CGB Review of It (2017)

I wonder if holy water would’ve worked on Pennywise.  I guess I’ll try it out the next time I see a killer clown while grocery shopping.

This is my review of It!

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Based on both Stephen King’s novel and the 1990 miniseries of the same name, It tells the story of the Loser’s Club, a misfit group of outcasts who begin experiencing frightening apparitions and visitations from Pennywise, a demonic killer clown who has been terrorizing Derry, Maine for thousands of years.

The Hits
The kids are the heart of this story and these child actors are absolutely fantastic!  Their chemistry with one another is impeccable; I could believe that these kids would hang out at a Starbucks after school together.  While it is uncomfortable to see twelve-year olds dropping F-bombs, I honestly prefer that over cheesy phrases that no kid would ever say.  I like how they don’t go into long diatribes about their friendship.  Their bond is shown to us through their actions and decisions as a group, how they come to each others’ rescue whenever one of them is reeling from an encounter with Pennywise.  Much like the first Alien movie, this film spends its first hour fleshing out Bill, Stan, Ben, Beverly, Eddie, Richie and Mike and establishing them as friends through circumstance.  You get the sense that it is in being rejected by others that they have come to accept one another.
All right, let’s talk about Pennywise because, by God, how can you not talk about Pennywise?!  Bill Skarsgård nails it as Pennywise.  Gone is the witty banter of Tim Curry’s interpretation of Pennywise.  This Pennywise is basically a Machiavellian demon, one who rules his chosen targets by presenting himself as their worst fears made manifest.  After we meet him in the film’s first eight minutes, the movie then proceeds to build up the terror of anticipating his unpredictable presence rather than having him screech at the kids in every single scene.  He is featured more prominently in end of the second act and the entire third act, but for the first hour and a half, he’s like the Fire Lord in Avatar: The Last Airbender; shrouded in mystery and kept in the shadows with a single red balloon being his calling card.
What keeps the Pennywise apparitions from becoming too repetitive is that they are used to establish the worst fears and darkest memories of our protagonists.  Bill is forced to revisit his guilt over Georgie’s death when he follows Pennywise (disguised as Georgie) into his flooded basement and faces not-Georgie, who is wearing the same yellow raincoat he was last seen wearing on the day of his death.  Mike’s first Pennywise encounter comes to him in the form of burning hands trapped behind a door, a gut-wrenching representation of the family he lost in a horrific fire.  These scenes are critical to the character development, as well as for getting a sense of Pennywise’s possible omniscience and immortality.  I really wonder if this is what it would look like if God actually gave Lucifer a free hand.  Luckily the old serpent can’t do squat without God’s permission, and after seeing this movie, I’m most certainly glad that’s the case!
Speaking of which, I would like to say that while this is a secular film, it would not be far-fetched to call this an unintentionally accurate portrayal of what it is like to deal with spiritual attack.  Not so much the over-the-top scares, but in the depiction of the unnerving reality of being bullied and harassed by evil.  Granted, this isn’t a de facto story of spiritual warfare, but I do feel that those who do work in that field (such as those involved in deliverance ministry and maybe even exorcists) could benefit from watching this film.  Spiritual attacks certainly make life challenging, but they can also serve as a wake-up call to run to Jesus if you’ve been moving away from Him for a while.

The Misses
There’s this really unnecessary love triangle between Bill, Bev and Ben (try saying those three names ten times fast) that the filmmakers do try to develop, but it ultimately falls flat because it’s just a distraction from the main plot.
Speaking of Bev, she has this reputation of being promiscuous, even though we see that it’s not the case at all.  This point is hand-fisted throughout the film.  Now while I am glad that slut-shaming is addressed in this film, it gets tiresome by the fifteenth time a character throws an accusation of promiscuity in Bev’s face.  There’s a more subtle way to write slut-shaming into your movie, and I hope filmmakers learn how to do so.
The very end of the film features the kids basically making a blood pact that they’ll return to Derry if Pennywise returns.  Yeah, I felt that was a bit much.  Hey, guys, I think a verbal agreement would’ve been just fine, but what do I know?  I guess being stalked by a killer clown can make you resort to extreme measures.

Overall It can certainly be called a crowd-pleasing horror flick.  This movie is like Deadpool in that it’s better watched with a group of friends at a midnight screening.  Fortunately even if it weren’t a midnight movie, the script is well-written and stands on its own two feet.  Add to that the stellar performances of Bill Skarsgård and the child actors, and excellent directorial work from Director Andy Muschietti, and you’ve got yourself a Stephen King adaption worthy of the hype and applause it has received.

Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, pray for us.

Given that the new It film is immensely dark and heavy, I thought it’d be fun to add the Nostalgia Critic’s review of the 1990 miniseries “It” as a bonus feature.  🙂

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.

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

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.

Victim Soul Chapter Six

 

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[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.

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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.

Victim Soul Chapter Five

 

Saint Gemma Galgani with Jesus (2)[Author’s Note: In this chapter, Gemma refers to Satan as “Chiappino,” which means “burglar.”  The only artistic liberty is that while my research states that one of the devil’s tactics was to attempt to turn her against her spiritual director Father Germano, it is not clear whether this happened as one incident or a series of incidents.  For the sake of brevity, I will be depicting this as one event.  My research states that Satan resorted to violence when Gemma “persevered in writing.”  However I decided to have Gemma politely tell him off for the sake of her character development.  Finally, this chapter will be the first time that Gemma looks Satan in the face.  Up until this point, I have had Gemma refuse to stare at her attacker.  However, in the upcoming chapters she will be seeing him in different forms (a dog, a giant, etc.) so I figured that now is the time to have her (and the reader) see the prince of darkness in the flesh].

A black bird sits on the window frame, whistling a cheerful melody.  From her table, Gemma glances up at the feathered creature, greeting it with an affable smile.  “You can go wherever you like.  Why here?” she asks softly.  The bird tilts its head, as if puzzled by her words.  She looks back down at her paper and resumes working on her letter to Father Germano.

“For some days, Chiappino has pursued me in every guise and way, and has done all in his power against me…”

She jumps when the bird lands itself near her candle.  She takes deep breaths as she carries on with her writing.  The endearing pitter-patter of the bird’s sticklike feet fills the silence of her bedroom.

“This monster keeps on redoubling all his efforts to ruin me and tries to deprive me of whomever directs or advises me.  But even should this happen, I am not afraid…”

“By the way you jumped just now, I would have thought that the little bird was one of my minions…” The bird darts out the window and into the morning light.
Gemma lowers her head when she feels him standing next to her.  Chills run down her spine when he places his talons on the table, dangerously close to her elbow.  She feels the weight of his infernal shadow looming upon her.
“Ignoring me is not going to make me disappear.”
Gemma ponders her options.  Within her mind, she remembers Jesus in the desert, facing the temptations of the evil one.  She rubs her trembling hands.  “If my Jesus had to face you, then I must do the same.”  She rises from her chair and turns around, looking directly at the prince of darkness.
“Dear God…” she steps back as tension’s grip takes hold of her body.
Satan’s ashen lips curve into a sinister grin.  “Your God isn’t here, child.  Only me.”
Gemma keeps a stoic expression on her face as she watches the demonic creature with skin the color of shadows pace around her.  She swallows, trying not to think of the pain that he could inflict upon her with his sturdy fingers.  She shudders at his black, tattered wings; wings that had once been magnificent, but lost their beauty once he rebelled.  When she notices the seething lust in his iridescent eyes, she turns her head to the crucifix on the wall.
“I notice that you don’t own a mirror.  Are you afraid that I’ll send my demons after you through the glass?”
Gemma keeps her focus on her Lord.  ‘My Jesus, I trust in Your protection.’ she thinks to herself.
“What a shame.  If only you could see what a beautiful girl you are…”  The devil reaches for her chin, but Gemma turns her body away.  Satan rolls his eyes and focuses his gaze upon her letter.  He pricks at the paper with his talons as he skims through it.  “Oh, Father Germano, Father Germano, please come and save me, for I am but a poor and helpless child being tormented by big bad Beelzebub!” His mocking spiel is accompanied with dramatic gestures.
Gemma looks at her letter, inhaling through her nostrils.  In a split second, she snatches the letter off of the table.  She rushes to her drawer and pulls out a cross.  She holds it up between her eyes.
Satan laughs, “You and your guardian angel need to learn to relax.”  He walks away from her and lounges against her door with his muscular arms crossed.  “Go ahead, work on your little letter.”
Setting down her cross, Gemma holds up her head.  For a moment, her eyes narrow with contempt.  ‘I shouldn’t give him the power to upset me,’ her conscience speaks.  She softens her face into a nonchalant expression.  Her heart continues to race, but she maintains her poise.  With her back turned to the devil, she sits herself down and begins writing.
“Now I may be the ‘father of lies,’ but even I know when a certain spiritual director may not be the best one for you.”
The pen in her hand never stops moving.  She glances up at the window, almost wishing that the little bird would come back.  A silent creature would make better company than the corrupter of souls.
“One of my fellow demons was listening in on dear old Germano’s homily, and he told me that the man is quite fanatical.  I can see why he would have you feeling so stressed and uptight…”
Gemma dips her pen into the ink.  After letting the ink settle on the pen’s tip, she starts writing again.  She hears Satan tread across the room.
“You excelled in music, French and arithmetic as a child, am I correct?”
She responses with a careless, “Mm hmm…”
“So you’re obviously intelligent, despite acting like a dumb mute,” his words “dumb mute” emphasized with a threatening snarl.  “It is a travesty that such a refined woman like yourself is being subjected to the ‘counsel’ of the delusional Germano.”
She sighs and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear.  His growl frightens her, but not a single bead of sweat is visible on her face.  She feels his talons grip at the back of her chair.
“Say, has your precious spiritual father given you any strategies that could help you deal with me?” She hears him drum his talons against her chair as he waits for an answer.  She rubs her nose to relieve an itch and says nothing.  “I’m going to take your irritating silence as a ‘No…'” Satan shrugs, “Seems to me that Germano may be a good listener, but not the best advisor.” Gemma leans forward to keep her back from making contact with his talons.
“I was able to open Eve’s eyes to a wealth of knowledge in the Garden…
“And all of humanity fell because of it,” she laments in a hushed breath, repulsed by his pride in the downfall of mankind.
“I could open that sweet and innocent little mind of yours to a world of knowledge if you allow me to be your teacher…”
She feels his talon pressed against the side of her head.  She tenses, bracing herself for a violent migraine.  “You can relax.  I’m not going to induce another headache,” he assures with an unsettling chuckle.
Gemma bites her tongue when he runs his talon down her hair.  As her heart pounds, she sits up straight and folds her arms on the table.  She tilts her head slightly to where she can only see the devil from the corner of her eye.
“Excuse me, but are you finished speaking?” she asks politely, catching the look of surprise on the devil’s face.   “You may do what you wish, but please let me write.”  Her shoulders loosen as she finishes up her letter.  The peace that follows lasts longer than expected.  She is almost tempted to look over her shoulder to see if the devil is still there, but shakes her head, deciding to enjoy the silence instead.
Her pen is ripped from her hand in a fierce swipe.  She sees it released from Satan’s hand as it flies across the room.  His face contorted in rage, Satan grabs her letter and proceeds to tear it in half.  As he rips it to shreds, his piercing eyes bore into hers.
Before she can do anything, he grabs the back of her chair and pulls it out from under her.  The wind is knocked out of her as her back hits the floor.  As she tries to collect air into her lungs, she feels his claws scratch against her scalp as he pulls her by the hair.  She grits her teeth as her scalp burns from being dragged by the hair.  With great force, he throws her against the wall.
“WAR, WAR AGAINST YOUR FATHER, WAR AS LONG AS HE LIVES!” Satan screams as he disappears into a burst of flames.
Some time passes before a shaken Gemma is able to stand up.  As her beating pulse calms, she collects the shreds of paper from the floor and disposes of it.  She walks to her drawer and pulls out a new sheet of paper.  Sitting down at her table, Gemma flexes her quivering fingers.  All is quiet as she rewrites her letter, though the devil’s words remain in her mind.
“Believe me, to hear this despicable wretch, one would think that his fury was rather against you than against me,” she writes to Fr. Germano, her spiritual father.
She folds up her letter and slides it under her candle.  Rising from her chair, she looks around the room.  There are no demons coming for her, only deep shadows in every corner.  Fixing her gaze into the darkness of her bedroom, Gemma lifts her cross from the table and presses it against her heart.

CGB Review of The Jungle Book (2016)

Just looking for the bear necessities!  🙂

This is my review of The Jungle Book!

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In the jungle, the mighty jungle, there lives a “man-cub” named Mowgli, who lives under the protection of a black panther named Bagherra and a pack of wolves.  All is well until the diabolical tiger Shere Khan comes looking for the man-cub, since man is forbidden in the jungle.  For his own safety, Mowgli must leave the jungle and go to the “man village.” Along the way, he meets the laidback Baloo and other colorful characters.

The Hits
The CGI is truly remarkable.  I honestly forgot that I was watching CGI characters.  The level of detail on everything from the animals’ fur to the weather effects is quite stunning.
Neel Sethi is endearing as Mowgli.  Inquisitive, adventurous and even noble, Mowgli serves as the story’s emotional center.  Speaking of the actors, all of the voice acting is top notch!  Ben Kingsley is perfect as the firm and brave Bagheera while Bill Murray brings the warmth and charisma as the fun-loving Baloo.  Scarlett Johansson nails the trickery and cunning of the serpent Kaa.  Idris Elba–good Lord–he is terrific as the diabolic Shere Khan!  His deep, commanding voice gave me chills, making him an excellent villain.
Baloo and Bagheera have great chemistry as polar opposites, as well as guardians of Mowgli.  Bagheera keeps Mowgli grounded while Baloo helps the young boy feel safe and relaxed in his jungle home.  Out of all the characters, Baloo has the most character development.  His evolution from careless, self-centered wanderer to a competent and protective mentor to Mowgli is sweet and natural.
I like how the task of protecting Mowgli challenges other characters such as Baloo and even Bagheera to an extent to rise above their own imperfections for a worthy cause.  Keeping Mowgli safe becomes a community effort and in the end, community triumphs over the lone Shere Khan.  I particularly appreciate how Mowgli defeats Shere Khan not with ruthless violence, but by courageously standing his ground in the face of insurmountable opposition.  It reminds me of something Saint Thomas Aquinas once said, “The principal act of courage is to endure and withstand dangers doggedly rather than to attack them.”
A friend of mine named “N.M” recently told me, “Let the angels and the saints deal with the devil.  They know what they’re doing.”  I kept thinking about her words as I watched the movie.  Throughout the film, animals fight off Shere Khan while Mowgli flees to safety, which reminded me of the angels and the saints fighting off the devil and his minions.  Oh, yes, Shere Khan has the similar characteristics of the fallen angel Lucifer.  There’s a particularly chilling scene where Shere Khan is indoctrinating Raksha’s (Mowgli’s wolf mom) cubs.  “Well, it looks like the screenwriters read 1 Peter 5:8,” I said to myself.  By the way, feel free to type in what 1 Peter 5:8 says in the comments section.  🙂  Granted, I highly doubt that the filmmakers were looking to demonstrate how our Heavenly advocates fight for us, but then again, our God can make use of anything, even secular forms of art, to make Himself known to us.

The Misses
So Christopher Walken sings/speaks “I Wanna Be Like You” and…yeah, about that.  It is as if the filmmakers couldn’t decide if they wanted Mr. Walken to either sing the actual song or just say the lyrics without musical accompaniment, so they said, “Just do both.” As a result, Mr. Walken sounds awkward and stilted when he is sing-speaking the lyrics.
Personally I prefer character-driven stories over plot-driven ones, so even though I liked Mowgli, I couldn’t connect with him; he is sympathetic, not empathetic.  This hiccup doesn’t make the film less enjoyable, but just weak when compared to Maleficent (2014) and Cinderella (2015), both of which were poignant character studies.

I would highly recommend the Jungle Book as a fun family film.  While some of Shere Khan’s scenes are quite dark, the majority of the movie is light-hearted and entertaining.  Kids will enjoy the animals and action, while the adults will be pleasantly surprised with the film’s depiction of courage in the face of danger.

Saint Dominic Savio, pray for us.