Movie Review: Brave

Merida is a young woman who refuses to adhere to the scottish tradition in which she lives. She despises learning how to behave in terms of ladyship and how to behave like a princess. She would rather tumble through the woods with her horse exploring, shooting targets with her bow, and “living in freedom”. 
As long as she can do that, the stuffy books and manners are tolerable.
And life is good.
Until one day, her mother tells her it is time for her to become betrothed to a son of a clan, so as to preserve peace in the land.
She also tells Merida she has noo choice, and it is time to grow up.
Merida says she isn’t ready and she doesn’t want this life. A horrible fight ensues. Merida flees the castle and happens upon a witch who can cast spells.
Merida pays for a spell to change her fate… by changing her mother.
But it is not at all like she expected.
Things I liked
   In the very beginning of the movie, Merida’s father had to fend off a wild animal to save her and her mother’s life. It was good to see men protecting their wives and children in a courageous way. Many people are willing to sacrifice their lives to protect others. Merida’s mother may be harsh, but she truly has the best intentions at heart for her daughter. Even after she is cursed, she still loves her daughter and protects her. 
   This story is a coming of age story, and we see an immature girl make selfish decisions that have sweeping effects. We see her grow up and learn life isn’t about her or what she wants. We also see her mother change in the opinion of tradition, learning the heart of her daughter must  be won, not just her daughter’s hand through a sporting event.
While magic is used, we see it always have terrible and horrid consequences of evil and suffering. This movie shows there is no easy “spell” to solve your problems. And if you use them, the consequences are generally not what you were hoping for. In fact, it makes the problems worse.
No crude or profane language at all.
I gotta throw this in too, Pixar once again amazes us with top quality animation and characters. Some scottish landscape scenes looked real to me. Production and animation wise, it is one of their best. A real beauty of a film.
Things I didn’t like
   You know that scene I told you about just a minute ago? With the father fighting off the animal to save lives? That’s about all these men do in the movie.
Fight.
One thing that irked me quite a bit was the fact every single guy in this movie was either belching, fighting with another, or failing at some form of civilized function. In contrast the two women in the movie commanded dignity, power, and intelligence. Once again, man and his roles are degraded and destroyed to further a feminist agenda. All in the name of “humor”.
One scene we see a rope of kilts dangling from the top of a tower… Then we see all the men’s backsides walking away from the rope…. We also see three little boys in the nude from the back…. A lord moons some others in taunting. I was disappointed Pixar threw in that kind of Dreamworks type crude humour. One time a maid shoves a key into her cleavage to protect it from being stolen. And then we see one of the boys dive into that cleavage to retrieve it. The Triplets steal tons of pies, pastries, and other foods. They are obnoxious and generally not disciplined. They smack each other with haggis, scare lords and ladies, and more.
   Druids and spirits were powerful influences in Scotland before christianity came to that land. This land is clearly pre-christian scotland, and druids, magic, and spirits apparently quite real. Things called willow-wisps appear to guide people “To their fate”. Merida is guided more than once by these blue orbs of light. 
   One time she is guided to the witch’s house, where we see the old woman create a spell in a bubbling cauldron. My mind went back to Snow White and the evil queen in this scene. They are very similar in feel and how the spell is cast. There is also a way to remedy it, all thanks to magic.

   I was greatly surprised by how dark and frightening this movie could be at times. Many times I myself jumped at a bear attacking someone. 
   In one especially dark scene we see find ourselves in an old tower. Bones, weapons, and shields lie everywhere. A bear is shown creeping up on the heroine in the shadows, and she barely escapes with her life. Many other times this bear appears, and at the end, an intense battle ensues with the bear and all the other characters in the movie. Some men are tossed in bunches into stone walls, others crushed. We don’t see anyone die, nor is any death implied. You might want to be careful about letting younger ones see this one, as there are many frightening scenes and images.
Fate is discussed and mentioned quite a bit, from a societal standpoint. The end view is quite humanist… more of that in the Closing Thoughts.
Closing Thoughts
   It truly is amazing how one act of sin can affect so many people. This movie shows how Merida, guided by selfish desires, sins against her family by cursing, and almost killing, her mother. All is righted in the end, the lessons learned seemed, to me, empty. When all is said and done, nothing was really lost, nothing really changed…
   Except our herione got her way and was able to live free… and her mother agreed with her.
It took a curse to change Merida, as she was willing to become betrothed and her mother broke tradition.
I wonder if the movie would not have been more… memorable had the curse been broken, yet tradition kept. It is easy to accept and move on from a hard lesson when you agree with the results. Seems to me though, Pixar took the easy way out, choosing a happy ending rather than a mature ending.
Let’s also address the “Fate” mentioned in Brave. It is said in the end of the movie “One can choose your fate, you just have to look inside yourself and be brave enough to pursue it.”
I am not going to get into the whole argument of how much you are predestined to do something by God. God is the one we should allow to guide us. When we want the Lord’s will and walk with him, our desires will be His desires. That is a much better “Fate” to me.
  Something to consider though, when one does say “it is good to choose your own fate”, is this movie. Merida “chooses” her fate to serve herself, and we see the nasty struggle and suffering she had to go through in order to make everything right again.
   Seems to me, choosing your own fate isn’t as brave as it appears. And the consequences, not as good as they seem.
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Taking a walk in Australian Suburbs

We took a walk today in the Australian suburbs today. I took some pictures, and thought I would share the better ones with you right here. :)

This old taxi was parked in a garage in one of the many homes we passed. Not many homes have closed garages. Most have garages like this, open with various things inside them.
Like Americans… usually their cars weren’t parked under them. :)

This sign was on the gravel path on which we walked part of the time. There are plenty of sidewalks and side trails in the suburbs… We didn’t get lost, but it would be quite easy if you weren’t paying attention. :) I am still wondering what exactly dented this sign…

This was one garage I found that was actually closed in, but looked rather… abandoned. Most yards are very well trimmed and cared for, so this one caught my eye as it looked like it had been quite awhile since a  car pulled into this driveway.

It may be winter here, but there are tons of flowers in bloom. This is just one of dozens of different flowers we saw. I can’t for the life of me figure out what it is called. ;)

That’s all for today!

Austin

Movie Review: Kingdom of Heaven

Baliam, a blacksmith, is approached by crusaders (one being his father) to join them in their quest. After first refusing to do so, certain immediate events after that refusal force him to change his mind.
He joins his father, who eventually knights him to take his place, in the few crusaders who were loyal to the king. These men’s focus is peace and honor.
Something other knights, led by an evil lord, do not have or wish at all.

Baliam finds himself in the middle of feuding knights, confusing loyalties, and Jerusalem on the brink of a war with the muslims.
He must choose and decide for himself, what God’s will truly is and then, stand against the men who are against God.

Things I liked
Baliam, played by Orlando Bloom, has all the qualities one would expect from a good lord and knight. He despises injustice, desires peace, is honest to the point of admitting murder, is humble and asks for forgiveness, and speaks his thoughts in a simple way. He has flaws, like all well developed characters. When a decision came that was extremely utilitarian in its purpose, he choose the one that was biblical, not otherwise. Baliam is a hero in this movie I felt good rooting for. Ultimately he is selfless in his actions and patient in his example. A true model of a good knight and lord.
The king of Jerusalem has an extreme illness that is killing him, and early on in the movie, has has a conversation with Baliam. The quotes regarding faith versus religion, convictions, and God’s will are incredibly artistic and spot on. One time the King says “You see, none of us choose are end really. A king, may move a man. A father, claim a son. But remember even when those who move you be kings or men of power, your soul is in your keeping alone. When you stand before God you cannot say but I was told by others to do thus. Or that virtue was not convenient at the time. This will not suffice.”Baliam holds true to this quote throughout the movie.

Another instance Baliam is talking to a priest, as jerusalem is about to be invaded
Priest: “we must flee the city on horse”
Baliam: “And what about the people?”
Priest: “It is unfortunate but it is God’s will.”
Baliam: “You’ve taught me a lot about religion priest.”
All throughout the movie we see the evil crusaders using “God’s will” as an excuse to serve their selfish desires, and ultimately, like proverbs says, they are themselves destroyed by their evil passions.

Things I didn’t like
The king has a sister, sybilla, who likes Baliam and Baliam likes her. She is promised to marry the lead antagonist, a rude, arrogant, and generally unlikeable lord who is set to become king. She is against this, and in one scene, we see her come to baliam’s house. They kiss, and she spends the night at his house. Much is implied through that scene. While there is some remorse afterwards, it is more because of they fact they cannot marry, as opposed to the actual sin.
Words such as B—–d, H–l (out of context), and God’s name in vain are used a few times.

Violence is what gets this movie moved from PG-13 to an R rating.
For those of you who don’t know, Ridley Scott directed this movie, and he is known for a violence in films that is not at all appealing. It is bloody, dirty, and at times, horrific. He does this to show the glory in war is not all that it is cracked up to be. How much we are reminded of that in this movie.
I cannot begin to tell you how many people die in this movie. There is an epic battle scene near the end of the movie, much like you would see in Lord of the Rings. Blood flows, splashes, and squirts freely.
Perhaps even more disturbing however are the individual killings seen in 2-3 minute clips early on in the movie. In just anger, Baliam slaughters a preist, running a sword through the man and pushing him into the smithy where he burns to death. In a forest ambush, we see a group of a dozen men shot in the chest, neck, and heads with arrows. Some keep fighting however, while looking like bloody pincushions. We see blood flow freely here as well. In the aftermath, we see the corpses, awaiting to be buried.
Other violence includes men being hanged, heads mounted on pikes after a battle, and in one battle, a slow motion sword hack that gets a man in the neck. A peaceful Arab emissary is knifed in the head as a response to war. The evil knights kill innocent civilians…. and more. Never is this violence glorified or approved of. Much like in Lord of the Rings, it is present because evil men wish it to be and are using people to serve their purposes. It is there though, and not at all enjoyable.

Closing Thoughts
What man is a man that does not leave the world a better place?
This is a question the Baliam asks early on in the movie. Indeed, it seems all his actions revolve around this quote, and wanting to leave the world a better place.
To be honest, I recommend this movie, with a strong warning there a lot of painful and graphic violence.
Why?
Because this movie shows, in my opinion, a man who rises above the worldly and petty bickering, stands against (for the most part unless it involves girls) temptation for selfish desires, and uses his title to work in a way that will make peace. Even when everyone else turns against him.
Evil, is shown for what it is, and then justly punished… And a pretty solid worldview on what God is, what people make him out to be, and what true faith is all shown. It is a war movie with a commendable hero and a just ending.
So if you can handle the bloody and gruesome violence of war brought by the antagonist, and want a full and satisfying story… Check this one out.

Then let me know what you think. :)

(I know this movie is old, but often we forget there are great older movies collecting dust on shelves… So I will be reviewing more than just the newest blockbuster hits. ;) )

Bananagrams: A Quite Appeeling Game!

I have to tell you about the most addicting and fun new game our family has begun playing.

It is called Bananagrams.

Bananagrams is a word based game where the goal is to make your very own crossword puzzle before anyone else.

One does this with a random selection of 15-21 tiles (depending on the amount of players) from “the pile”.

Then it is time to “split” meaning one flips over all their tiles and begins frantically, methodically, or (if you get all consonants like me) frustratingly try to begin making a word puzzle like below:

Don’t worry, if you have rotten letters, you are allowed to swap em out, rearrange letters, words and more as the game progresses. The first person to finish when there are no titles remaining is the winner! 
Sounds simple enough right?
I love this game because it doesn’t take long at all, usually 15 minutes or so. It is also fast paced, and really gets your brain working in overdrive. Sometimes you come up with the most unusual words… Sometimes you slip up and mispell a word, which means you lose the round. :(
So there you have it, it really is scrabble on steroids. If you don’t have this game, you should go out and get it. It is available at Target for $15 I believe. 
If you do get this game, let me know! Tell me how you liked it in the comments section below. :)
Gotta split, time to start another game.
Austin

Australian Nature in Merimbula

I thought I would take a minute and show y’all some pics of what we saw last weekend on the coast of Merimbula. The lighting was great, as most the time is was nice a sunny! We have hence moved on to the second portion of our trip, but thought you would enjoy looking at these. :)

This first image I took right outside our front porch. The water really was that blue. I supposed that is where the name “Sapphire” coast came from. :)
This flower and the following are ones we saw while walking on the coastal boardwalk. There were tons of these little flowers (about the size of a half dollar). They came in all colors too.
I have dubbed this flower “The Trufflela Flower” as it reminds me of the truffela tress in Dr. Seuss’ story of “The Lorax”. :)
Here you can see some of the boardwalk we were able to travel upon. It wound right along a bay, so the shores were quite calm, but all the wildlife was there.
Pelicans, Seagulls, and some other birds I haven’t yet identified. Reminds me of the pixar short “For the Birds”The Pelicans land quite clumsily. That was funny to watch.
Just a lone gull on a rock… The sun went away for this one, hence the dreary look.
I am told the boat in this picture is called a “Dinghy”. This boat was tied up about twenty feet from the shore, and looks rather abandoned…
On our way back to the rental van, there was an Aussie cleaning some fish he had just caught. Naturally the pelicans and seagulls flocked to the smell, allowing this great closeup of the pelican. If you haven’t ever seen one before in person, these really are huge birds.
This was the last “keeper” pic of the weekend. We were walking on a beach and this pelican swam up to us looking for food. I think he also was posing, as he stood in many ways that were what we considered strutting. ;)

Australia: Here and Happy

Sitting on a porch…

Fresh sea air blowing in from the coast, ukulele in my lap, and a coffee in my hand… Recalling watching a dolphin jumping and playing right off the beach…

This will be one great summer vacation.

Want to guess where I am, mate? ;)

Australia.

Not even kidding! My family and I are in the land of the great down under. Kangaroos, Koalas, Aussie accents, beautiful beaches…

It’s all here.

How in the world did we get to go to Australia?

Let’s start at the beginning.
Twenty years ago, my dad began to work for an international company that sends him on business trips all over the world. Through these trips, he accumulated frequent flier miles, which he then could turn in for free tickets, electronics, etc.

After twenty years of flying, those added up to quite a few miles.

Enough to equal enough round trip tickets for our entire family to fly round trip. For free.
So, Since I am doing college through college plus, I had the ability to take that with me, wrap up business for Calvary Custom Sabers, and enjoy a six week trip with my family.

What a blessed life God has given me. It really does blow my mind.

So, I’ll tell you a little bit about the flight down and the adventures we had. :)
the trip started back on Tuesday. We had drove up to the airport the night before, spent the night in a hotel, and got to the airport around 9am. Nothing to interesting so far.
Once we arrived to check-in at the “Supespercialgoldenmemberservicedesk” (since dad is a “Golden” member). There were some problems with getting some Visas for Australia.
Two hours of problems.
Talk about a long wait time.
When you come across “problems” out of your control, you can either get mad, or find the humor in the situation. We tried to find the humor. At one point, dad had all four flight staff around him trying to get they system to work… that was funny.

We also got a lot of…. weird looks. I mean, how often do you see a large family like ours, with all that luggage, in the highest class of fliers? I’m gonna say not very often. ;)
We missed our 11 o clock flight. However, we had a 12 hour layover in San Francisco, So we didn’t have to worry about that to much, we just hopped on a later flight and were on our way!
After arriving at San Francisco, we got some food (I ate chinese. :) ) and passed the time until our 10:30pm flight. I played the Uke a little, while recharging the mac… Because a 14 hour flight was before us. 0_0
During the flight to Australia, I was able to sleep for ten hours.
That’s right.
10 hours. :D

The rest of the time I burned by watching Humphrey Bogart movies, reading a book called “Reckless” (don’t recommend it), and playing the iphone.
Finally, we landed at 6:30am on Thursday. Time travel occurred, which was awesome! /insert scifijoke/ We totally skipped Wednesday in our travels.
Figure that one out. ;)
Customs went without a hitch, as did baggage claim and securing the rental van.

We grabbed some breakfast at a really cool little coffee shop. It was sooooooo good.

Then began the 4 hour drive to the Sapphire Coast, to stay at a condo over the weekend. Here are some pics I took on the way. Here is a little vid I made for you guys:

Australian Scenery

As you can see, Australia looks a lot like England with the rolling hills and green everywhere. Trees are like the ones you see in California: Tall, skinny, and shrubbery at the very top only.
So now finally caught up with sleep, adjusting to the time difference, and all that good stuff. Looking forward to all the cool stuff that is going to happen, but right now, and loving the relaxed pace of this trip.
Oh, and here is a pic of what we could see right outside our front door…

No worries!
Austin