Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Disney’s live action remakes are much more common now, but the first Maleficent was an experiment in this area. The film explored an alternate perspective from the original story that portrayed Maleficent in a more sympathetic light. The original movie was a tale of betrayal and learning to love again. I honestly didn’t want to see this be about personal relationships with the same light-hearted tone or very dark and dramatic. This movie delivers an original story full of adventure and intrigue. To me, the trailers undersold what they were doing in this film.

The film starts out in the night. We see three humans in the moors (the fairy sanctuary and Maleficent and Aurora’s home), they are there to abduct some creatures and sell them for profit. We see the horned Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) approach them and capture 2 of the intruders. The third human grabs a mushroom creature and escapes back to the kingdom to deliver the creature to the base of the tower. We then see the next morning where Aurora (Ellie Fanning) is holding her royal court. Some of the fairies steal her crown and lead her to a tree where Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) is waiting.

Philip proposes to Aurora, and she accepts. Diaval (Sam Riley) reports this to Maleficent and she storms off to confront Aurora. Maleficent at first doesn’t accept this idea of marriage, but she eventually goes so far as to agree to meet Philip’s parents at a dinner. King John (Robert Lindsay) seems excited for Philip but Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) doesn’t seem happy at the prospect. Maleficent gets in an argument with Queen Ingrith at dinner and gets ready to leave, flourishing her wings. Suddenly, King John falls into a deep sleep, and Maleficent flees only to be shot down. A large figure with wings dives into the water and retrieves wounded Maleficent.

I think the advertising campaign did a poor job describing even the early conflict, so I tried to go a bit further. This movie has three main ideas taking place: the fairy abductions, the struggle of Aurora between her home with the fairies and the human lifestyle, and Maleficent coming to terms with whether fairies can live in peace with human. If it were one or two of these story lines it may feel too simple, but all-together they stand as a stronger narrative. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a high fantasy adventure movie that really improves on the series. The special effects, costume design, and general creativity makes this a great experience to me. Rated PG

Ryan

BookTalk

Did you miss BookTalk for Adults this past Friday?  No worries, this is what we talked about… Under the Radar Titles.  With the help of Seattle librarian, Nancy Pearl, I was able to put together a list of 5 literary books which may have fallen “under the radar ” for many readers.  According to Nancy, ” I just think it’s so important that readers learn about books that haven’t been heavily promoted – what we would call mid-list books.” I absolutely agree with Nancy, and am happy to share and promote the following titles:

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken

Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper

The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna

Claire Dewitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran

Come join us on December 6th for our next BookTalk. We will be talking about books that make us feel happy, light reading reading for the holidays. Hope to see you in the green room!

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino presents a story about 1969 in Los Angeles, California. Honestly going into this movie, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see it. The advertising campaign left me wondering about the plot of the film. The stars of the movie Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie helped intrigue me. I didn’t know if it would be a movie about over-the-top glamour in Hollywood or a glimpse in their lives as they build up the tragedy of the Manson group, either of which didn’t really interest me. Yet, the movie managed to tell a story about the characters in a way that leads to a compelling climax.

The movie opens with stars, Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Pitt) giving an interview. We learn that Rick Dalton is a Western movie and TV star and Cliff Booth is his stuntman and general assistant. Dalton takes a meeting with Hollywood agent Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino) and Schwarz convinces him that his career is declining. This leaves Dalton in an emotional state as he contemplates his career ending, while stuntman Booth drives him home and gives him a bit of a pep talk. Meanwhile, Dalton’s neighbor Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) attends a party where we learn about his wife, actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), and her complicated relationship with her ex-boyfriend Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch).

As the story progresses, it focuses on stuntman Cliff Booth. We learn about a negative encounter he had with actor and stuntman Bruce Lee (Mike Moh). Booth was believed to be responsible for killing his own wife and acquitted on account of being a war hero. Yet, Hollywood was not thrilled to have him around and many people didn’t want to work with him including a particular director. We learn that Booth lives alone with his dog in a trailer far away from Dalton and glamorous Hollywood.

Throughout the movie we see a group of young women dumpster diving and hitchhiking. Booth notices one of the girls (Margaret Qualley) in particular and strikes up small conversations with her. One day she spots him and asks him to drive her to a compound where a group of free-spirited people are living. Upon arriving Booth thinks that something is off with the people who are staying there. We learn that Booth is not to be fooled.

The movie is 2 hours and 41 minutes, but it feels well-paced. The film covers a relatively short period of time with well-woven story-lines including flashbacks and exposition to enhance character knowledge. Tarantino took stories about lives that I didn’t think would interest me and wove them together with a strong climax. I was really surprised how much I liked this film. It’s certainly worth seeing if the topics of the movie, the actors, or Tarantino’s style appeals to you. Rated R.

Ryan

The Chills and Thrills of October

You gotta love October – it’s the first month where you start to feel a little cozy, like sweaters and fires and stew cozy. It’s cuddling up to read books weather, stomping and kicking through rustling leaves weather, knitting weather – as you’ve already guessed, I am a big fan.

October also ends on the perfect note – Halloween – spooky fun where you can dress up as anyone you’d like but there’s also a little nip of horror in the air, a feeling that you can sojourn with the spirits or dance with the devil.

Horror movies and books capture some of that feeling, sometimes reflecting on social and political trends, sometimes just scaring the pants off you! Here are some titles you can check out for yourself:

zonepandemoniumhousecastlelegendturnwitchre-animatordon'tfollowspsychocaligeri

Happy Haunting!

~ Dori

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Spider-Man is many people’s favorite super hero. The realistic struggle of his daily life mixed in with his super hero life just connects with people. We first saw Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War as a powerful ally to Tony Stark. We’ve seen him as a super hero in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame. I think in Spider-Man: Far From Home, we really get a good mix of Peter Parker’s life and the struggle with Peter having to be Spider-Man.

The movie starts off talking about the aftermath of Endgame. We see Aunt May (Marisa Tomei)  is running a charity for those displaced by the “blip” (the 5 years people were gone) with some help from Happy Hogan (Jon Faverau). Spider-Man makes an appearance at the charity event, but Peter becomes overwhelmed when he’s asked about being a replacement for Iron Man. Later, Peter is talking to his friend, Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon), about his plans for the upcoming class trip to Europe where he plans to ask out MJ (Zendaya). The scene then shifts to Mexico where Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) are investigating a typhoon that “had a face.” They then get surprised as a mysterious figure known as Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) appears.

Peter and his classmates end up in Venice, Italy. Peter starts to enact part of his plan to confess his feelings to MJ by buying a black dahlia flower made of glass for her. He then gets her aside and seems like he might give it to her, when some strange things occur like crabs fleeing the river. Suddenly a water creature appears. Peter gets ready to fight it, but he doesn’t have his costume on him. The mysterious figure from earlier appears to fight the creature and seems to make some progress at hurting it. Peter focuses on rescuing people and manages to find a mask to wear.

After the creature is defeated, Peter makes it back to the hotel where everyone is staying. As he goes up to his room to get ready for bed, Ned is tranquilized by Nick Fury. Nick Fury tries to explain the situation to Peter as several people interrupt them by knocking on the door. They eventually leave and Fury briefs Peter that Beck has come from another world to save them from the Elementals. Fury also gives Peter some glasses that Tony Stark left for him. Peter doesn’t really want to get involved with the mission and he particularly wants to keep his classmates out of it. Peter leaves only to find out the next day that his trip has been “upgraded” to coincide with the mission. He reluctantly gets on the bus and puts on the glasses that have an artificial intelligence built in them that identifies itself as E.D.I.T.H.

There’s a lot going on in this movie. I really enjoy that aspect of it. We see everything Peter has to deal with, and it’s a lot for anyone; yet alone a 16-year old. It’s honestly this type of struggle to be normal that I’ve missed in these stories. So many things are done well that it really takes some evaluation to find flaws. This movie helps to build a foundation for Spider-Man and the Marvel Cinematic Universe to move forward together. Rated PG-13

Ryan

What We’re Reading Now….

The Other Mrs. Miller by Allison Dickson

The Other Mrs Miller by Allison Dickson

This captivating domestic thriller leaves the reader questioning the motives of every character. Phoebe Miller, the only known heir to her father’s empire, seeks refuge in her mansion after her father’s darkest secrets hit the press. The burden of living with her father’s predatory legacy strains all aspects of her reality as she feels more isolated within the confines of her walls. After a new neighbor moves in and forges a friendship with the hermit Phoebe, things quickly escalate as secrets spiral into dark truths. Beth

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

A tense classic novel about attempted perfect murders. I loved Alfred Hitchcock’s contemporary adaptation of the thriller from 1951, so I was curious to read the source material. There are, of course, some changes in details such as character names and Guy’s profession. In the movie he’s a tennis player, but in the book he’s an architect. In both cases Guy is the upstanding character who is tormented and trapped by Bruno’s plan to swap murders when they meet on a train. Highsmith is excellent at describing the inner workings of her characters’ minds. The book builds and builds throughout with Bruno’s drunken childish manipulations and Guy covering up the crimes, so that you just wait for the consequences to catch up to them. Also the audio book is well made, if you like your books in that format. Byron

Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin

Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin

This is the story of Claude Auzello and his American wife Blanche Ross. They are playing hosts to Nazis that have taken over the Hotel Ritz during the German occupation of Paris in the 1940’s. Both husband and wife are separately and secretly participating in the French Resistance. Claude makes up affairs in order to leave his wife alone nights. Blanche pretends to spend her time drinking with friends. This is the fascinating tale of the little-known story of Blanche & Claude Auzello. Emma

Occult America : the Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped our Nation by Mitch Horowitz

Occult America: The Secret History of How…

In Mitch Horowitz’s Occult America readers are given a wide overview of New Thought and Mysticism in United States history and culture. Horowitz gives an accessible tone to a complicated history and how these different movements and faiths shaped the lives of leading figures. Additionally the author shows how many spiritual movements lead to icons of popular culture, like the Ouij Board. A well researched and well paced book that gathers the many threads of these many overlapping movements. Greg

Witches of America by Alex Mar

Witches of America by Alex Mar

Witches of America is a fascinating and often amusing memoir of Mar’s personal five-year exploration of modern Paganism in America. Her vantage point as a journalist and a self-described skeptic searching for her own faith make for a very approachable entry for readers such as myself, who know little to nothing about Wicca and it’s many subdivisions. Touching on Paganism’s roots in 1950s England, the first Wiccan covens in America, and the many magical societies existing today, Mar provides fascinating histories and context for contemporary readers. She visits Pagan gatherings in hotel convention centers, participates in massive circling rituals with hundreds of witches, and eventually decides to train in a coven herself. Though at times her tone comes off as slightly judgmental to me, overall this is an objective and intelligent look at Pagan religion and occult interests in the United States today. Nicole

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

At the beginning the reader meets Romy Hall, a 28 year old woman in prison facing down two consecutive life sentences. As the book advances we learn about Romy’s youth in San Francisco, her young son, Jackson, and the many difficult and disjointed relationships in her life. This is a hard story about prison life, and an equally unsettling story about Romy’s past. This book takes on hard topics of incarceration, foster care and poverty in urban dwellings. It’s a tough read but also an important read. Mary

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

Two cousins take their husbands and children on a holiday cruise that promises to be paradise with entertainment for the grownups and activities and babysitting for the children, until they go ashore on an excursion in Central America and the kids go missing. Tempers and suspicions flair as the couples blame themselves and each other for not keeping the kids safe, but the seemingly helpless children discover strength and courage that no one knew they possessed. Sara