The Woman King Movie Review

The myth of the Amazons is a powerful one. The idea of a race of warrior women who depend only on themselves and not on men has captured our collective imagination for centuries.

The new film, The Woman King, is based on true events. The main character is Nanisca (Viola Davis). In the 19th century, she is the General of the Dahomey Amazons. The Kingdom of Dahomey was one of many that traded goods and humans (i.e. slaves) with European settlers and traders.

Nanisca’s job is to lead and train the kingdom’s female warriors. One of the new recruits is Nawi (Thuso Mbedu). She is young and driven, but also stubborn. Taken under the wing of one of Nanisca’s lieutenants, Izogie (Lashana Lynch), Nawi knows that she can be one of the Agojie.

When Nawi, Izogie, and a few other women are captured in battle, Nanisca defies King Ghezo (John Boyega) to free them. Adding to the tension is a potential love interest for Nawi. Malik (Jordan Bolger) is a Portuguese trader who is much more than he appears to be.

Wow. Davis at the very least deserves an Oscar nomination. It is a powerful film that reminds all of us that we have the power to fight against our oppressors. We can live as we want to. But, in order to do that, we must take a stand against those who would hold us down because we are different.

This is one of those films that every woman should see. It disproves the idea that we are weaker and unable to handle life’s complications in a way that a man can. We are just as strong, intelligent, and capable as our male peers.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Woman King is presently in theaters.

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel Character Review: Dawn Summers

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Read at your own risk if you have not watched one or both television series. In this series of character reviews, I will strictly be writing about the characters from the television series, not the 1992 film.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

To be one’s little sister is not always easy. Especially when one’s older sister is the Slayer. On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that little sister is Dawn Summers. Introduced in the beginning of season 5, Dawn appeared to be the average, annoying little sister. She adored her sister’s friends and wanted to be around them. But like any big sister,Buffy did not want to have her sister around.

But up until that point, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar), was an only child.  But no one questioned Dawn’s existence. Then Buffy discovered that Dawn is the Key, a mystical object turned into human form so she can be protected from Glory (Clare Kramer). After Buffy defeats Glory, Dawn is accepted as she is. But then her mother dies and Dawn has to deal with the loss of her mother. In her grief, Willow (Alyson Hannigan) helps Dawn with a spell to bring her mother back, but that does not end well.

The sisters finally mend their relationship after Buffy’s bought with with depression and Dawn’s feelings of abandonment. During the final battle at end of the series, Dawn fights with the Scooby gang and earns her stripes as an ally of the Slayer.

To sum it up: The stereotype of the annoying little sister can be fun to play with as a writer. The character of Dawn is interesting because she is much more than the basic character trope. Beyond her magical conception and abilities, she is a fully formed character whom we love to hate because she is so annoying. When a character is memorable because they are annoying, the writer(s) have done something right.

Star Wars Character Review: Vice Admiral Holdo/General Hux/Captain Phasma

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the new characters that were introduced to audiences for the episodes seven and eight in the Star Wars franchise. Read at your own risk if you have not seen The Force Awakens Or The Last Jedi.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Star Wars to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

There is supporting a cause and then there is supporting a cause. It is possible to support cause without it consuming everything around you. But for some, that cause is everything. Nothing else and no one else matters. In the most recent Star Wars movies, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, the complete commitment to the cause is represented by Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie).

Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) is high up in the chain of command in the rebellion. She becomes General Leia Organa’s (the late Carrie Fisher) second in command after Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is demoted and General Organa is incapacitated. As she watched the rebellion ships being destroyed by the First Order, she makes the ultimate sacrifice by jumping her ship to light speed and destroying the First Order’s flagship.

On the dark side, this complete adherence to the cause is General Hux and Captain Phasma. General Hux is a First Order General, answerable only to Supreme Leader Snoke. He is cold, ruthless, calculating and believes that First Order is destined to rule the galaxy at all costs. Right behind General Hux is Captain Phasma. In charge of the storm troopers, her job is to make sure that her soldiers do as they are told. Her one failing is Finn (John Boyega), with whom she battles with in The Last Jedi.

To sum it up: It takes a certain type of person to give everything to a cause. Especially when the cause is life or death. In Star Wars, Vice Admiral Holdo, General Hux and Captain Phasma represent that commitment so fully that nothing else matters. When creating these characters, the writer(s) must ensure that nothing deters the characters from the cause.

Sense And Sensibility Character Review: Lucy Steele

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Any writer worth their salt will tell you that conflict is one of the key components of any story, regardless of genre to or specific narrative. When written well, conflict is what keeps the reader/audience engaged. In the romance genre, conflict usually comes by way of something or someone who is keeping the would be lovers apart.

In Sense And Sensibility, that someone is Lucy Steele. The would be lovers she is keeping apart is Edward Ferrars and Elinor Dashwood. Lucy is introduced to Elinor and the audience about a third of the way into the story. Lucy is one of two sisters, who is related to the distant cousin who is leasing the Dashwoods a cottage on his property after the death of their father and husband.

Lucy has a secret and Elinor is the one she chooses to share her secret with. Lucy is secretly engaged. Her future husband is Edward Ferrars, a former pupil of her uncle. The engagement is a secret because of the status of Edward’s family. While Lucy tells Elinor of her secret engagement, only Elinor and the reader/audience is aware of the spark between Elinor and Edward.

To sum it up: In using Lucy to create a wedge between Edward and Elinor, Austen is upping the ante on the reader/audience. She is keeping them on the edge of the seat and not (at least yet anyway), answering the will they or won’t they question when it comes to Elinor and Edward. A good writer knows when and where to introduce conflict and if written properly, the conflict will keep the reader/audience going to the very end.

Movies With Birthdays-Forbidden Romance Edition- Titanic (1997) & Dirty Dancing (1987)

There nothing as exciting as a forbidden romance, especially on the big screen. For a film where the basic narrative is a forbidden romance to not only initially succeed at the box office, but to last long after it has left theaters, well, it has to be pretty special.

While some films within this narrowly defined narrative have failed and have been forgotten, both Titanic (1997) and Dirty Dancing (1987) have gone on to not only become classics, but also generational markers. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Titanic and the 30th anniversary of Dirty Dancing, I’d thought it was time to celebrate these remarkable films that have stood the test of time.


Loosely based on the sinking of the actual Titanic, the film combines real events with real people who were on the ship with the fictional romance of upper class girl Rose Dewitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) and lower class boy Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio). Told in past tense by Rose in her twilight years (Gloria Stuart), Rose is traveling on the Titanic back to America with her mother, Ruth Dewitt Bukater (Frances Fisher) and her unwanted fiance, Cal Hockley (Billy Zane).

Rose and Jack have a near immediate connection, but the difference in their class nearly keeps them apart. Then Titanic hits the iceberg and everything changes.

I think many writers (including myself) will agree that James Cameron is not the best at writing dialogue and the plot is predictable, but that is the fun of this movie. It is also to progenitor of the fictional story within a real historical event genre. And who could forget the film’s theme song, which no one could get away from in the late 1990’s.

Dirty Dancing

Set in the early 1960’s, Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey) is a young woman going up to the Catskills with her family for summer vacation. Lacking in confidence, Baby is young, idealistic and naive. She falls for Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), the hotel’s lead male dance instructor who is technically off limits to her. When Penny Johnson (Cynthia Rhodes) is no longer able to join Johnny on the dance floor, Baby steps up the plate. But she is not a dancer and is aware that both she and Johnny are breaking the rules by not only dancing together, but falling in love.

What can one say about Dirty Dancing? The music is danceable (and singeable), Baby is an every woman and Patrick Swayze was not too bad on the eyes either. It’s basically a coming of age story combined with a forbidden romance, which elevates the movie to a higher plane of character and story development.

And course, Dirty Dancing has it’s own iconic theme song.

The fact that both of these films have lasted as long as they have is a testament to the power of love, the dangerous excitement of forbidden romance and the fact that both films are incredible.

P.S. The inspiration for this post came from the reboot of Dirty Dancing, which will be airing on ABC on Wednesday. Look for my review later in the week.

Denial Movie Review

The job of a historian is to impart the facts of historical events without prejudice or partiality. Unfortunately, some historians feel the need to inject their version of the facts into the historical record.

In the new movie, Denial, Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) is a professor of Holocaust studies at Emory University in Atlanta. She is also a published author. One of her books, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, was published in 1993. She devotes part of the book to outing those who openly deny that the Holocaust did happened or claim that the known facts are not entirely correct. One of the men listed, David Irving (Timothy Spall), sued her for libel in the UK.

Forced to go to England to defend herself against the libel claim, Deborah’s legal team is led by  Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson) and Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott). The Holocaust did happen, that is undisputed fact. But can Deborah’s legal team prove that David Irving changed the facts to suit his own view of history?

This movie hit home for me for a number of reasons. I am first a Jewish woman who lost family to the Nazi inferno. I am also an American who believes that while free speech is one of the corner stones of democracy, a line has to be drawn when it comes to interpreting opinion as undisputed fact. Especially when it comes to something like The Holocaust.

I really liked this film. I liked it because it did not beat around the bush. There was enough tension to keep the narrative going and keep the audience focused on the film. I also liked the feminist element in the film. Deborah Lipstadt, both on-screen and in person, is a no-nonsense, say what she thinks kind of woman. To let off steam, she would run. While in London,  she passed by the statue of Boadicea, the Bronze age Queen who led a rebellion against the invading Romans. The imagery, at least from my perspective, said it all.

I recommend this film.

Denial is presently in theaters. 


Flashback Friday-Turner & Hooch (1989)

There is a unique bond between a human being and their dog. It’s as if this relationship was meant to be, these individuals were meant to spend their lives with each other.

In 1989 movie, Turner and Hooch, Scott Turner (Tom Hanks) has had it. A member of the police department, Scott’s cases have only been minor busts that are doing nothing for his career.

Three days before Scott is scheduled to transfer precincts, hoping to get a real piece of the action, a case falls into his lap. Amos Reed (John McIntire) has been murdered. There are no human witnesses, only Amos’s four-legged slobbering best friend Hooch. Scott is tasked with taking care of the dog. It’s not exactly what he asked for.

There are some narratives where the lead character does not get what they want, but they gets what they need. I feel like that is very true to life. What Scott wanted was career prestige. What needed was a smelly, sloberring, out of control dog who becomes his best friend.

I recommend it.


Kiss My Rump, Donald Trump

Kiss my rump, Donald Trump. (It’s ruder than my usual, but Susan Ford Hanson had it on WWUH and I just couldn’t resist. (This relates to my upcoming post entitled: Our Social Fabric matters. Let’s not rend it w/ irresponsible, set-it-all-afire bombastic bloviating, We’ve all read the Constitution, right?) For more FM on Toast see: %5B…%5D

via Kiss my rump, Donald Trump. (It’s ruder than my usual, but Susan Ford Hanson had it on WWUH and I just couldn’t resist. — Words We Women Write

A Historic Day — By Hook Or By Book

Nearly a century after the 19th Amendment was passed, giving women the right to vote here in the U.S., Hillary Rodham Clinton has officially become the first woman nominated by a major political party, for President! I realize what a polarizing figure she is. I myself was a Bernie supporter, but no matter your views […]

via A Historic Day — By Hook Or By Book

Romance & And The Reality Of Life: Me Before You Movie Review

Life is full of joy, laughter and opportunity, if we can only open our eyes to see it.

In the new movie, Me Before You, (based on the book of the same name), Louisa “Lou” Clark (Emilia Clarke) has just lost her job at a local bakery. Known for her colorful, quirky clothes and her outgoing demeanor, the income Lou earns goes back to her family. Needing a job, Lou is hired to care for Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), a quadriplegic man whose life was turned upside down when he is injured in a motorcycle accident.

Moody and depressed, Will relies on his parents, Camilla and Stephen (Janet McTeer and Charles Dance) and his nurse, Nathan (Stephen Peacocke) to provide emotional and physical support.

Enter Lou, whose bright and bubbly personality does not initially go over well with snarky and sarcastic Will. What starts off as a mere job becomes something more as the relationship between Lou and Will changes. But the reality of Will’s life and his disability may prevent this relationship from getting off the ground before it has begun.

While I normally have a severe dislike for films that pile on the not so subtle message or the uber-romantic schmaltz, I was pleasantly surprised by this film.  The actors were well-chosen for their roles (and as an anglophile, I was pleasantly surprised to see to the cast list). But what I enjoyed the most was the message to not only appreciate life, but to take full advantage of everything life has to offer while we can.

I recommend it.

Me Before You is presently in theaters. 

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