CGB Mega-Collaboration Review of Suicide Squad (2016) featuring MsOWrites, Rosalie Contrite, Catholic N00b and Surrender the Brownies

You know, for a team called the “Suicide Squad”, only one person in the squad actually kicks the bucket.

This is my review of–

AMANDA WALLER: Hello, Catholic Girl Bloggin’.
ME: (looks up) What the?  How did you get in my house?!
AMANDA WALLER: Flag, get the chloroform.
ME: Hey, why is Rick Flag soaking a cloth with chloroform in my kitchen?  (Sees RICK FLAG approaching) Before I go under, this is my review of Suicide Squad!

(Cuts to black)

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Based on the fictional organization known as Task Force X in DC Comics, Suicide Squad is  basically what happens when Viola Davis–er, I mean–Amanda Waller decides it would be a good idea to assemble a taskforce of DC comic book baddies should another Superman ever walk the planet again.  Things go horribly awry when a squad member named Dr. June Moore, aka Enchantress goes off the rails and uses her dark magic brouhaha to ruin the city.  Now it’s up to Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Rick Flag, Captain Boomerang, El Diablo and Katana to save the world from being enslaved by Enchantress all while the threat of the Joker looms large.

(Wakes up in the back of a truck) W-where am I?
MsOWrites: Catholic Girl Bloggin’?
ME: Huh?  MsOWrites, is that you?  You’ve been kidnapped too?
MsOWrites: Yeah, they grabbed me while I was on vacation.  AND they took my new scapular, too!
ME: Those jerks!  Kidnapping bloggers and taking scapulars!
(Enter ROSALIE CONTRITE)
ROSALIE CONTRITE: At least you weren’t snatched up while in the middle of a podcast.
ME: Is that why yesterday’s Contrite podcast ended so abruptly?
ROSALIE CONTRITE: Apparently my latest “interview” was a set-up.
(Enter SURRENDER THE BROWNIES)
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: Better that than having your brownies spiked so that you’d end up unconscious.
(Enter CATHOLIC N00b)
CATHOLIC N00b: There are three things in life that I know to be true: There is a God, taxation is theft and Amanda Waller will kidnap you at some point in your life.
ME: It looks like Waller has her sights set on Catholic bloggers.
(The truck stops and the trailer opens up) (Enter AMANDA WALLER)
AMANDA WALLER: Good morning, ladies.  I see that you already know one another.  Let’s cut to the chase: I want to assemble a taskforce of Catholic bloggers to fight off supernatural entities.
ME: But what exactly would we do in the wake of such an event?
AMANDA WALLER: Oh, you wouldn’t do anything…but your Guardian Angels would.  If your Guardian Angel gave you, CGB, a katana in your BFG review, then imagine what he and the other Guardian Angels would do if I held you and your friends hostage.
ME: Wait, what?  You’re gonna try to get other people’s Angels to do your bidding.
MsOWrites: Your logic is not compatible with our Earth logic.
CATHOLIC N00b: That’s not how this works.  That’s not how any of this works!
ROSALIE CONTRITE: Oh, the early Church fathers would have a field day rebuking you, Ms. Waller.
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: Somebody get Bishop Robert Barron over here ASAP!
ME: (Looks in the back of the truck) Hey, you guys do realize that our weapons are in the truck, right?
AMANDA WALLER: (Looks confused) Wait, those aren’t supposed to be there.  (Gets hit in the shoulder with ROSALIE CONTRITE’s arrow)
ME: (Grabs katana) Looks like our Angels are looking out for us!
(CATHOLIC N00b uses the Force to pull her lightsaber towards her, while MsOWrites whips out her crossbow and stake) 
ME: Hey, Surrender the Brownies, what’s your weapon?
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: (Smiles as fire emanates in her hands) You’re about to find out why my brownies are the very best, like no one ever was!
ME: And now the Pokémon theme song is stuck in my head again.
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES(Raises arms) I’m gonna need everyone out of the truck in 3…
ROSALIE CONTRITE: Everybody, move!
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: …2…
(Everyone evacuates the truck)
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: …1…(Incinerates the truck with her fire powers)
ME: (Looks around at the destruction of the truck, as well as any buildings in the area)
MsOWrites: CGB, look out!  (Pushes me out of the way of a falling Little Caesar’s sign)
ME: I didn’t know there was a Little Caesar’s nearby.  (Stand up and brushes off the dirt and soot from my clothes) Well, I’ll tell you all one thing: This was an impressive showcase of our super abilities, kind of like the new Suicide Squad movie…

The Hits
The film’s bombastically comedic tone works to its advantage.  It matches the unstable nature of the characters and the aimlessness of the narrative.
This movie is definitely what I call a “character showcase,” in that the script allows the charisma of the cast of villainous characters to shine.  In particular, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Killer Croc, Katana and El Diablo look amazing!  The costume designs don’t look too silly, which make it easier for them to be taken seriously when said characters are on screen.
I feel that Harley Quinn was handled as well as she could have been.  She has her signature sadistic charm, but Margot Robbie doesn’t make her too over-the-top or childish.  The flashbacks of her time with the Joker give us an idea of why she is the way she is.  While I am very aware of the abusive nature of her relationship with the Joker in the comics, I thought that, for the time being, it made sense (at least for this first installment) for her to have glorified flashbacks of her time with him.  She seems to me to be someone who has not yet figured out who the Joker truly is, therefore she is subconsciously allowing herself to remember only “good” times with the Joker.  Going forward, I do hope that we get to see Harley’s eyes opened and for her to begin breaking away from the Joker’s hold on her, but for now, her mentally instability is well established via the flashbacks and her own behavior.
I was somewhat invested in the romance between Rick Flag and June Moore/Enchantress’ relationship.  While their scenes together are short, the performances of both actors involved capture the difficulty of their romance.  In fact, I wish they had their own movie.  How interesting would it have been to see the story of a man coping with his semi-possessed girlfriend?
I really like the rapport between Deadshot and Rick Flag.  There’s a reluctant brotherhood to their argumentative relationship that makes it enjoyable to watch.  Speaking of which, yes, Will Smith is as charismatic as always.  Granted, his “assassin with a heart of gold” trope is pretty overdone, but you know, I actually like that archetype; it has conversion-story potential to it.
Where the last DC film I endured–er, I mean–watched, which was Batman v. Superman, was dreary and convoluted, Suicide Squad is definitely a step up in terms of having fun with its premise and being actually entertaining instead of populating the screen with bruiting men.

SURRENDER THE BROWNIES
: (Raises her arms) Come to me, my chickens!  Mwahahaha!  (An array of chickens teleport onto the scene)
CATHOLIC N00b: The Force is strong with this one.
ME:What, with her or her chickens?
CATHOLIC N00b: (Grins) Why not both?
MsOWrites: Hey, where did Amanda Waller go?
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: Buttercup, come to me!  (A chicken named BUTTERCUP approaches SURRENDER THE BROWNIES) Find Amanda Waller!
BUTTERCUP: Bawk bawk bawk bawk bawk…(scurries away to find AMANDA WALLER)
ME: Hey, instead of going on a wild goose chase for one of the cast members from “The Help”, shouldn’t we just call the rest of the Avengers?
CATHOLIC N00b: You mean the Marvel superheroes?
ME: No, I mean the Pro-Life Avengers!  I’m talking about Pink-Haired Papist, Aimee Murphy, Albany Rose, Angel Armstead, Kelsey Hazzard, Stargift Tarakasha and, of course, Bryan Kemper!
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: We’ll assemble with them during the next Planned Parenthood protest.
(Enter AMANDA WALLER)
AMANADA WALLER: (holds up BUTTERCUP the chicken by the legs) You guys thought I’d just run off without apprehending you, didn’t you?

SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: (Lights hands with fire powers) Release Buttercup now, Waller!
ROSALIE CONTRITE: I got this!  (Holds bow and arrow to AMANDA WALLER)
AMANDA WALLER: (sinister smirk) (clutches onto BUTTERCUP’s legs tighter) Go ahead, shoot the arrow and provide me with a nice chicken dinner.
ME: (raises katana) Ready your weapons, gal pals!
AMANDA WALLER: Oh, I’m not the only one you’ll be fighting…

ROSALIE CONTRITE
: Shush!  Do you hear that?
(An eerie, maniacal laugh is heard from a distance)
ME: Uh oh, looks like Trump found us…
MsOWrites: No, no, it sounds more hoarse and chain-smokerish.
ME: Oh, so it’s Hilary whose after us!
(Enter THE JOKER, who pulls up in a white van with henchmen accompanying him)
JOKER: Well, well, well, if it isn’t the League of Catholic Bloggers.
MsOWrites: I didn’t know we were an established League.
ME: (Gasps) Oh my gosh! (Pause) I think I like Heath Ledger’s Joker better.
JOKER: (Eyes narrow in my direction) Oh, talking like that’s gonna get ya hurt, baby doll.  (Whips out semi-automatic) (The henchmen start surrounding us)
MsOWrites: CGB, look out!  (whips out stake and crossbow and shoots a henchman coming towards me) Strong like an AMAZON!  (spins around and slashes enemies with her stake)
CATHOLIC N00b(Smiles as she lifts up her lightsaber) Time for my ultimate battle cry…(flips into the air) Taxation is THEFT! (Slices through henchmen as she lands)
ROSALIE CONTRITE: Hey, Surrender the Brownies…(raises bow and arrows)…think we can use some of that fire power of yours?
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: (Grins) (Hands light up with flames) I thought you’d never ask.
(SURRENDER THE BROWNIES creates a shield of fire around herself and ROSALIE CONTRITE, who shoots flaming arrows at oncoming henchmen)
ME
(Holds up katana) When in doubt…(runs into henchmen)…Offer it up!  (takes down henchmen with jumps, kicks and the katana) Whoa, what the?!
JOKER: (Charges at me) I’d like to think that I was pretty good in Suicide Squad!
ME: You want me to lie to ya or tell ya what I really think?
JOKER: Surprise me, sweetheart.
ME: Well…

The Misses
It’s PAINFULLY obvious that many of the Joker’s scenes have been cut down and as a result, he is grossly underdeveloped.  I can tell that Jared Leto did more preparation for the Joker’s character than the screenwriters did.  The thing is that I understand why Harley loves the Joker, but I don’t understand why the Joker even bothers to keep her around.  The mistake made here is that the Joker puts a lot of effort into getting Harley back even though in previous incarnations of Joker and Harley, it’s clear that he doesn’t personally care for her, that he is only using her.  The few times that he does express a desire to get her back feel really forced and out-of-place because we know that the Joker’s true nature is relentless anarchy with no hints of sentimentalism.
Yes, this movie doesn’t have much of a plot.  It does try to attempt a plot by making Enchantress the main villain, but it doesn’t hold much weight because Enchantress herself is pretty much a standard villain.  She is a little intimidating at first, but once she brings back her CGI brother–Incubus, I think is his name, but he had next to no impact on the plot, so I don’t really care–and just stands in the devastated subway station, doing something with a blue beam in the sky, she becomes nothing more than a video game villain from that point on.
I really wish this movie had a main character.  While I always appreciate a multi-character showcase, I went into this movie hoping that either Harley or Deadshot would be the main protagonist whose perspective drives the story.  It is clear that this movie went through many last-minute creative changes.  Except for Harley, Deadshot, El Diablo and (to an extent) Rick Flag, the other Suicide Squad members feel half-baked and underdeveloped.
Going back to this movie not having much of a plot, this film really does play out like a long music video.  If this were a music video, it would be awesome, but alas, there’s a difference between cinematic motion pictures and MTV music videos (yeah, I grew up watching many of those).  The wonky pacing and overabundance of non-diagetic song choices prove my point about this picture being a glorified music video.

(CATHOLIC N00b uses Force lighting on surrounding henchmen.  MsOWrites finds herself in a one-on-one confrontation with AMANDA WALLER,  who wields a pistol.  SURRENDER THE BROWNIES and ROSALIE CONTRITE continue firing flaming arrows at henchmen)
ME: (sees MsOWrites fighting AMANDA WALLER)
JOKER: Hey, CGB, look me in the eye!  (charges at me with a semi-automatic)
ME: How can I?  Your eyes are so unsettling and just freaky-looking.  It lacks the subtley of Ledger’s Joker.
JOKER: If you like Ledger’s Joker so much, why don’t I just quote him?  (Sinister grin) Let’s put a smile on that face!
ME:  Nope!  (Jumps in the air) Angelic katana, activate!  (Blade of katana glows as I land back down and slice JOKER’s semi-automatic)  Catholic N00b, think you can use a Force-push?
CATHOLIC N00b: Oh yeah, girl!  (From afar, she Force-pushes the JOKER away from me)
(MsOWrites stabs AMANDA WALLER’s shoulder with her stake, but AMANDA WALLER  is about to shoot at MsOWrites) (I swing the katana and block the bullet with the katana)
MsOWrites: Thanks!  Is that how bullets work, though?
ME: Hey, my guardian angel gave me this katana.  I didn’t exactly ask him if it abides by the laws of physics.
(SURRENDER THE BROWNIES creates a fire circle around AMANDA WALLER while CATHOLIC N00b paralyzes her with the Force)
(ROSALIE CONTRITE points an arrow at AMANDA WALLER’s forehead while MsOWrites holds up her crossbow)
ME: (Faces AMANDA WALLER)  Hey, wasn’t this whole thing about you getting our Guardian Angels to do your twisted bidding?
AMANDA WALLER: That was the plan.
ME: Well, so far, all that has been accomplished are flashy action sequences, quips and a half-hearted Joker appearance.
AMANDA WALLER: Much like the Suicide Squad film, it was an attempt at a plot.
(Enter JOKER)
JOKER: See, this is what happens when so many of my scenes are either cut down sloppily or just chopped out altogether.  (Holds up a grenade)
AMANDA WALLER: (Clutches cell phone in hand) You have two options, ladies.  Either the Joker can blast you to bits with the grenade or I make one phone call to Lucifer himself and get him up here.
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: What the fudge brownies?!
ME: No, no, you don’t wanna do that!
MsOWrites: (Holds up Miraculous Medal and Benedictine Cross) The heck you are!
CATHOLIC N00b: Triggered!
ROSALIE CONTRITE: You do know that all we would have to do to send Lucifer running is just say the Name of Jesus, right?
ME: Oh, yeah, that’s a good point.  Just say the Name of Jesus and the devil will be tripping over himself trying to get away.  Just ask Saint Gemma Galgani.
AMANDA WALLER: Can the Holy Name stop a grenade?
JOKER: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!
(Enter THE SPARTAN)
THE SPARTAN: I know I can!  (As a flash of light, THE SPARTAN rushes past the JOKER)
JOKER: What the?  Where’s the gren– (CATHOLIC N00b springs in the air and slices JOKER’s hands off with her lightsaber while MsOWrites finishes him off with her crossbow from a distance)
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: (uses her powers to close the fire circle in on AMANDA WALLER)  I prefer my villains medium-well.
ME: Has Charles Xavier contacted you yet?   You might to consider joining the X-Men.
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: I don’t think he’ll be getting in touch with me after I kinda sort of burned down the school.
CATHOLIC N00b: The Force might be too strong with that one (points at SURRENDER THE BROWNIES)
MsOWrites: Who was that guy?  The one who took the JOKER’s grenade?
CATHOLIC N00b: He calls himself The Spartan.  That’s all I know.
ME: You know this how?
CATHOLIC N00b: I’ve encountered him before, while traveling to the Dagobah system to learn from Yoda.
MsOWrites: I think I’ve come across him while slaying vampires.
ROSALIE CONTRITE: So, CGB, what are your final thoughts on Suicide Squad?
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: Compared to Batman v. Superman, which made you question your will to live, how does this DC film hold up.
ME: Well…

On one hand, Suicide Squad is miles better than BvS thanks to strong performances from Margot Robbie, Will Smith and the rest of the cast.  The rapport between the members of the Squad is fun to watch and has a whacky-dysfunctional-family feel to it.  On the other hand, the choppy pacing, clumsy editing and weak portrayal of the Joker doesn’t do this comic book adaptation any favors.  If you’re curious and/or are a fan of director David Ayers, then you’ll probably have a good time checking it out.  While I’m glad I saw it, I don’t think I’ll be seeing it again in the near future.

Saint Theodore Guerin, pray for us.

CGB Review of The Shallows (2016)

So I happen to be a subscriber of YouTube’s Markiplier, who has repeatedly stated how much he hates the ocean.
After watching this flick, I now see why.

This is my review of The Shallows!

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To cope with the death of her mother, med student Nancy Adams takes a trip to a secluded beach to catch some waves, but when she is attacked by a shark and ends up stranded on a large rock, she must preserve in courage and strength in order to escape the shark and return to shore in one piece.

The Hits
Between this and Age of Adaline, it is clear that Blake Lively is more than capable of carrying a film on her own.  There is an everywoman quality to her that make her relatable, which hits home the idea that this scenario could happen to anyone.  Nancy’s resourceful nature and survival skills make her a worthy heroine to follow and give her plenty of agency.  Also, and this is to any fans of Saint Christopher, if you look closely, you’ll notice that Nancy is wearing a Saint Christopher medal.  🙂
The camera work is pretty good.  Not spectacular, but there are some beautiful shots of the ocean and the entire landscape.  Also, the swimming sequences and other scenes that call for Nancy to flee from the shark are nicely filmed to where you can actually make out what is happening.  I particularly like the seagull that hangs around with Nancy during her ordeal.  However, as an animal lover, I did find myself worrying about the seagull’s survival.  This Nostalgia Critic clip best demonstrates my feelings about the seagull: https://youtu.be/YOcDhyhZO5g?list=PLxMCAq3dOW6BTGLQCwH__KdU92O3Q5xDT
I really like that Nancy has a personal history with the island, how it is the same place where her late mother discovered she was pregnant with her [Nancy].  It gives the island a symbolic significance as the place she was conceived and the same place where her life could be brought to an end.

The Misses
While the movie does do an overall good job at suspension of disbelief, there are a few times where the main character makes one or two decisions that are hard to the audience to buy.
The scene where Nancy has to sterilize and patch up the deep wound in her leg is difficult to watch.  If you are squeamish, I recommend either getting a snack during the scene or just closing your eyes.
Okay, so there is an elephant in the room that must be addressed and this is kind of a SPOILER
In the middle of the film, Nancy sees a drunk man on the shore and tries to enlist his help, but when he goes into the water to steal her surfboard, he is mauled by the shark, resulting in him being (quite literally) torn in half.  We get one close-up shot of his body and then it just cuts to black.  We never see his body swept up by the waves or even his body lying on the sand after that.  The only reason this bugs me is because the story takes place over the course of a day and a half, so if his body wasn’t taken by the waves, then it should still be there when Nancy does make it off the tiny island she has been confined to.

The Shallows is a surprisingly intriguing thriller, held together by a committed performance from Blake Lively, clever editing and a suspenseful plot.  If you’re looking for a flick that keeps you on the edge of the seat till the very end, then The Shallows just might be the good time you’re looking for.

Saint Christopher, pray for us.

Truth Within A Tagline

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A new film called The Neon Demon is now in limited theatrical release.  No, I will not be seeing the movie.  The trailer alone made me feel unsettled.
However, while browsing through Facebook, the teaser trailer of the movie’s FB page kept popping up on my newsfeed.  The caption above the promotional video caught my eye:

“The face of an angel can awaken the demon.”

As disturbing as that line is, something about it resonated with me.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that within the frightening quote lies a hint of truth.

I once had a dream where I was looking at what seemed to be a girl made entirely of light slowly spinning around amidst a deep gray fog.  I texted a friend of mine about it and his response was, “Hmm…sounds like a beacon of holiness in the midst of darkness…” Looking back on that dream now combined with The Neon Demon tagline, I think it all points to the fact that where there are angels, there are demons and vice versa.

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You and I exist in the physical world, but within our reality lies a hidden spiritual world where the forces of Light and darkness reside in oppositional existence.

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Imagine that there is a veil between our visible reality and the invisible realm, a fabric barrier that angels can pass through with no limitations, but you and I can’t even touch with our fingertips.  On the other side of the veil is an invisible realm where the forces of good and evil do not coexist peacefully, but rather do battle with one another.
On the other side of our reality is a battlefield where angels of God fight to protect us while the demons of the evil one seek to drag us down.
While we eat, sleep and go about our routines, this is taking place:
Saint Michael

Wherever there is goodness, evil is sure to follow behind like a relentless stalker.  Purity cannot flourish without corruption creeping in to put a stop to it.
However, at the same time, when corruption does rear its ugly head, purity arrives to interrupt and overtake it.
Admittedly, it is terrifying to think that darkness comes after light, that there will always be an infernal force ready to wreck havoc wherever goodness appears.  And yet, I take comfort in the fact that the opposite is true: Where darkness reigns, Light will surely intervene.
Whenever there is a Lucifer who tries to bring about division and chaos, there will also be a Michael who courageously stands up to restore peace and unity.

If the face of an angel can awaken a demon, then take heart in the fact that while the demon is rising from its slumber, the angel is already up and alert, ready to fight.

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Saint Padre Pio was a man who frequently encountered both good and evil residents of the hidden world.  Angels would greet him and demons would beat him.  He had every reason to want to avoid the spiritual world, and yet he embraced the celestial reality.

“Do not fear him (devil). Trust more and more in Jesus, who never leaves you alone when confronted by Satan.”
–Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

The next time the devil hisses at you, “Where Jesus is, I am,” just smile and say with confidence, “But where you are, He is.”
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Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel and Saint Raphael, pray for us.

The Societal Cycle of Alertness and Slumber

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It’s funny how a simple conversation on Facebook can lead to an article with an admittedly strange title.
One of my friends in the Pro-Life movement is Albany Rose.  You may know her, but in case you don’t, Albany is one of the leading faces of the growing pro-life atheist crowd in the movement.  You can check out her Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/AlbanyRosePostAbortiveProLifeSpeaker/
It was on the day of the horrific shooting in Orlando that Albany and I were having a conversation on Facebook about the plethora of problems in the world.  At one point, Albany made a point about how people are all up in arms about a crisis, but take no action for social change and instead go back to their daily routines within a week.
What she said (or typed in this case) really got me thinking.  As I lay in bed that night, I began to ask myself, “Why is it that people’s focus on a major tragedy only lasts for a few days?”
It is as if our society has settled into a strange, almost dreamlike cycle.
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We go about our typical routines, bloated schedules and scattered priorities, only taking a brief glance at the current events unfolding around us as we float down the rushing river of daily demands.  We may be physically awake, but we exist in a state of mental sleepwalking, our lives moving forward in a quiet, comfortable march to somewhere.
It is only when disaster strikes that we are jolted awake.
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Only then are we catapulted into action.  In one immediate burst, we launch into solidarity mode where everyone bands together to express shock and concern.  Vigils are set, signs are made and hashtags fill cyberspace.  For a time, we are all united.
Nothing bad lasts forever, but neither does something good.
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Unity turns to tension as private opinions about the tragedy and its victims are made known.  Prayers dissolve to bickering and heated arguments drown out heartfelt speeches.  Comforting words are sucked into the bleak vortex of shouting matches.

Then once the dust has settled, we return to slumber.dreams

I truly wonder what it would take.  What would the next disaster have to be to break the cycle?  What would need to happen in order to shake up the culture to its core and force heroic men and women to rise above complacency and bring about lasting change?

What would force us to stay awake for just a while longer?
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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 Collaboration Review of Captain America: Civil War with Pro-Life Activist Clinton Wilcox of the Life Training Institute

Captain America v. Iron Man…which side shall you choose?

This is my collaboration review of Captain America: Civil War!

Reveal-Captain-America-Civil-War-4K-Wallpaper (2)

After a mission in Lagos, Nigeria results in a slew of collateral damage, the Avengers find themselves facing the possibility of being controlled by a UN-appointed governing body.  When Captain America’s childhood friend Bucky Barnes (who [SPOILER] was the Winter Soldier in Cap’s last adventure) is framed as a suspect of an attack on the United Nations, Cap chooses to stand by his friend and pays the price when the Avengers is divided over his decision.

This is the third collaboration here on Catholic Girl Bloggin’!  Today I will be joined by pro-life activist Clinton Wilcox.  His Hits and Misses will be in green and mine will be in pink.

CGB Hits
Going into this movie, I was truly scared that Captain America’s noble nature would be compromised in this installment.  After watching Winter Soldier with my friends, I couldn’t gushing about Captain America’s strong sense of morality.  That is when one of my friends, who I will call “M.P.” turned to me and said, “Let’s see how you feel after Civil War.” “Aww, don’t do that to me, M.P.!”
I am delighted to say that Cap comes out of this adventure with his principles intact.  This character is such an honorable warrior!  I love how he plants his feet firmly on the side of truth and never backs down when faced with fierce opposition.  Once he makes a decision on a moral issue (such as helping Bucky instead of condemning him), there is no swaying him from his convictions.  He remains the moral voice and emotional center all while never becoming a bland archetype.  I said it in my Winter Soldier review and I will say it again: Captain America is a hero you can believe in!  🙂

I was not expecting the Black Panther to be such a show-stealer.  I will admit that his costume is kind of terrifying mainly because the headpiece covers his whole face, as well as his incredible speed.  I would not want to be caught in a fight with this guy!  This makes him an invaluable addition to the Avengers team.
Spider Man is absolutely adorable!  I like how he’s a believable kid character; awkward without being annoying, fumbling and wise-cracking while being skilled in his Spidey abilities.  Also, this Star Wars fangirl would like to award Spidey twenty CGB brownie points for his AMAZING Empire Strikes Back reference!  😀
In my first collaboration review, which was of Batman v. Superman with Patheos blogger Monique Ocampo, one of my many grievances with that flick is how they completely botched the rivalry between the Caped Crusader and the Son of Krypton.  Here the ideological differences between Captain America and Iron Man are well-conveyed.   Yes, the movie does definitely lean heavily in Cap’s camp, but there is emphasis on Iron Man’s perspective on the situation they face.

Clinton’s Hits
Civil War really feels like two movies. It’s Captain America 3, in which they have to resolve the Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier storyline. It’s also The Avengers 2, Part II, in which the Avengers now must deal with the aftermath of the battle with Ultron, as well as fallout from their earlier battles. Both parts of the movie may have benefited from being split into two films, but even given what they had to work with, the movie worked exceptionally well. The events of Captain America 3 were used as the catalyst for the events of Civil War.  Zemo is the main villain of the film (Crossbones makes an appearance in a fantastic battle scene, but is killed at the end of the scene).  His family was killed in the battle against Ultron and Zemo is out for revenge.  He is merely human, so he knows he can’t kill the Avengers because more powerful men than him have tried and failed, so he sets out to tear the Avengers apart.  He does so by framing Barnes for the murder of several delegates by bombing a UN meeting where a piece of legislation is going to be signed to keep the Avengers in check.  Zemo’s human, relatable backstory, mixed with his actually succeeding in tearing the Avengers apart makes him one of the best and most compelling villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the best villains are the ones from the shows, but the villains in the movies tend to be cookiecutter supervillains). Zemo used his intellect instead of brute strength to beat the Avengers.
Civil War, even having so much to accomplish, was a fantastic movie. Most of the fight scenes were truly mind-blowing (and I don’t use that term loosely). I thought all of the CGI used was very realistic. I was fooled the entire time, and the movie didn’t feel like it was two and a half hours long, to me. Though there are many ways in which the movie deviated from the source material in the comics. It actually bears little resemblance to the comics. One of those is that in the comics, the war was over whether or not to reveal their identities to the world, as well as being accountable to the government. But in the MCU, most or all of the heroes’ identities are known, so this doesn’t play a role in the legislation the UN wants to ratify.

Clinton’s Misses
As I stated, the Avengers are dealing with the aftermath of their many battles. As such, the UN wants to put a reign on them. They want to specifically train the Avengers, and be in charge of where the Avengers go. Essentially, the Avengers will become a government-led team.  If there’s one thing I think could have been improved, I wish there would have been more debate and deliberation before passing the legislation. There was one scene in which the Avengers were hashing it  out, but the legislation was already going to be passed. They were simply deliberating on whether or not to comply.

CGB Misses
Like Clinton, I too had an issue with how the whole “government wants to control the Avengers” dilemma is not developed enough.  Granted, I’m glad that the focus was more on the budding rivalry between Captain America and Iron Man, but would have liked the politics of the Avengers issue to have been fleshed out more.
I personally didn’t care for Zemo as the villain.  I get that his dirty work is best done in the shadows, but I never felt frightened of him.   He just wasn’t as chilling as I had hoped.  Honestly, I feel that the divide between Cap and Iron Man was enough of a conflict on its own.

Clinton’s Verdict
I’ve now seen Captain America: Civil War twice, and I have to say the movie gets better the second time you watch.  There’s so much going on in this film that you’ll undoubtedly miss some things upon first viewing.  
Despite being quite different from the source material in the comics, and having to pack so much into the movie, Civil War was an incredibly well-written, well-done movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat and will excite you by its many excellent fight scenes (especially the Avengers battle in the airport). I’ve seen it both times, and neither time did it ever feel like a two and a half hour movie. This movie has made me even more excited for the upcoming Black Panther, Thor, and Infinity War movies.

CGB Verdict
Captain America: Civil War has a lot on its plate and for the most part, it succeeds in making all of its elements work.  The action is well-choreographed and easier to see this time (Age of Ultron and, to an extent, Winter Soldier had some issue with action-scene-clarity).  The story is properly structured and has complex aspects while still being entertaining.  Iron Man has definitely grown and matured as a character, while Captain America himself is an admirable example of heroic masculinity, a trait that is desperately needed in today’s confused society.

Saint Martin of Tours, pray for us.

Victim Soul Chapter Six

 

Gemma-14
[Author’s Note: This chapter will focus on Gemma’s commitment to chastity, a virtue that was near and dear to her heart.  Satan would attack her chastity by using his powers to “rep­resent lurid objects to her imagination and appeared to her himself, uttering vile words…” Upon reading this, I knew that there was a danger of becoming graphic in my descriptions.  I came to the idea that I should keep my description of the devil’s temptations as broad as possible, focusing more on Gemma’s reactions and determination to overcome them. My research cites these incidences in broad terms, so how the temptations occurred is my interpretation.  During these attacks, Gemma would call out to Jesus, the Virgin Mary, her guardian angel, and her patron saints for help, and one (or more) of them would come to her aid.  Because I reestablish (then-Venerable) Gabriel Possenti’s character in the chapter’s opening, I decided to have her call out to him to end the attack].

Sitting on her bed, Gemma turns the page of “The Life of the Venerable Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother.”  She holds it tenderly to protect the worn pages.  Her fingers settle on Gabriel’s picture.  His soft brown eyes give a quizzical expression, as if to ask her a question.  Her mouth lifts into a peaceful smile as she focuses on her “bookmark,” which is the woolen heart badge of the Passionists.  She sets the book down on her lap and rubs the badge, feeling the soft wool pressed under her fingertips.  Placing it to her heart, she closes her eyes and remembers how it came into her possession.

1899
A soft light slipped through her closed eyelids.  Sighing heavily, Gemma slowly rose from sleep, opening her eyes to a blur of white incandescence.  Her eyes made out a silhouette standing at the foot of her bed.  Her vision cleared to reveal that the silhouette was Venerable Gabriel Possenti.
“My protector,” she said in a hushed breath.  As she sat up, a million thoughts swirled through her mind. Gabriel smiled and approached the side of her bed.
“Gemma, make willingly the vow to become a religious.”
“Why?”
Gabriel leaned forward and kissed her forehead.  “My sister,” he whispered as he reached his hand to his habit and removed the Passionist heart badge.  He placed it on the sheet above her chest.  As he vanished into thin air, his parting words etched into her mind: “My sister!”

“Huh?  What’s this?” Gemma opens her eyes when she notices that she can feel her hair on her shoulders.  She reaches back to retrieve her hair tie only to feel talons drumming against her back.  She hunches forward, away from the talons.
“Daydreaming, are we?  Never let the devil catch you idle, Gemma!  You of all people should know that.”
She looks up and sees that Satan’s hand is outstretched with her hair tie in his waiting palm.  She places her hands on her legs, keeping her body still as stone.
“What, you can’t take a hair tie from me?” He drops it to the floor.  “It is not going to turn into a snake, I promise.”
Gemma keeps her eyes on her pillow, even as it darkens with his shadow.  She clutches her book, keeping it guarded near her heart.
“Why am I not surprised that you are reading about that boy again?” Satan hisses, his disgust directed at the young man who had saved her from darkness once before.
Gemma grimaces when she feels the sleeve of her mantellette robe being tugged.
“Please don’t touch me,” she says in a firm voice.
“Your precious Jesus has given me permission to treat you however I want!” he snaps.
“You still have to obey Him, though.” She smiles at the knowledge that he could only attack her within the boundaries set by the Almighty.
She knits her brow at the devil’s sudden silence.  No hurtful remark, no unsettling growl, only an abrupt quiet.  Before she can question whether he was still there, she flinches when she feels a tap on the side of her head.
“You still haven’t gotten past that one time I gave you a migraine!” Satan laughs.
Gemma holds her head, waiting for pain.  She raises her eyebrow when it doesn’t come, but her curious expression is short-lived.  Within her mind’s eye, she sees a vile image of of unclothed people engaged in sin, accompanied with a sinister cackle.
“STOP!” She shakes her head and holds up her hands.  “Keep your mind under control, Gemma,” she whispers.  Resting her palms on the top of her thighs, she takes deep breaths and relaxes her shoulders.
As she exercises detachment, the tension gripping her is relieved and tranquility sets in. She redirects her thoughts to a reassuring Jesus reaching out His pierced hand to her, to a smiling Mother Mary opening her mantle to wrap her in, to anything holy she can think of.  A warmth rises within her soul, creating the sensation of pure light caressing her.  This interior exercise causes the image to dissipate until there is not a single trace of it within her memory.
She opens her eyes to a scowling Satan.  His sudden sly smile frightens her, but her poise remains.  “You think you can resist my most powerful method of temptation?” With the wave of his hand, Satan causes Gemma’s chair to move from her table to the middle of her room.  “You are strong, Ms. Galgani, but no one is invincible against lust…” An unseen force pushes her off the bed and thrusts her into the chair.  “…not even you.”
Gravity presses down upon her, rendering her immobile.  Her calm breaths change to hyperventilation.  She sees Satan approaching her slowly, his piercing eyes stare directly into her soul.  “Yes, I can see your soul right through those luminous blue eyes of yours…” Her throat tightens while her forehead pounds with a migraine caused by the weight of evil.
I’m not going to hurt you, Gemma,” his soft voice, dripping with malice, is sickening to listen to.  She feels his talons on her tense shoulders.
“You are too old to remain as innocent as you are.  Allow me to open your eyes…” With the wave of his hand, strange figures appear and perform impure dances in front of her.
Immediately Gemma shuts her eyes and turns her head away.  She clenches her fists, digging her fingernails into her palms to distract herself with discomfort.  She grinds her teeth when she feels a powerful curiosity creep into her mind.
“Your mind is wandering, isn’t it?  You’re curious about the image I am projecting…” She keeps her head down.  “Be with me, Jesus.  Please be with me…” she begs in a hushed voice.  “What are you so upset about?  There would be no shame in taking a quick look. It’s not like you would physically committing the sin of fornication.” Feeling a pit in her stomach, she endures his shameless chuckle.
She hears Satan snap his fingers.  In seconds, suggestive words escape the mouths of the impure figures.  Gemma tries to cover her ears, but the force that is holding her down keeps her arms pinned to her sides.  “Oh, I’m sure the good Lord wouldn’t smite you for taking a quick peek…”
She wishes she had her cross, rosary, scapular; any of her sacramentals to hold onto. She clutches the sides of her mantellette robe, focusing her attention on the smooth fabric. She feels his talons grab her by the chin and lifts up her head.
“OPEN YOUR GODFORSAKEN EYES, YOU SPINELESS WRETCH!” She jumps at the furious volume of his voice, but her eyes never open.
“Very well…”
She feels his sharp talons pinch her ear.  She cringes at the provocative utterances he whispers to her.  As her mind spins, she feels as if her soul is swimming the stormy seas with reckless abandon.  Her racing heart thrusts itself against the inside of her chest like a prisoner pounding at the cell door.  When she dares to open her eyes, the Passionist heart badge is lying near her feet.
“VENERABLE GABRIEL, HELP ME!” She musters the strength to throw herself off of the chair and runs to the wall.
“You…” the devil growls.
She turns around and sees Venerable Gabriel’s back turned to her.  Reaching out his talons, Satan tries to tower over him, but the young holy man remains unmoved.  His head raised, his soft brown eyes stare directly at the evil one.  Satan leans in on Gabriel’s face, as if trying to intimidate him with snarls and threatening looks.  Never flinching, never looking away, Gabriel stands his ground.
Gemma clutches to her heart, where within she can feel the clash of two forces; the conflicting sensation when chaotic darkness and peaceful light collide.  When her pounding heartbeat calms, she rises to her feet.
Venerable Gabriel disappears, but Gemma is ready.  “Satan, I rebuke you in the Name of Jesus Christ!” she makes the Sign of the Cross.
“AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!” Satan collapses to the floor.  Gemma makes the Sign of the Cross a second time, causing him to trip over himself as he struggles to get away.
“YOU FOUL WITCH!” Satan curses as he covers his ears and violently shakes his head in rage.
“Be gone!  You have already been defeated by Christ’s mighty sacrifice!”
“I will come back for–“
“Leave!” Her face is stoic as she faces her weakened foe.  As sheer hatred spews from his eyes like venom, his muscular body trembles when she makes the Sign of the Cross for a third time.
A chuckle escapes her as she catches the contorted look of dread on his face.  Her laughter is all that drowns out the faint echo of his deep growl as he disappears.