CGB Review of Moana (2016)

Why do I get the feeling that this movie was written by someone who read the Book of Esther during a weekend on a Polynesian island?

This is my review of Moana!

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In the beginning, there was the Word…and that word was ocean!   Then comes the goddess Te Fiti who, with the power of her swirly heart (there’s a swirly circle where her heart is), creates island and island and so on.  Te Fiti then goes into a slumber, manifesting herself as a lush, green island.  All is cool until the demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson) quite literally steals her heart, which has taken the form of a jade gemstone.  His theft unleashes a freaky sea demon called Te Ka and basically, like the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve’s screw-up, the world falls into darkness because Maui just had to steal the heart of Te Fiti.
Enter the island of Motunui, which is home to a free-spirited girl named Moana (Auli’i Cravalho).  Moana is being groomed by her father Chief Tui to become the next leader of Motunui, but the call of the ocean has a strong pull on her heart.  This primarily has to do with an encounter she had with the ocean as a toddler.  When Motunui begins to experience decay and famine, Grandma Tala reveals to her that the ocean chose her [Moana] to find the demi-god Maui and guide him across the sea to face off against Te Ka and return the heart of Te Fiti to its rightful place.

The Hits
The animation is fluid, colorful and gorgeous to look at.  The voice work is awesome!  Never once was I distracted by the celebrity voices because all of the characters are well-written and distinctive.  Auli’i Cravalho definitely brings Moana to life as both a youthful teenager and a kind-hearted young woman.  She doesn’t sound like a late-twentysomething voicing a sixteen-year old, neither does she sound jarringly young; her character’s age is conveyed by Cravalho’s performance.  I really love Moana’s childhood connection to the ocean.  Granted, it does make this a typical “chosen one” narrative, but Moana herself doesn’t have any magic powers or some random birthmark that displays her chosen-one-ness; she’s a regular girl who was called upon by the ocean.  Now I mentioned that this movie made me think of the Book of Esther.  That’s because Moana is next in line to rule a land and must save her people from dark destruction.  While she doesn’t have to marry a king like Esther did, she does have to find the king-like Maui and take him to Te Ka.
Speaking of the ocean, the idea of having it as a sentient being is fantastic!  They don’t push the envelope too far by making the ocean a god or something, but the ocean does act similarly to the Holy Spirit; calling upon Moana to go out, to leave her comfort zone and sail into the unknown for a greater purpose.  The ocean reminded me of Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Now, mind you, Moana doesn’t travel to Judea or Samaria, neither does the ocean give her the ability to speak in tongues or prophecy, but the ocean’s influence and friendship gives her great courage, helps her to find peace in the chaos, and does enable her to travel far to take Maui to defeat a volcanic sea demon in order to restore peace to the other islands, which brings to mind the Apostles being empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to preach the Gospel and open wounded hearts to Jesus.
Moana’s pet pig Pua reminded me of a puppy, which makes him adorable, but her chicken Heihei is to this movie what Kowalski is to Fantastic Beasts; a show-stealing comic relief.
Dwayne Johnson is perfectly cast as Maui!   You can tell that he is having the time of his life voicing the character and we are having fun alongside him.  Maui is your typical “self-centered powerful dude who needs to be knocked off his high-horse,” but his humor and soft-spot for humans does keep him from being unlikable.

The Misses
Yeah, this movie gets pretty predictable towards the third act.  I pretty much was able to correct predict all the actions of the main characters in the film’s climax.  I like this movie a lot, but you can tell that there is a Disney checklist that the filmmakers need to fill (princess, comedic animal sidekick, songs, etc.) and it’s not hard to see where the story is going.

Guys and gals, I really enjoyed Moana!  It’s a charming, delightful action-comedy that the whole family will love.  Fun lead characters, thrilling action and some intriguing (if not unintentional) Biblical parallels make Moana an end-of-the-year slamdunk.  I’ve already seen it twice and I just might see it again for a third time.

Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, pray for us.

CGB Review of Doctor Strange

As the election results have shown us, life can be stranger than fiction.

This is my review of Doctor Strange!

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Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a successful but arrogant surgeon whose career ends after a terrible car accident practically destroys his hands.  After speaking with a formerly-paralyzed man who has since been completely healed, Doctor Strange journeys to Kathmandu, Nepal, where he meets the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and finds himself getting swooped in to a mystical battle with dark forces led by the sinister Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen).

The Hits
Holy cow, the visuals are INCREDIBLE!  The battle sequences are truly a sight to behold.  I love the idea that these mystic warriors actually bend time and physical space in order to do battle.  The reality-bending is just so COOL!  I like how it’s not all shaky-cam and impossible to see what’s going on.  The spells cast are bright and colorful, the fight choreography is smooth and well-paced, and the battles themselves are brimming with imagination.  This is one of the rare films where the 3D enhances the experience and isn’t just a nauseating gimmick.  You’ll still enjoy it in 2D, but if you are thinking of seeing it in 3D, then DO IT!  Of course, if you are concerned about cyber sickness, then here’s my review of The Walk, where I offer tips and tricks on how to prevent cyber sickness:  https://catholicgirlbloggin.net/2015/10/11/cgb-review-of-the-walk-2015/
Benedict Cumberbatch has yet to disappoint me.  I think it’s been established that you could cast this guy as a lampshade and he would still give a great performance.  While the role of Stephen Strange himself is not entirely compelling, Cumberbatch has the time of his life with this character.  He makes Stephen Strange arrogant but likable; his sense of self-importance doesn’t harm anyone, it only makes it satisfying when the movie allows him to get his humbling comeuppance.  The movie has an awesome moral about humbling yourself for something greater, which is Christianity in a nutshell.
Tilda Swinton is another actor who can do no wrong (in movies, I mean).  She brings a complexity to her character The Ancient One.  Yeah, she’s basically a tall, female Yoda, but Swinton gives a grounded performance that enables her to make the role her own.
I’m sorry, I just can’t get over how much I LOVE the mythology of this world!  There’s a line where one character says (I’m going to paraphrase here), “The Avengers protect the physical world, while we fight off more mystical dangers.”  It made me think of the battles that take place in the spiritual realm where angels and saints fight for us against sinister forces.  In our secular world, it’s refreshing to see any big budget film embrace the idea that there is an invisible reality within our physical world where two opposing forces do battle for our souls.   Also I appreciate how Kaecilius is basically a discount Lucifer (a powerful being who becomes drunk with pride, wants more power and causes division in his wake); yeah, the similarities are there.
I don’t want to go into spoilers, but I’ll just say that how Doctor Strange defeats the main antagonist is quite clever and fun to watch.

The Misses
The relationship between Doctor Strange and his (ex-girlfriend-ish?) Christine Palmer is underdeveloped.  I’m glad that it’s a mostly platonic relationship, but they don’t have enough scenes together where we get to care for them as a couple.
Okay, so the Ancient One runs this whole mystic, inter-dimensional operation with Mordo, Wong and…a handful of other people?  Yeah, even though we do see other sorcerers training, when the actual fighting starts, we only see Ancient One, Mordo and maybe two other unnamed characters doing battle.  I kind of wish both the Ancient One’s group and Kaecilius’ gang had more members.

Overall, I really love Doctor Strange!  Benedict Cumberbatch alone makes it a must-see, but the creative and energetic battle sequences and the clever use of 3D makes even more worthwhile.  Like Kubo and the Two Strings, the story and the visuals enable Doctor Strange to stand tall and proud in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Saint Timothy, pray for us.

CGB Review of The Magnificent Seven (2016)/With A Brief Cameo from MsOWrites

(Rides towards a dusty old town on a horse) How ya doin’ back there, Guardian Angel?
(Enter GUARDIAN ANGEL)
GUARDIAN ANGEL: No wonder you humans prefer cars over horses.
ME: Don’t tell that to equestrian enthusiasts.  Also, you do realize that you have wings and can just fly ahead of me, right?
GUARDIAN ANGEL: (Shrugs) CGB, you know that angels aren’t show-offs.
ME: Are you ever gonna take off your Deadpool mask?
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Sure, if you want to be blinded by my light.
(Screaming people are heard from a distance) (ME and GUARDIAN ANGEL see the dusty old town on fire)
ME: Why does this remind me of the first ten minutes of The Magnificent Seven?
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Probably because that’s how the movie opens.

This is my review of The Magnificent Seven!

Denzel Washington;Chris Pratt;Ethan Hawke;Manuel Garcia-Rulfo;Vincent D Onofrio;Martin Sensmeier;Byung-hun Lee

After her husband is murdered for standing up to greedy industrialist Bartholomew Bogue, Emma Cullen and the other desperate locals of Rose Creek seek the help of warrant officer Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), who then recruits a gambler named Joshua Faraday (Chris Pratt; just think Emmet from LEGO Movie and Starlord from Guardians of the Galaxy, or Emmet Starlord as I like to call him), a Confederate sharpshooter named Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), mountain man Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), the East Asian immigrant Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), an outlaw simply known as Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and the exiled Comanche Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) to take on Bogue and save Rose Creek.

The Hits
As a popcorn flick, this movie really works!  Much like Storks, the plot is very self-aware and focuses on being an entertaining shoot-em-up thrill ride.  This is the kind of standard plot that shouldn’t work, but the Magnificent Seven makes it work with a likable and dynamic cast, as well as fun action scenes where you can actually see what’s happening instead of being bombarded with constant shaky-cam.
Chris Pratt and Denzel Washington are just playing, well, Chris Pratt and Denzel Washington…and they are very good at it.  Washington brings his authoritative calm to the role of Sam Chisolm, asserting himself as a warrant officer who seeks the help the helpless and defend the voiceless.  Meanwhile Pratt plays Joshua Faraday with a slightly twisted yet playful charm.   The scene where he uses card tricks to get out of a situation involving two brothers who want to kill him is incredibly fun and even a tad suspenseful to watch.
While the marketing made it seem that this was going to be a Chris Pratt-Denzel-Washington vehicle, the final product makes use of the other cast members.  Ethan Hawke is given a compelling character arch as a Confederate soldier with PTSD, while Vincent D’Onofrio is absolutely fun to watch without overstaying his enthusiastic welcome.  The action sequences where all seven of them fight antagonists serve as showcases for each character’s fighting style, allowing distinction between protagonists so that they don’t all just blend into dull and boring pawns with muscle.  I definitely like the camaraderie that forms between the seven men.   As the movies goes on, a brotherhood develops and you really feel that these guys go from fighting as reluctant teammates to working together as willing allies.
I also appreciate that the female lead played by Haley Bennett doesn’t fall for one of the Magnificent Seven members.  Given that her husband, played by Matt Bomer, dies in the first fifteen minutes, I think it would’ve been out of place for her and even forced to have her fall head-over-heels for Pratt or Washington.

GUARDIAN ANGEL: CGB, get behind me!
ME: Wait, what?  (Grabbed by GUARDIAN ANGEL and thrust behind his large wings) Holy cow, you’re taller than I thought.
GUARDIAN ANGEL: You’re just now realizing that?
ME: Well, gee, I’m sorry I don’t have superior intellect like you angels.
GUARDIAN ANGEL: (Playful smirk) Stay down, but try to look past my wing.
ME: (Carefully looks up and sees a man in a white suit standing among the flames) Yeeesh, who the heck is that dude?
GUARDIAN ANGEL: That is White Suit.
ME: Is that his real name?
GUARDIAN ANGEL: No, but he comes from the netherworld, so I’d rather not say his real name.
ME: (Swallows) Gotcha.
GUARDIAN ANGEL: I know for a fact that he assisted Amanda Waller in capturing you, MsOWrites, Catholic N00B, Rosalie Contrite and Surrender the Brownies.
ME: That explains how Waller and Rick Flag found my house!
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Correct.  (Holds up two katanas)
ME: Wait, I thought you gave me one of your katanas.
GUARDIAN ANGEL: I did.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have an unlimited supply.  Listen, go to that conveniently-empty house and focus on the review.  I’ll see if we can cross through this town without catching White Suit’s attention.
ME: You do realize that I can fight, right?  I fought the Joker in the Suicide Squad review.
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Only to have Catholic N00b finish him off.  Case in point: You’re not ready to fight off fallen angels.  To be fair, no human is.
ME: That makes sense.  All right, I’ll comply.  (Heads to conveniently-empty house and sits on beat-up couch)  So while I wait for my guardian angel to find a safer way out of this town, I guess I have some time to go over the misses of Magnificent Seven.

The Misses
At times, the action can be hard to see, primarily in the climax.  There’s a complex plan formed to ambush Bartholomew Bogue and his henchmen and, because some of the Magnificent Seven members slightly resemble one another, it gets a bit hard to tell who’s who when they’re all bloodied with dirt-caked faces.
I’ve never been a fan of Westerns (the genre just have never been compelling to me) and this movie certainly didn’t change my mind.  As fun as this movie is, it’s pretty forgettable a few days after you’ve seen it.  Even though the characters have great chemistry, the majority of them are pretty two-dimensional with the exception of Ethan Hawke’s character.  Otherwise, as an afternoon flick, it’s serviceable nonetheless.

(Enter WHITE SUIT, a tall and lean man in a white suit with a white hat covering his face and large ashen wings)
WHITE SUIT: Hello, Catholic Girl Bloggin’.
ME: (Gasps) What the?  How did you find me?
WHITE SUIT: I have your guardian angel surrounded just outside.  It probably isn’t wise for you to hide in a place known as “conveniently-empty house”.
ME: What, is there is neon-colored sign hanging outside?
WHITE SUIT: See for yourself.
ME: (Looks out window and sees neon-lit sign that reads, “CONVENIENTLY-EMPTY HOUSE“)  Well, that does not help me at all.  (Backs away from WHITE SUIT)
WHITE SUIT: Oh, there’s nothing to worry about, my dear.  I actually come to help you.
ME: Yeah, you fallen angels are about as helpful as a brick to the face.
WHITE SUIT: Last time I checked, you currently have 1,666 likes on the blog’s FB page.
ME: And of course it just had to include 666.
WHITE SUIT: I have some tips and tricks to make that number skyrocket.  I can help you to propel your blog to instant fame…
ME: Oh, no, I’m not making any blood pacts!
WHITE SUIT: Don’t worry, I don’t require blood pacts.
ME: (Whips out angelic katana) Uh huh, sure you don’t….(holds it up between my eyes) 
WHITE SUIT: (sinister chuckle) I am simply here to make you an offer you can’t refuse.
ME: Bwahahahaha!
WHITE SUIT: (Gives quizzical look)
ME: Are you seriously trying to intimidate me by quoting the Godfather?  Dude, my family and I watch that at least once a year!  (Goes on a tangent) Some years we watch just the first film and the whole trilogy during other years, including the crummy third film…
WHITE SUIT: (whips out a sword)
ME: (Swallows) You do realize that you fallen angels can’t physically hurt us humans, right?
WHITE SUIT: (Shrugs)  But we can frighten and intimidate.  (Sinister grin) Submit or suffer. What’ll it be, CGB?
ME: (Grips tightly to the katana) A Christian I am and a Christian I shall remain.
WHITE SUIT: (Raises eyebrow) Very well, it’s your torment.  (Charges at me)
ME: (Holds up katana, bracing for impact) (Looks down and sees Mother Teresa medal around my neck) Hey, jerkface!  (Talks deep breath) Mother Teresa!
WHITE SUIT: (Sword flings out of his hand) (collapses to the ground)  Argh!  The one in white!
ME: (Begins to approach) Saint Gemma Galgani!
WHITE SUIT: (Writhes in pain) Ahhhhh!  The one in black!
ME: (Smiles with confidence) Blessed Imelda Lambertini, Blessed Chiara Badano!
WHITE SUIT: (Curls up in fetal position) The holy girls!
ME: (Begins to approach) Saint Jose Sanchez del Rio!
WHITE SUIT: (Rocks back and forth) (Snarls with flaming eyes) How DARE you invoke the boy martyr!
ME: (Raises katana) Pope John Paul II!
WHITE SUIT: (Thrashes wildly on the floor) (Scratches his own face with his claws)  NO!  The one who ruined our plans!
ME: Saint Michael, Saint Monica, Padre Pio, MOTHER MARY!  (Plunges the katana into his chest)
WHITE SUIT: (Tries to grab me with his claws)
GUARDIAN ANGEL: CGB, duck!
ME: (Takes cover by a table)
GUARDIAN ANGEL: (finishes off WHITE SUIT with his own katanas)  (A lone white hat is all that remains)
ME: Is he gone?
GUARDIAN ANGEL: For the time being, yes.  (Pulls katanas in his sheaths) I’m glad you invoked the names of saints instead of taking him on with your own strength.
ME: (Looks at Mother Teresa medal) I don’t remember wearing this earlier.
GUARDIAN ANGEL: (Smirks lovingly) I figured she’d be the best person to give you courage. (Looks around dishelved house) So any closing thoughts on the Magnificent Seven before we take off?
ME: Well…

The Magnificent Seven is a fun and engaging popcorn flick.  Given that the Western genre itself can be a hit or miss (with more misses than hits), the Magnificent Seven is definitely one of the few gems the genre has to offer.  Although it is, sadly, easy to forget about after a few days, for the time you’re watching it you’ll have a pretty good time.  Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt are a selling point, but they allow others to share in the star-studded spotlight, which is a commendable feat.  A cast with believable and likable chemistry, some impressive set pieces and a self-awareness that keeps it from becoming needly dark and grim makes the Magnificent Seven a modern Western worth checking out.

GUARDIAN ANGEL: (Face becomes stern as his wings raise)
ME: What’s wrong?
GUARDIAN ANGEL: I’m going to have to knock you out.
ME: Why?
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Something worse than White Suit is headed this way.  (Wraps his wings around me, enveloping me)
ME: (Startled) What are you–
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Don’t worry, this is like being wrapped in a glow-in-the-dark blanket.
ME: (Begins to feel sleepy) (Goes under as the earth shakes beneath my feet.

(Cut to black)

(Enter MsOWrites)
MsOWrites: CGB?  CGB, can you hear me?
ME: (feels icy water splash on my face) (jumps awake) MsOWrites?!  Hey, where are we? (Looks around to see that we are on a beach)
MsOWrites: Listen, Catholic bloggers are in trouble again, so we’re all seeking refuge at Miss Peregrine’s?
ME: That school for peculiar kids?
MsOWrites: There’s a new world coming, and it’s just around the bend.
ME: Oh, boy…

(Fade to black)

Saint Jose Sanchez del Rio, pray for us.

CGB Collaboration Review of Kubo and the Two Strings With Patheos Blogger Monique Ocampo

If you must blink, do it now, because this is my collaboration review of Kubo and the Two Strings guest-starring Patheos blogger Monique Ocampo/MsOWrites!

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Kubo is a young boy who lives with his sometimes-catatonic mother in a cave by the sea. Every day he walks down to the village and entertains the villagers by telling stories using origami that comes to life when he plays his shamisen (a Japanese three-stringed instrument).  There is a catch to Kubo’s existence: He must never ever stay out after dark. He soon figures out the reason when he stays out past dark and his evil spirit Aunts come to take him to his “grandfather” the Moon King, who intends to take Kubo’s remaining eye.  With the help of a monkey and a beetle, Kubo must find his deceased father’s armor and defeat the Moon King.
This is basically Pan’s Labyrinth for kids…and I LOVE it!  I’m not alone; my good friend Monique Ocampo, who you might know as MsOWrites from the Suicide Squad review. Don’t worry, we’re not gonna get kidnapped by Amanda Waller again.  As in our Batman v. Superman review, my points will be in blue and MsOWrites’ points will be in purple.

CGB Hits
I absolutely adore how imaginative this film is!  Like the titular character, the world we are introduced to is brimming with creativity.  I have always had a soft spot for Asian culture, so I appreciate that the story takes place in ancient Japan.
The first ten minutes has the best use of “show-don’t-tell” that I’ve seen in a long time.  Yes, there is some opening narration from Kubo himself, but his dialogue is not an exposition spiel; rather the visuals are allowed to do all the talking.  Any time the movie does resort to expositional dialogue, it is kept brief.  Speaking of the visuals, the animation is–holy cow–just breathtaking!  I turned to the friend who accompanied me and said, “Dude, that looks like real water!”  There’s an impressive painting-come-to-life feel with the color palatte and the design of the locations that make the film a beauty to behold.
The story itself is truly inspired!  Granted, the “adventures-of-a-half human-half celestial-child” story has been done before, but having him be a gifted storyteller who can bring origami to life with a musical instrument is quite an impressive twist.  The most admirable quality of the film are the morals.  I really like how Monkey tells Kubo, “Your magic is growing stronger.  You need to learn control.  But when we grow stronger the world grows more dangerous.”  Trust me when I say that her statement holds a lot of truth.
Earlier this year, I reviewed the Jungle Book, in which I pointed out how the film reminded me of something a friend said to me, “Let the angels and the saints deal with the devil.  They know what they’re doing.”  Kubo and the Two Strings also brought those words to mind!   Similarly to how our guardian angels tackle the evil one when he tries to mess with us, any time the hawkish evil spirit aunts come to harrass Kubo, Monkey and Beetle are there to fight them off while Kubo either accomplishes a task or seeks refuge.   It is with their help that Kubo becomes strong enough and fully-equipped to finally take on the Moon King himself.  Also, the climactic confrontation between Kubo and Moon King does come with an Eden-style temptation.  Basically it’s the “join me and you will become like gods” thing, much like how the old serpent told Eve that if she ate the apple, she’d become like God.   Between this and the Jungle Book, I’m pleasantly surprised to see that kids films come with an interest in the mysterious spiritual world.

MsOWrites Hits
It’s so refreshing to find a movie for general audiences that has a completely original premise.  My brother and I were obsessed with Japanese culture since we were kids and we were both looking forward to seeing this movie.  It lived up to the expectations I had and then blew me out of the water.
The animation is stunning, the characters are all enjoyable, and the writing is a breath of fresh air amongst the remakes and reboots out there.  The movie does not play things safe and yet I would totally recommend this movie to basically everyone.
The central themes of this movie are about the importance of family and the power of a good story. Kubo goes on a journey to finish what his father started: to find the armor that will help him defeat the Moon King. Monkey, Beetle, and Little Hanzo all made for excellent travelling companions.
The Sisters were intimidating, frightening villains as well.  I also love all the action sequences because there was a variety of them. The townsfolk play a great role as supporting characters who do more than just act as bystanders.  I love that they accept Kubo’s gift and don’t treat him like an outsider like other movies would.

CGB Misses
The friend who came with me to see this movie had some questions about Kubo’s scary aunts.  “If his grandfather is the Moon King, then are his aunts supposed to be stars or something?”  This is just one of the film’s unanswered questions.
Is it just me or is the danger Kubo faces at the hands of his tyrannical grandfather lacking some weight?  Let me explain: So essentially, if Kubo is caught by the Moon King and the hawk-women, then they will take his remaining eye…and then what?  Are they gonna just leave him blinded on earth?  Is he going to be made into a freaky spirit person like them?   Also, other than being the product of his mother’s disobedience against the Moon King, why is the Moon King threatened by Kubo’s existence?   Does the Moon King believe that Kubo being half-human, half-celestial mean that he [Kubo] will try to overthrow him?  Now, to be fair, in their final confrontation, the Moon King does offer to take Kubo with him and make him an infinite being, but still, I think that if the threat had been written as “the Moon King’s gonna snatch Kubo’s other eye and enslave him,” or something like that, it would’ve helped.
Speaking of the Moon King, here’s my issue: I totally understand why he is a threat to Kubo, but the movie doesn’t make him seem like a threat to anyone else.  The Moon King doesn’t seem to be feared by anyone else in the movie’s universe.  In Harry Potter, Voldemort was a threatening presence regardless of whether or not Harry was around; it just so happened that he had his sights set on The Boy Who Lived and anyone associated with him.  Here, though, it would have helped to see the Moon King burn down a village or require insane sacrifices or something; anything to raise the stakes of his existence.

MsOWrites Misses
While I will say that all the actors did a great job in this movie, I wish that George Takei had more than just a cameo role. I also think that this movie could’ve been even better with Asian actors in the main roles. Matthew McConaughey’s acting is uneven, albeit has its own interesting brand of charm.

Elephant in the Room
Right before we did this collab, one of my Facebook friends sent me an article from a well­regarded Catholic news source that dismissed this movie and said that it promoted “neo­Pagan values.” As somebody who grew up watching Charmed, reads Harry Potter, and still watches Buffy, I think that the themes in this movie are just as Catholic as any Bible­-based movie.  For one thing, the central theme of this movie is the importance of family.  While the main villains are Kubo’s grandfather and aunts, it’s reminiscent of Luke 12:53 “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-­in-­law against daughter-­in-­law and daughter-­in-­law against mother-­in-­law.” The Moon King and his daughters are arrogant because they fail to comprehend things such as compassion and selfless love. Without going into spoiler territory, the ending of this movie shows justice and mercy rendered unto the Moon King.
Yes, I did see the article about Kubo promoting the occult and I will tell you that I didn’t see a single ouija board, tarot card, voodoo doll or anything occult-like in this entire movie.  In fact, the villains were reminiscent of demons while Monkey and Beetle were basically Kubo’s guardian angels.  If anything, the story borrows heavily from Greek mythology with hints of Shintoism.  For the record, Shinto is a Japanese religion and given that the story does take place in ancient Japan,  it only makes sense to borrow influence from a Japanese religion.  So fear not, guys and gals, Kubo and the Two Strings is NOT pro-occult propoganda.  Frankly, I don’t think the devil really cares about stop-motion animation and the film’s pro-family message would probably have him tripping over himself as he tries to flee.

Overall, Kubo and the Two Strings is a gorgeously-animated and highly imaginative story that, much like the live-action Jungle Book film, has a lot to say about the spiritual realm without being overt about it.  It’s one of those films that encourages children to create things and use their imaginations.  Kubo and the Two Strings is a well-crafted film that respects the intelligence of children while giving adults a thing or two to think about.

Venerable Takayama Ukon and Saint Paul Miki, pray for us.

What Angels See

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On the day of my depature to Europe for World Youth Day the international trailer for the new Disney film “Moana” was released.  This teaser trailer shows the titular character Moana as a toddler playing on the beach when the water suddenly comes to life.  The ocean parts, surrounding her in walls of water.  At one point the ocean wave descends to her and actually interacts with her as if it [the wave] were a person.  The wave reaches down at her slowly.  When it sees that she is friendly and innocent, it fiddles with her hair and then safely carries her back to shore before returning to its natural state.

I had the trailer playing on my tablet as I made sure I had everything I would need for the pilgrimage to Krakow.  As the trailer was playing, I happened to glance up at a framed picture on my bedroom wall that shows a guardian angel watching over a little girl in the forest.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve always had a special place in my heart for angels. My mother even said, “You were always talking to angels.”  I would say the Guardian Angel Prayer every night before I went to bed.  I would draw pictures of angels, and I do remember at one point saying, “Dear God, can I see an angel one day?”
No, I have never seen an angel with my bodily eyes, but I don’t need to see one to know that they are here.

Watching the Moana international trailer and looking closely at how the ocean wave interacts with toddler Moana, I couldn’t help but wonder what do angels see when they look at us humans?   Do they scratch their head at the choices we make?  Are they curious about how we need food and rest to get through the day while they as celestial beings can go an eternity without ever needing those things?

Maybe, just maybe, when angels look at us they see us as children who have much to learn, much to discover, and whenever we lose our way, they are always ready to scoop us up and carry us back to shore.

“The whole air about us is filled with angels.”
–Saint John Chrysostom

Frightening Hour, Glorious Day

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Brock Turner has been released.

I’m sure you already know who he is, but just for the sake of emphasis, Brock Turner is the former Stanford University swimmer who raped an intoxicated and unconscious woman behind a dumpster.  Today he has been allowed back out into the world for “good behavior.”

We live in a broken world.  The fact that we live in a society where if a woman reports that she has been raped she faces the possibility of having her personal history questioned, her motivations suspected and her attacker not held fully accountable, is just one of the many injustices that illustrate the broken nature of our times.

As sickening as it is, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when evil wins every now and then. The devil knows how to ensure that his dirty work is done without anyone batting an eye until it is too late to put a stop to it.  It doesn’t help that our culture gets outraged over social injustices for a few weeks only to forget about it as everyone returns to their daily routine.  Evil has its hour when good people raise their voices and do nothing.

Just behind my laptop is a framed picture of Mother Teresa.  I glanced up at it as I was typing this, but after a while I closed my laptop and just stared at it for a few minutes.  My eyes focused on her tender gaze and folded hands, her humble posture and deep compassion pooled in her eyes.
That is when it hit me.

Mother Teresa will be canonized this Sunday.

When Brock Turner saw a woman passed out behind a dumpster, he took advantage of her.
When Mother Teresa saw a dying person on the side of the road, she took them to shelter.
Brock Turner spent twenty minutes violating the dignity of another human being.
Mother Teresa spent every minute upholding the dignity of the poor and forgotten.
Brock Turner used another for his own gratification.
Mother Teresa served others for the glory of God.

Mother Teresa’s courageous humilty is the antithesis of Brock Turner’s cowardly selfishness.  The devil may jump for joy at the release of a rapist, but he burns with rage at Heaven’s rejoicing for the canonization of a heroic woman.

In the end, justice will prevail, but in a very different way.

Brock Turner has been disgraced in the eyes of the public, while Heaven and Earth honor Mother Teresa’s self-sacrificial life.

Brock Turner is free from prison bars, but wherever he goes, people will look at him and know.  In the same way that Cain was cursed to walk on earth as a fugitive and vagabond, Brock Turner will wear his crime like a scarlet letter.
Mother Teresa suffered the spiritual darkness of feeling abandoned by God, but she now walks among the angels and the saints in the Heavenly court.   Surrendering herself to God’s plan, dedicating herself to the service of the poor and destitute, all she did was give, and in the end she received the Crown of Life.

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us and for the conversion of Brock Turner.

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“Christ says: I know you through and through – I know everything about you.  The very hairs of your head I have numbered.  Nothing in your life is unimportant to me, I have followed you through the years, and I have always loved you – even in your wanderings.  I know every one of your problems. I know your need and your worries. And yes, I know all your sins. But I tell you again that I love you – not for what you have or haven’t done – I love you for you, for the beauty and dignity my Father gave you by creating you in his own image.”
―Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta

CGB Review of The BFG (2016)

Previously on Catholic Girl Bloggin’…

(Hears noise downstairs) Hello?  (No answer) Huh, well what could that be?  (Looks at Ghostbusters review) My final thoughts can wait.  (Goes downstairs) (Sees a ghost in the kitchen)
ME: What the hey?
GHOST: I am the ghost of kitchen’s past!
ME: You mean, you’re the ghost of what this kitchen used to look like before we remodeled?
GHOST: (Looks confused) Yeah, sure.  Anyway, where is your proton pack now, mere mortal?
ME: I don’t know about proton packs, but I have this.  (Pulls holy water out of the cupboard and flings it at the ghost) In the Name of Jesus, leave my kitchen, jerkface!
GHOST: You fiend!
ME: Give your dark master my regards.  Oh, and LEAVE!  (throws more holy water furiously)
GHOST: AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH, I’M MELTING!!!!  (Writhes in agony and dissolves into a puddle of ooze)

One hour later…

(Mops up ghost-ooze) This is gonna take forever to get rid of entirely. (feels earth rumble) Oh, what now?!  (Looks out window and sees a gigantic shadow) What am I looking at?  (Enormous shadow becomes a roaring giant) (Giant approaches window)  AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!  (Tries to run, but trips)  Who are you?
GIANT: I am the BRG!
ME: BRG?
GIANT: Big Random Giant!
ME: So you’re not a grandfatherly CGI giant voiced by Oscar winner Mark Rylance?
BRG: Rawr rawr rawr!  (Grabs me and hoists me into burlap bag)
ME: (Trying to keep balance inside burlap bag) Well, while I try to find a way out of here (looking through small rip in bag and sees how high up I am) without falling to my death, I guess I could pass time with a review.

This is my review of The BFG!

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Based on the 1982 novel by Roald Dahl, the BFG tells the story of Sophie, an orphaned girl who is taken one night by a kindly giant who she nicknames “BFG” to Giant Country.  At first Sophie demands that BFG take her back to the orphanage, but soon starts to form a bond with him once she sees the danger he puts himself in to protect her from the other man-eating giants that populate Giant Country.  Over time, Sophie and BFG form an unbreakable bond over BFG’s work as a catcher of dreams (and I do mean that literally).  When the threat of the bloodthirsty giants invading the human world looms large, it’s up to Sophie and BFG to put a stop to their plans and save all of humanity.

ME: Hey, BRG, can you slow down so that I’m not getting tossed around like a sack of potatoes?!
BRG: Okay, here we are!
ME: (Looks out through hole in the bag) (Sees a CGI fantasy world) Well, I’m gonna have a heck of a time getting out of this parallel dimension.

The Hits
The first two acts of this movie are truly magical.  If there’s one thing Steven Spielberg is really good at, it’s capturing a sense of wonder and awe with the in-movie universe he creates.  He makes Giant Country an awe-inspiring place, brimming with adventure.
The bond between Sophie and BFG is absolutely charming.  There is a grandparent-grandchild quality to it that makes it wonderful to watch.  Ruby Barnhill is excellent as Sophie.  She is precocious without being annoying, both innocent and intelligent, and make Sophie an empathetic character to follow.
Even though I fell asleep during his last flick Bridge of Spies, Mark Rylance kept my attention during that movie and he is just as interesting to watch once again.  His warmth and protectiveness of Sophie is believable, and the motion capture of his character is quite impressive.  I like how the BFG resembles Mark Rylance without being designed as an exact replica of him; it allows him to disappear into the role and become the character, making you forget that you’re watching an actor play a part.
I love how the dream world that the BFG travels to in order to catch dreams is similar to the spiritual realm.  In my latest editorial, Truth Within A Tagline, I talked about how within our reality is a spiritual world where angels and demons reside, fighting great battles for our souls.  Here’s the link if you missed it: https://catholicgirlbloggin.net/2016/07/01/truth-within-a-tagline/
Anyway, BFG describes the dream world to Sophie as being a secret inner world that contains the most beautiful dreams and the most brutal nightmares; coincidently, this is exactly what the spiritual realm is: A hidden world that holds marvelous angels and horrific demons.  Anyone who happens to have the charism of discernment of spirits will most certainly appreciate the BFG’s dream world.

The Misses
The villains in this movie are pretty underwhelming.  The problem is that despite their intimidating size, they are too dim-witted and one-dimensional to be considered threatening.
I said that the first two acts of the film are magical…the last half is not.  For a movie about a friendly giant who has to protect a little human from the other cannibalistic giants, the plot is surprisingly aimless.  Granted, I don’t mind an aimless plot so long as the story doesn’t linger at too many parts.  Unfortunately the BFG does pad itself out with some filler in the second and third act.  I am sad to say that the story does get boring at times and I did find myself checking my phone.
I get that this is a kids’ film, but some of the jokes in the movie are a tad too childish.  There are one or two gross-out gags that just didn’t work.  Also the climax is pretty anticlimactic.  The whole “involving-the-queen-of-England” thing felt shoehorned; I wish the BFG character had magic powers or that Sophie had found a magical item that could help the two of them defeat the other giants.

ME: (Sees other giants approaching) I gotta get outta here! (Searches through BRG’s burlap sack)
MYSTERIOUS VOICE: Catholic Girl Bloggin’…
ME: Who is that?  (turns around and sees an angel) Whoa!
GUARDIAN ANGEL: I am your guardian angel, CGB.
ME: You’re…my guardian angel?  (Lets it sink in) This is so cool!  Hey, how come you’re wearing a mask?
GUARDIAN ANGEL: My light would blind you.
ME: (sees two katanas attached to GUARDIAN ANGEL’S sheaths) And what’s with the katanas?  (Realizes that GUARDIAN ANGEL bears a resembles to a particular superhero) So my guardian angel is Deadpool?  Right on!
GUARDIAN ANGEL: (Shrugs) Sure, just minus the crass humor.  (Hands me a spare katana)
ME: Hey, how come I get one katana and you get two?
GUARDIAN ANGEL: (Raises wings) Because one is all you need.
ME: So how do we get out of here?
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Finish the review.  Leave the giants to me.

Okay, so while I cut my way out of a giant’s burlap sack with a katana–what an odd sentence to say aloud–I guess I can give my closing thoughts.
Overall, while I didn’t love the BFG as much as I wanted to, I did like it.  The bond between the two lead characters will warm your heart, the dream world is beautifully designed and there are great messages about loyalty and friendship.  Young kids who see this movie will definitely love it while adults may find themselves pleasantly surprised.  The BFG is fun and entertaining for the whole family to enjoy.

(Outside, GUARDIAN ANGEL swings his katanas and blinds the giants with cords of light shooting out from his wings)
GUARDIAN ANGEL: CGB, cut a hole at the bottom of the bag!
ME: But I’ll fall!
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Just trust me!
ME: (Takes deep breath and slices a large hole into the bag) (Begins to fall) AAAAAHHHHH!!!!!  (Eyes shut) (Suddenly feels a mattress against my back) (Opens eyes and am back in my bedroom) Oh, come on!  Don’t tell me it was all just a dream!  (Looks and sees katana leaning against my desk) Huh, I guess it wasn’t.
AMANDA WALLER: Are you Catholic Girl Bloggin’?
ME: (Turns around and sees AMANDA WALLER) Um, yes?  Wait a minute, aren’t you a Suicide Squad character?
AMANDA WALLER: Yes.
ME: Well, I won’t be reviewing that until August.
AMANDA WALLER: (Sees katana) I want to assemble a new taskforce, one entirely of bloggers.  Would you kindly come with me, CGB?
ME: (Swallows) Uh oh…

(Fade to black)

Blessed Imelda Lambertini, pray for us.