CGB Collaboration Review of Beauty and the Beast (2017) with Monique Ocampo/MsOWrites

Certain as the sun rising in the east, tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme…

This is my review of Beauty and the Beast (2017), guest-starring the one and only Monique Ocampo, also known as MsOWrites!

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Cue the music, Jay!  (Our friend Jay plays the Belle/Little Town theme)

CGB: (Walks out of little cottage) Huh, I didn’t know I lived in a cottage.  (Shrugs, smiles at quaint little cottage) I’m not complainin’.  Oohh, there’s tulips on the side of the cottage!  Well, anyway….(Begins singing) Little film, it’s a brand new remake.  All-star cast and some brand new songs.  Little film, starring Emma Watson.  Everybody says…

Critic 1: IT SUCKS!

Critic 2: IT SUCKS!

Critic 3: IT SUCKS!

Rad-Trads: IT SUCKS!

All together: IT SUCKS!

CGB: There go the critics with their gripes like always.

MsOWrites: Seems like they’re never satisfied.

Both of Us: Because way back when we were kids, Disney made a princess flick.  And it was one that we both loved.

Nostalgia Critic: Good morning, girls!

MsOWrites: Good morning, NC!

Nostalgia Critic: Where are you off to?

CGB: We’re doing a review.  It’s the remake of the classic Disney movie.

Nostalgia Critic: That’s nice.  But honestly?  It was meh.

CGB: Well, we haven’t even seen it yet.

MsOWrites: We might be in for a pleasant surprise.

Nostalgia Critic: It still sucks, though.

Critics: Look there they go, they’re just so optimistic.   Can’t they see that the original’s the best?

Critic 1: Emma Watson’s auto-tuned.

Critic 2: The supporting cast was underused.

Rad-Trads: And let’s not forget the token gay LeFou!

(MsOWrites and I come out of the theater two hours later)

MsOWrites (crying): Oh, isn’t this amazing?

CGB: Are you crying?  Because so am I!

MsOWrites: I never do…but yeah, I’ll make this exception.  There’s just so much of this film that’s good and true…

CGB: It would certainly please JP2!  Let us do a review, just me and you!

MsOWrites: We could show both the Catholic and secular world why it’s good!

CGB: Let us begin!

 

The Hits
CGB: So how did Hermione Granger do playing everyone’s favorite “most peculiar mademoiselle”?  My answer: Emma Watson is a wonderful Belle!   This Belle is a lovely reinterpretation of the original character, mixing her trademark book-loving nature with an inventor’s vibe.  I really appreciate that Emma Watson’s Belle actually feels different from Paige O’Hara’s Belle from the 1991 classic.  O’Hara’s Belle is dreamy, optimistic and overall innocent.  Watson’s Belle is grounded, pragmatic and even bohemian in more ways than one.   One of my biggest concerns is that Emma Watson would come off as an overconfident-in-her-own-self-actualization character, but luckily there’s a sweetness and humility to this new Belle.  Also Watson’s Belle has more agency in this film than she did in the original; locking herself in the dungeon while pushing her father away, telling the Beast that he has to stand so that she can take back to the castle and so on.   Finally, I’m going to add brownie points for that one scene where she teaches a young girl how to read.  Brilliant!  😀  The Beast’s character is pretty much the same as he was in the original; starts off as mean, coarse and unrefined, but ends up becoming so dear and almost kind.  😉 Here, though, his temper is not as jarring as it was in the original.  The sympathy factor of his character is applied right away so that we, the audience, are easily able to refrain from judgment before we get to know him.  His pain and torment are palpable as his growing feelings for Belle begin to break down the inner walls he has placed around his broken, guarded heart.
Kevin Kline is a wonderful Maurice!  I really appreciate that they dialed down his quirkiness big time and made him into an actual character.  Warm, gentle, thoughtful, I can just see him hoisting little Belle onto his lap and reading to her by the fireplace.
Luke Evans is having the time of his life playing Gaston, and I had a great time watching his Gaston.   The usual arrogance of the original character is still there, but we see his progression towards evil.  Also I do like that he’s not impractically buff like in the cartoon, but that his toxic masculinity is displayed by his ignorance and overcompensation.  Now, given that I’ve brought up Gaston, you’re probably waiting to see LeFou mentioned here.  Before MsOWrites and I get into the whole gay LeFou thing, let me talk about the character LeFou.  He is definitely an improvement from the cartoon character.  His “hero-admiration” toward Gaston explains his loyalty to him and he is actually the smarter of the duo.  In a way, he serves as a manifestation of Gaston’s effect on people; how he [Gaston] is able to grab and hold the attention of women and men alike, which was always the point of Gaston’s character to begin with.
EVERMORE!  Oh my goodness, what a beautiful song!  It’s like someone took Augustine’s Confessions, some passages from the Book of Psalms and a hint of the Song of Solomon, then threw them into a blender and then–somehow–they just mixed into the most melodic purée.  Also the song really sums up a wonderful theme in this film: That people come into our lives who touch our hearts so much that when they leave us, just their presence will remain in our memory forever.  They illustrate this when Maurice is singing about Belle’s mother, but the theme comes full circle with Evermore.

MsOWrites: First of all, the opening scenes were stunning in their visuals.  We actually get to see the prince and the residents in the castle and watch the Enchantress cast her spell.  As much as we all love the stained glass narration from the original, the prince’s character arc is to learn what true beauty is, which is kind of the whole point of the entire story in the first place.
The scene with Pere Robert wasn’t as elaborate as the bookshop scene in the original, but there’s a good explanation.  It wouldn’t make sense for there to be a bookstore in a town that doesn’t have that many people who can or even want to read.  However Pere Robert is a priest with a personal library.   He doesn’t have as many books, but he generously loans the books he does have to Belle.
I appreciate the nuances that have been added to the story.  For one, when Belle asks Monsieur Jean if he has lost something again, he responds, “I believe I have.  Problem is I can’t remember what!”  This is actually a small hint at [BIT OF A SPOILER, though it’s told to us in the opening prologue] the “forget-the-freaking-huge-castle-just-down-the-road” enchantment that the Enchantress placed on the entire town.   Yeah, her spell not only turned the now-adult Prince into a hideous CGI goat-man, but also did what the neuralyzer from Men in Black does to people.   It does feel like a convenient cop-out, but it works within the context of the story.
In defense of the songs, I thought these new versions of songs we all know sounded just fine.  They had a more Broadway stage vibe to them, which makes sense given that this is an event musical film.  The auto-tuning is necessary for the actors who are not professional singers and the background music of the songs are faithful to the original music.

The Misses
MsOWrites: So about that magic book thing…yeah, it kind of creates a plot hole.  If it can just transport the Beast anywhere he wants, then why wasn’t he using it all the time prior to Belle’s arrival?  Also, why didn’t Belle use it to get back to the village and return to her father?  The book is used once and then we never see it again.  What?

CGB: Remember how filled with wonder Belle was when she sang about the beauty of books to those sheep?
What?  You don’t sing to sheep?  I do it all the time!  Alas, that’s not the point.  The point is that Hermione–er, I mean–Emma Watson could’ve sung that part about, “oh, isn’t this amazing?  It’s my favorite because…here’s where she meets Prince Charming, but she won’t discover that it’s him till Chapter 3” with a little more enthusiasm.
Speaking of which, Obi-Wan Kenobi (from the Star Wars prequels) plays Lumiere, but there is a bit of a catch: Ewan McGregor himself has stated that he has never seen the original film.  GASP!  Anyway, once I learned that, his performance in this film kind of made more sense.  I’ve seen this movie twice and I didn’t really care for this Lumiere during either time I saw it.  In fact, I think because there was so much focus on getting Belle, the Beast and Gaston right, the supporting cast feels less colorful.

An Unexpected Theological Truth
Both of Us: We consider ourselves students of Mother Teresa.  Throughout her ministry to the poor in Calcutta, she deemed every person she helped as, “Jesus in His most distressing disguise.”  That credo is on display in this film and in the original, as well.  We are going to focus on this film for the sake of argument.  While the Beast most certainly doesn’t act Christ-like in the beginning, Belle does when she chooses to bring him back to the castle after he rescues her from the wolves.  As their relationship develops, he begins displaying Christ-like characteristics such as mercy, understanding and kinship.  One of the many, many beautiful realities of Jesus is that when we follow Him, He brings out the best in us even during difficult times.  With this in mind we see how once she begins ministering to him, Belle becomes the best version of herself and the same happens to the Beast in return.  There is a saying that difficult people show their need for love in unlovable ways and the Beast is a manifestation of that adage.
We challenge you to think of the “Beast” in your life and ask yourself if he/she is in need of mercy and forgiveness.  Sometimes Christ comes to us in the form of an unpleasant person who we can either wash our hands off and avoid at all cost, or show them compassion and forgive their faults just as Belle does with the Beast.

The Elephants in the Room
#1. This film has a gay agenda!
MsOWrites: Let’s address the biggest elephant in the room first. There was a lot of hype and backlash about a “gay scene” in this movie involving the character of LeFou. While it’s true that LeFou is shown to have feelings for Gaston, the actual gay scene is just two seconds long.
Neither of us are promoting gay marriage.  However, we do agree with the idea of representation. We need to acknowledge that there are people out there who are attracted to the same sex and treat them as people instead of a stereotype.  This advocating of representation also applies to those who identify as asexual as well.  (I’m looking at you, Riverdale!)
Trust me when I say that Disney isn’t the only name in “children’s programming” to include a gay character.

CGB: So I already talked about this on both the blog FB page, but I’ll just rehash some of my thoughts here.
The original film makes it very clear that Lefou, as well as every woman and man in the entire village, is hopelessly enamored with Gaston. In addition, Gaston presents himself (quite loudly and boldly) to be THE ideal man, THE symbol of masculine perfection. Lefou, being Gaston’s right-hand man, would most likely be the one who gets the most sucked in to the–I guess we can call it–the cult of Gaston.  It’s not just LeFou, it’s him and all of the village who are swept up in it, which explains why everyone immediately goes along with Gaston’s “let’s-kill-the-Beast” tirade with no questions asked.
Also, let’s look at Lefou himself. What does he personally gain from being around Gaston all the time? They’re not brothers or related in any fashion, and there’s no indication that Lefou owes him money or anything; in retrospect, Lefou has no real reason to associate himself with Gaston at all. One could make the argument that there is a social benefit to being around Gaston, but Lefou is never established to be a self-serving character who is trying to get ahead in society by being around the “right people,” so that wouldn’t hold up.
Simply having a character who happens to be gay in a film is not in and of itself promoting same-sex marriage.  How it is presented is what matters.  LeFou never actively hits on Gaston and there’s no gay wedding at the end.  There will be those who say, “You give [gay people] an inch and they’ll take a mile!”  However, that inch has to make sense.
You can be a faithful Catholic who staunchly defends the sanctity of marriage and acknowledge that there are LGBT people who are created in His likeness and image.  In fact, that’s basically what we’re supposed to be doing.  We are supposed to bring all people, gay or straight, to the Gospel, not chase them away from it by foaming at the mouth over a fictitious character who happens to be gay.  As Christians, we are called to rise above our outrage culture and be a people of the better way.  Love without truth is permissiveness and truth without love is brutality.  Only the truth spoken with love brings hope and enlightenment. 

#2. This film is uber-feminist!

CGB: I’m pretty sure I’ve made it clear by now that I identify as a pro-life feminist (I would emphasize, but the label itself is pretty self-explanatory).  With this lens, I observed that the feminist undertones of this film were centered around the theme of the anti-intellectual village.  For one, notice how only the boys go to school and the girls are the ones learning to keep house.  This establishes how Belle is the outsider woman who chooses the solace of books over the conventions of the little town.  It is not wrong to use film to point to the very bleak reality that there are still countries in our world where girls are not allowed to read or even go to school.  I would argue that it would probably behoove Western feminists to focus less on promoting abortion and more on calling attention to the injustice of depriving girls an education.

MsOWrites: The main issue that Belle has with the villagers is that they choose to stay in their simple, provincial ways. Belle is shown doing laundry by having a horse pull a barrel full of soap and clothes. When I heard about Belle being an inventor who created a washing machine, I actually expected some kind of steampunk contraption. The invention that Belle created was actually something all the villagers could use. But instead of being open-minded about a better way to do their laundry, they destroy her invention. They also berate her about teaching a young girl to read.
There’s a similar argument going around that Belle, her father, and even the local priest are members of a “literate caste.” Keep in mind that Belle and her father fled Paris in the midst of the plague and that priests are more often than not assigned to minister to small towns. And at the time, priests were well-educated. It’s not that these three deliberately kept their books away from everyone else. They have a school for young boys, but LeFou admits to being illiterate and they would rather side with the amoral war hero (Gaston) over the kind music box maker (Maurice). The townspeople chose to be ignorant throughout the film.

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.

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

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.

CGB Review of Finding Dory (2016)

First we had to find Nemo, now we gotta find Dory.  I wonder if we’ll have to find Marlin next with a particular set of skills.
If you’ve seen Taken, you’ll know what I mean.

This is my review of Finding Dory!

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As a child, Dory had a wonderful relationship with her parents Charlie and Jenny.  Then one fateful day, Dory is separated from her family and her days with them fade into blurry memories.
Fast-forward to one year after the events of the first Finding Nemo film; during a trip with Nemo’s class, Dory comes across a reminder of her past, which beckons her to go on a journey to find her beloved mother and father.
The first film Finding Nemo is a classic at my house.  If I had a dime for every time we quote Finding Nemo, well, I would probably be richer than Donald Trump (I’m sorry, I had to get a Trump joke in there!)
Now while this isn’t a collaboration, I will be labeling the Hits in blue like Dory and the Misses in orange like Marlin and Nemo.

The Hits
As in the last film, the animation is stellar.  Everything from the water to the animals is gorgeous to look at.
I really like how the story starts off with Dory’s childhood and then transitions (quite cleverly) to the exact moment in the first film when she meets Marlin.  In fact, a lot of the same locations (Marlin and Nemo’s house, the Great Barrier Reef, etc.,) all make an appearance in the movie, which creates a bridge between the first film and this sequel.
Okay, I’m going to say what every other reviewer has said: Hank the octopus is awesome!  At first, his character is kind of cliché (hardened guy who forms a soft spot for main character by the end), but the movie makes him interesting.  I thought it was pretty bold for Disney to create a character who outright claims that he is happy being a loner and wants nothing to do with others.  Typically characters like this are the antagonists, but Hank is presented in a humanistic way.  Towards the end, he does soften and gradually changes in a realistic way.  The relationship between the cynical Hank and innocent Dory is charmingly similar to Judy and Nick from Zootopia.  I love how Hank becomes a reluctant big brother to Dory and how the film gives them subtle moments to show Hank beginning to value her.  In my Alice Through The Looking Glass review, I mentioned how I wished the story had been about Time and Alice’s relationship and I feel the same about Hank and Dory.  I kind of hope Hank does get his own spinoff; a GOOD spinoff, that is.
Yes, the relationship between Dory and her parents is not only endearing, it is also reminiscent of the love between parents and a child with special needs.

The Misses
This film definitely feels episodic at times, like there were plans to make the Finding Nemo franchise a TV show, but ended up making the sequel instead.
So about Marlin and Nemo…yeah, there are quite a few times where they feel shoehorned into the story.  Now to be fair, the movie does give them things to do to advance the plot, but there are quite a few times where I found myself saying, “Oh, yeah, you guys are still in this movie, huh?”

Overall Finding Dory is a sweet sequel to Finding Nemo.  Beautiful animation, lovable characters and a cohesive and exciting story with noble messages about the dignity of those who struggle with special needs makes Finding Dory a great family film.

Saint Lucy, who was a big help in getting this review done, pray for us.

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CGB Review of Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)

If I try to go through my bathroom mirror to get to Wonderland, does that make me a crazy person?
(Sigh) Better check myself in the psych ward.

So while I await psychological evaluation, this is my review of Alice Through the Looking Glass!

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Three years after the events of the first Alice in Wonderland, Alice Kingsleigh has been a sea captain traveling the world.  Upon returning from her expedition in China, she comes across her friend Absolem, the caterpillar from the first Alice film who is now a butterfly.  She follows Absolem through a magic mirror and ends up back in Wonderland, only to discover that the Mad Hatter is dying because he believes his family is still alive, but Alice doesn’t believe him when he tells her this revelation.  Now Alice has to go back in time to find out what happened to Hatter’s family all while coming face-to-face with Time himself (no, seriously, Time is a person played by Sacha Baron Cohen).  Also the Red Queen is back because–Wonderland!

DOCTOR: Ms. Bloggin’, who are you talking to?
ME: Oh, don’t worry, Doc.  Right now, I’m saying aloud everything I want to write in my CGB review of Alice Through The Looking Glass!
DOCTOR: (gives quizzical look) All right then…(jots down notes)

(Walks out of doctor’s office) Well, the psych eval shows that I’m not crazy, but I do have a textbook case of overactive imagination, which I don’t think is covered by Obamacare.  (Sees nurse approaching) Hey, why do you have a syringe in your–
(Wakes up in a white room) Well, while I figure out how to break out of here, onward with the review!

The Hits
Sacha Baron Cohen’s character Time is by far the most interesting character.  The idea of time being personified as an immortal being who is in charge of overseeing time and eternity is fascinating.  He is a tad rude, but he is committed to his role as the keeper and guardian of time and space.  His rapport with Alice could have been a movie all on its own; his factual approach to mortality balances out Alice’s impulsivity and lack of foresight.  Personally, if I had been the screenwriter, I would have told the story from Time’s perspective with Alice as his apprentice; make the Red Queen a time-thief who tempts Alice into stealing the chromosphere so that she [Alice] can repair some parts of her own past and then use Time’s pursuit of his misled apprentice as a character study of their challenged relationship.  Hmm, I should really discern getting into fan fiction…
Anyway, there are a lot of creative and compelling visuals.  From Time’s palace to the Hatter’s hometown, there is a plethora of colorful eye-candy to behold.  The set designs are appealing to the eye and the level of detail is admirable.
I do appreciate that this film is less formulaic than its predecessor.  The narrative has an unpredictable, free-flowing structure that I certainly appreciate.  It fits well with the nonsensical spirit of Wonderland.
The movie has some good messages about family, time (the concept, not the character) and learning from the past rather than being overcome by it.

The Misses
In the first Alice, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) had an established castle and responsibilities.  Here, not only do we never see her castle, but she’s running around like any ole commoner.  Oh, and she NEVER puts her hands down!  She’s doing some weird gestures with her floating hands that is supposed to look enchanting, but gets annoying real fast.
Alice being sent to a mental institution is a pretty pointless subplot.  It’s blatantly obvious that this sequence is only in there to make a point about women being hospitalized for “female hysteria” in the 1800’s.  I should probably mention that the film’s screenwriter Linda Woolverton, who wrote the scripts for Beauty and the Beast, Maleficent and the 2010 Alice in Wonderland, is known to inject feminist commentary into her works.  Look, as a pro-life feminist, I have no issue with feminist ideas in film and literature, but if you’re going to do it, it needs to be well-developed and not shoehorned.
This is supposedly the sequel to 2010’s Alice in Wonderland; I say “supposedly” because while this movie has the same characters, the tone is vastly different from the tone of the first film, which was a dark and gritty interpretation of the Lewis Carroll novel.  In a way, it almost feels separate from its previous installment to the point where the events of the first Alice come off as utterly pointless.

(Climbs out of window of mental institution) (Looks around) Sshh, no one knows I’m out here.  (Sees spotlight) I’d better jump…

(Jumps) (Runs across random field) So this is a tough one.  I didn’t think it was awful, but it’s nowhere near Maleficent or Cinderella.  This is one of those instances where there are some really good elements that get smothered by poor story choices.  If it’s on TV, I’d probably watch it, but I’d have playing in the background while I write another CGB review or, in this case, break out of a mental institution.

Saint Germaine Cousin, pray for us.

CGB Review of X-Men Apocalypse (2016)

So the next time you take a trip to Cairo (I’m sure you’re planning on it), be sure not to resurrect any all-powerful mutants.  If you’ve seen the movie already, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

This is my review of X-Men Apocalypse!

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Apocalypse is known as the first mutant to ever come into existence.  In addition, he is also all-powerful and able to transfer his consciousness into another person’s body so that he can continue to live on.  Yikes!  As you can imagine, when Apocalypse resurrects and begins gathering followers (including the disheveled Eric/Magneto) to do his bidding, Professor Charles Xavier, Mystique and their allies must bring Magneto back to the Light and put an end to Apocalypse’s plan for world destruction.

The Hits
Oscar Isaac is excellent as Apocalypse.  While he’s not as terrifying as, say, Captain Vidal (Pan’s Labyrinth) or Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger (Black Mass), there is an unsettling chill to his character.  Also, I did think it was interesting how his “transferring-his-consciousness-to-another-person” thing resembles demonic possession; not so much in the prologue, but in the third act when [SPOILER ALERT] he tries to transfer his soul into Charles Xavier’s body and Charles is valiantly resisting becoming possessed by the malevolent foe.
There are a lot of good scenes that work well on their own and the engaging action is well-choreographed.   The action is filmed in a way where you can actually see what’s happening between the characters who are in combat.
Nightcrawler is like Finn from Force Awakens: Absolutely lovable!  There’s an innocence and innate goodness to him that makes him endearing.  It is a little cliché that he’s being presented as a “demonlike creature whose actually a good guy while his angel counterpart is one of the bad guys” thing, but that overdone irony is not emphasized very much.  I was actually relieved when Apocalypse turns Angel’s wings silver because Angel’s previously white wings looked uncomfortably similar to Archangel Michael’s wings.  Oh, and did I mention that Nightcrawler is Catholic?  Yep, he be a Catholic mutant!  🙂
Quicksilver is also an awesome character!  He’s basically a less crude Wade Wilson/Deadpool; witty, cool and confident.  Luckily while he has some similarities to Deadpool, he’s not a blatant carbon copy of the character.
While I, as a Jennifer Lawrence fan, am getting a bit tired of J-Law always playing the “strong woman who is strong because she has to be” archetype (don’t believe me?  Watch Winter’s Bone and The Hunger Games series; don’t even bother with watching Joy), I did like her arch as Raven/Mystique; the reluctant role model who is looked up to after standing up to Magneto in X-Men: First Class, but who personally looks upon that episode in her life as a tragedy.  Also, I just gotta say it: Her hair in this movie was rockin’!  I guess I just really like the “structurally-messy” look.  🙂

The Misses
It seems as though there was supposed to be a “Mystique redeems Magneto” subplot somewhere in the script because Mystique keeps acting as if she is responsible for bringing Magneto back to the side of good and truth.  If this is the case, then it wasn’t well-conveyed.
So I saw this movie with a friend of mine who has seen it twice already.  Even though we both enjoyed the film, we both have one issue with the script: Pacing and story structure.
Yes, the pacing in this movie could have been better.  While individual scenes are intriguing by themselves, the movie itself never completely comes together as a cohesive narrative.  Some scenes feel separate from each other and even unnecessary at times.  To be fair, the story comes together in the third act, but 50% of this movie could have used some polishing.

X-Men Apocalypse is an intriguing mess.  The overall story is scattered, but the good performances, suave villain and sequences within the narrative kept my attention all the way through.

Since this is the third Superhero movie review where I’ve name-dropped Saint Michael (see my reviews for Winter Soldier and Batman v. Superman), I’m gonna end this review with Saint Isaac Jogues because why not?
So Saint Isaac Jogues, pray for us.