The Brand New Testament (2017)

Movie – To give mankind the awareness of their own death may be an inapprehensible phenomenon, but Ea has done just that. The Brand New Testament is a dark yet humorous film about God, who, by the way lives in Belgium with his wife and daughter, creates inconveniences and atrocities to all of mankind out of his own boredom. His daughter Ea is not very fond of it and has had enough. After discovering her father’s malicious intentions are being controlled through a dated computer, she rebelliously sends out the death dates to everyone on Earth. What would you do if you know when your last breath would be? Would you leave the job you dread? Would you spend your life’s savings? Or would you not change a thing? Six very different lives answer just that in Ea’s search for additional apostles to add to the New Testament.
This French film was incredibly thought provoking and had an amusing spin on all things biblical. Although it was in French (English subtitles provided), the dialogue was light enough to truly enjoy the essence of the sheer artistry. The cinematography and plot was encapsulating, it’s no wonder that the film was up for numerous awards and was generally favorable among critics. If you’re looking for something different but nonetheless refreshing, this is one to see.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Book – When the weather cools and the air turns crisp, I am ready for some spooky reads. I grew up watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch on ABC’s TGIF so I was immediately intrigued to see a more grown up version of a childhood favorite. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Vol. 1 is a re-imagining of Sabrina’s origin story. Sabrina isn’t the bubbly and wholesome witch I grew up with, there are no funny magical mishaps nor life lessons learned in this graphic novel rendition. Sabrina and her terrifying aunts, Hilda and Zelda, are dark, vicious and callous. The Spellman family show little compunction to bloody murder and satanic worship. But don’t be scared away by this! Aguirre-Sacasa lends an interesting plot to this intense read and the artwork matches the intriguing plot. The story is set in New England in the 1960s, a nod to the original Archie comics where Sabrina was introduced back in 1962. Sabrina’s 16th birthday is upon her and she must decide if she wants to become an immortal witch and join the coven or to be simply a normal teenage girl. Unfortunately for Sabrina, her tragic and grisly origin will literally come back to haunt her making her decision rather bleak.

If you’re looking for a spooky read to welcome the Halloween season you won’t be disappointed. Can’t get enough of Aguirre-Sacasa’s spooky retellings? He also wrote the graphic novel Afterlife with Archie, available through Hoopla! Also, keep an eye out for the television series based on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina coming later this fall.

Death Wish (2018)

DVD – This movie is a remake of the 1974 version that I admit I did not watch.  I saw this movie on the shelf and thought “Hey I love Bruce Willis and the Die Hard movie collection, why not try this one?”  This is a great action thriller movie about an emergency room doctor (Bruce Willis) who is constantly fixing up the bad guys of Chicago. While he gets called into work, his family is targeted in his home and his wife and college bound daughter are brought to his ER with a grave prognosis. Suddenly he has this awakening moment that he needs to do something for revenge. The cops are clearly overwhelmed with cases and are coming up empty handed on his families case. He starts with lowly purse snatchers, and moves up to carjackers to murderers.

This was a great action movie for Bruce Willis. Not too much CGI and not an implausible storyline. It felt really honest and true to the types of mistakes one might make while learning to be an everyday incognito superhero. I am a little confused about the roll his brother plays in this film, but not enough to turn me away from watching it again.  I think this one hits home for the action lover of the family as well as the romance/story lover of the family.  An all around A+ in my book!

Jagannath by Karen Tidbeck

Book – A call center routes calls to the afterlife. A bereaved daughter writes to her recently deceased father about her missing mother. A girl puts on her great-grandmother’s wedding dress and disappears into the mountain. A society of symbiotes living and working inside their mother begins to crumble. Told in beautiful, spare prose, Jagannath is a remarkable collection of short stories from Swedish writer Karen Tidbeck.

Tidbeck translates her own work, and there’s a lovely essay in the back of the book about how the process of composition and translation differs between languages. But if you didn’t know these were translations, you’d never guess. The pictures these stories draw are so vivid, so crisp and clear, you feel you could walk right into them – even the strangest of stories, like those about the ever-increasing aunts who grow their successors inside their own hearts. If you’re only familiar with Nordic literature from the dark thrillers that have become so popular in recent years, give this collection a try.

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Book – What’s a young woman to do when she’s possessed by a singularly brilliant mind and a distinct disdain for social conventions? If the young woman in question is Charlotte Holmes, main character of Sherry Thomas’ A Study in Scarlet Women, the answer to that question is; deliberately be caught behaving scandalously to avoid being forced to marry, move in with former actress and well-to-do widow Mrs. Joanna Watson, and set up a private detective agency under the fake name “Sherlock Holmes.” After all, no one in Victorian London would come to a lady consulting detective.

A Study in Scarlet Women is both a character study and mystery novel. However, as a mystery, the pace moves fairly slowly at first. Readers should be aware that for the first third of the story the actual murder mystery takes a back seat to character development. But with characters like these, it’s worth waiting for the plot to pick up. Thomas does an excellent job exploring the many ways Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and John Watson would be very different characters if they’d been born and raised as middle class women in an extremely male dominated society, inured in all the strict social guidelines that women were expected to abide by. This extra care and consideration makes for three dimensional characters that practically leap off of the page. And when the mystery plot does take off, watch out. It becomes hard to put the book down as Thomas throws misdirections and surprise twists at the reader, concluding in a startling and highly enjoyable finish. Readers who enjoy Sherlock Holmes adaptations and books that focus on strong character development should definitely check out A Study in Scarlet Women, by Sherry Thomas.

Bad Boys (1995)

DVD – Made in 1995, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence make a comedic win of a movie. There has been a break in at the police station in the evidence locker and a ton of heroin has been stolen without a huge scene being made. They now have 72 hours to reclaim all that heroin before the FBI and CIA get involved. To complicate matters, they have to protect a witness (Julie) who happened to see the thieves murder her best friend while the drugs are exposed in the room. Her best friend always told her that if anything ever happened to her and she needed someone, Will Smiths character is THE ONLY person she trusts.  Julie calls the police station and says she knows what happened and will only talk to Will Smiths character.  He was off pursuing another lead, so Martin Lawrence picks up the phone and says he is Will. The two lead very different lives and its comical to see how they portray each other. Will they get the heroin back? At what cost to the city? Will they keep Julie alive? So many ways this one can play out.

This is a moderately older movie, but its a goodie. To see the stereotypes being played out by two comedians is hilarious. There is definitely a large amount of cursing and racial slurs, and intense action so I do not recommend this for children. This movie was such a hit, that they even made Bad Boys II in 2003.  Snuggle up for a fun adult night with this pair of movies!

 

The Girl from Rawblood by Catriona Ward

Book – The Villarcas are tied to Rawblood, their estate in the Devon countryside. If they stay away from it too long, they sicken and die. But if they stay home, they are tormented by her, a curse of the Villarca bloodline, the ghost of a tortured young woman who tortures the residents of Rawblood in turn. At the turn of the twentieth century, young Iris Villarca is determined to find a way out from under the curse. Decades earlier, her father does his best to push his lover away to keep them both safe. In Italy, Iris’s grandmother finds herself strangely drawn to – and repulsed by – a Spanish expatriate. In the end, the curse ties them all together.

The Girl from Rawblood is a classically Gothic novel with all the trimmings: a huge empty house, a ghost, a family curse, a series of mysterious and unread letters. (And, unfortunately, quite a lot of that peculiarly English racism against European foreigners.) Pulling the Gothic all the way into 1918 is a particularly nice touch: while I liked the history of the family, Iris’s story, wrapped up in World War I, was by far the most fascinating. If you like your ghost stories equal parts frightening and heartbreaking, this is the book for you.

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty

Book – Approaching their thirty-third birthdays, the Kettle sisters Lyn, Cat, and Gemma reminisce about the chaotic past year.  Including pregnancy, a love affair, a mid-life crisis, and the possible reconciliation of their divorced parents. Three Wishes tells the zany story of the triplets – two identical, one fraternal, who celebrate each year with their own cake and candle(s), thus they each make a wish.

What starts out as a festive evening ends up in a chaotic brawl in a restaurant in Sydney.  The beginning will have you hooked, since you will want to know why the pregnant sister has a fondue fork sticking out of her belly.

Lyn who has it all together and is very organized begins having debilitating panic attacks.  Cat thinks she has the perfect marriage until her husband announces that he is having an affair with a younger woman. Gemma tends to have short term relationships with men and her jobs have even a briefer duration.  If she wasn’t a house sitter, then she would probably be homeless.

This is Moriarty’s first novel and it is a candid look at a trio that has an unshakeable bond that is as wonderful as it is frustrating.  Funny, sincere, and wise with a touch of sibling rivalry – this is an enjoyable read.  Netflix has plans to make this a series.

The Commuter (2018)

DVD- Ex Cop Michael now works in selling life insurance. He takes the commuter train to the city to his ho hum day every day. One day on the train he is approached by an odd passenger, Joanna, with a puzzle for him to solve. He is in need of some cash to continue his lifestyle with his family, and if he solves this puzzle correctly and quickly he is given the cash. He needs to find this one person with a package and obtain the package before they get to stop x on the trip. He has just a few stops to solve the puzzle. Of course Joanna is not a “good guy” and has eyes on him at all times through various ways throughout the trip. Will he solve the mystery, save lives, and get the money?

Liam Neeson is the lead in this role. He is unfortunately a typecast for this role. It is very similar to many of his other movies. This one was set to be a great movie, the preview looked amazing. I was interested in this one, cause who doesn’t love the typical Liam Neeson movie? This one was more over the top than his usual. I think there were too many plot holes, and way too many special effects clumped together. If you are looking for an action packed just for the heck of it movie, this is it. But don’t expect to walk out after the movie feeling “Wow, that was amazing! I can’t believe…..” I walked out saying “Ok, Huh, I saw it. Now what?”.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Book – Some books ripen in a certain season, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a perfect summer book to me: gossipy, escapist and propulsive, but not lacking in substance.  It’s been months since I’ve been in the mood to read fiction, but Evelyn is so addictive that I gobbled my way through its 400 pages in less than a day, and resented the hours when it had to be out of my hand.

The novel’s title character is a household name, a beloved film star whose career began in the 1950s and who is now (in roughly the present) setting her affairs in order.  Most pressingly, that means offering her first interview in decades to a young reporter named Monique who doesn’t understand why she is Evelyn’s hand-picked choice–and is even more astonished when Evelyn tells her that she has been chosen not as an interviewer, but to write Evelyn’s authorized biography.  Monique’s sections in the present alternate with (and are utterly eclipsed by) Evelyn’s first-person recollections of her eventful past, including the true story behind those seven spouses–and the secret eighth.

Evelyn Hugo is a ‘popcorn book,’ to be sure, wrapped in the glitz and glamor of Hollywood and more focused on entertaining its audience than stretching their minds.  But that doesn’t mean that it avoids deeper topics–especially identity, and the ways we shape, obscure, invent, discard, forget and rediscover parts of ourselves.  It’s historical but very timely, touching on questions of race, gender, sexuality, class, abuse, and what it means to grow up and grow old.  It’s a book about the compromises we make to have what we want and to be seen as who we want to be, and I highly recommend it for your next quick summer read.