Friday, September 30, 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children

Last night I saw an early screening of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Tim Burton's adaptation of the popular novel by Ransom Riggs, and it is, well, peculiar.  When I say peculiar, I mean it in a good way, a Tim-Burton-takes-us-on-a-fantastical-journey good way.  When Jake's (Asa Butterfield) grandfather dies from a horrible attack by a monster only he can see, he follows clues left to him by his grandfather to an island near Wales.  He eventually finds the orphanage where his grandfather grew up but it is in ruins.  While trying to return to the orphanage, he meets Emma (Ella Purnell), who can manipulate air, and Millard (Cameron King), who is invisible, and they take him back to the orphanage, now fully restored.   Jake is introduced to Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and other children who have "peculiarities" and learns that it is now 1945 and they live in a loop which allows them to reset the day just before the Nazis drop a bomb on the orphanage.  He eventually learns that the monster who killed his grandfather is one of a group of Hollows who prey upon the peculiars at the behest of the Wights led by Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson).  Jake must use his peculiarity to save Miss Peregrine and the children in an epic showdown with the Hollows and the Wights as well as decide where he really belongs.  Does the plot sound complicated?  It is.  There is a tremendous amount of exposition in this film and it does occasionally get bogged down in its own storytelling.  But that is of little consequence because this film is so visually stunning.  As Tim Burton is wont to do, he creates a fully realized world that could only exist in your imagination and lets the children use it as a playground to display their peculiarities.  My favorite scene is when Emma floats to the top of a tree to rescue a baby squirrel.  Eva Green is a true heir to Helena Bonham Carter (Burton's former muse) in terms of eccentricities (she even has a strange hairstyle with blue highlights) and I loved her performance.  The battle scenes are fantastic, especially since one of the peculiar children can bring inanimate objects to life.  Once this film gets going, it is a lot of fun to watch and I highly recommend it to fans of the novel and of Tim Burton.

Note:  One of my favorite aspects of the novel is the use of vintage photographs and I really like the way the film incorporated them.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Milford Sound

While we were in Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand for a few days, we took a day trip to one of the most beautiful places I've ever been: Milford Sound!  It is a fjord that runs fifteen kilometers inland from the Tasman Sea and is surrounded by sheer rock faces that rise up to 1,200 meters with many dazzling waterfalls.  We took a cruise through the fjord and it was absolutely amazing (even better than the fjords in Norway, in my opinion).
The pictures do not do this place justice!  It is incredible and it is no wonder that Milford Sound is one of the top tourist destinations in the world!  It does take some effort to get there, five hours from Queenstown, but it was worth it!

Note:  We almost didn't get to see Milford Sound because it snowed over night and created an avalanche hazard.  We had to wait over an hour at a roadblock before we were cleared to continue on our way!  I am certainly glad we were able see this amazing place!  The South Island of New Zealand is breathtaking!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Beautiful South Island of New Zealand

After a few days in Sydney we flew to Christchurch, New Zealand for one night and then spent a day driving to Queenstown.  We had a few spectacular stops on the way!  Our first stop was Lake Tekapo and the Church of the Good Shepherd.
Our next stop was Lake Pukaki and it was so beautiful!  This glacier-fed lake reminded me so much of the lakes in Western Canada.
Once we got to Queenstown we went up the Skyline Gondola for some spectacular views of the city, Lake Wakatipu, and the Remarkables mountain range.
Later that evening we took a vintage steamship called the TSS Earnshaw across the lake to a sheep station for dinner (which was delicious).  It was fascinating to see the engineers shoveling coal into the engine to power the ship!
I fell in love with the South Island in just one day!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Magnificent Seven

I have a vague recollection of watching the original movie with my Dad.  I don't remember any details, I just remember that my Dad really liked it and they blew up a lot of things!  So, I can't really compare this new version of The Magnificent Seven with the original but I can tell you that I found it to be wildly entertaining!  When an unscrupulous owner of a mining company, Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), threatens the town of Rose Creek and kills her husband, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) turns to bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) for justice.  Chisolm begins recruiting men for the impossible task: gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), notorious Mexican bandit Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), sharpshooter (and hero of the Battle of Antietam) Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), knife-wielding assassin Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio) and Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).  They take the town of Rose Creek in a shoot-out (the first of many) and begin to fortify (and booby-trap) the town for an epic showdown with Bogue.  Just like the original, lots of things get blown up and it is certainly exciting.  Besides the amazing action scenes, I really liked the character development of each of the seven and I couldn't pick which one I liked more (although D'Onofrio is a hoot to watch as the eccentric Horne and Hawke does a great job portraying a man tormented by the Civil War).  The scenery is absolutely gorgeous and I liked the almost sepia-toned photography.  I am not usually a big fan of Western films but this one is so much fun to watch and a highly recommend it, especially to fans of the genre.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Tashena's First Dance

Saturday night was the Homecoming Dance for Bountiful High School.  It was Tashena's first high school dance and I can hardly believe it!  Where has the time gone?  Where is the little girl who played with Barbies?  If she has to grow up, at least she is turning into a beautiful and talented young woman!  I think she looked so beautiful in her dress!
Tashena with her friend Leea.
Tashena, Leea, and Alex
Tashena, Michelle, and Leea
The whole group!
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