposed to be the spokespeople for those faiths. An’desha learns to walk his own path and how to be grateful for all the experiences that led him to the path he’s on and that feelings can change depending on circumstances. Firesong sees what life is like without people around to admire him and he learns about how easy it is to slip into a pattern of thoughts and behaviors harmful to others and that some people have to work extra hard to not walk those paths. Tremane’s character development is always focused on finding a just and honest answer in a world built on duplicity and treachery, but he always finds a way to take care of the people with him. There are so many characters who are alive and have their own perceptions that they could never be confused for any other character in the story, which is kind of amazing to me sometimes, that an author would be able to make so many realistic people in one world without any duplicates.

I also really like the view of history in this series. On page 273, Lyam’s passion for history is almost a tangible thing. He talks about every day objects, such as the brushes found in Urtho’s work room, with a reverence and a passion that I often find lacking in many of the popular books I read these days. How many of the popular genre books out there have romantic or sexual interests and you just don’t feel any chemistry? For me, it’s most of them. But the way Lyam talks about history and the presence of history in just this one section makes you feel so strongly about simple things like the note-taking equipment of a servant, hundreds or thousands of years ago.

Overall, I’d say this series is a solid three on my rating scale. I’m glad I own it and I will very likely reread the whole series, including this book, again in the future.

Works cited: Lackey, Mercedes. Storm Breaking. New York: Daw Book, Inc., 1996.

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