Film Review: Gladiator — When Rome Comes Back to Light

“There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile.” ― Marcus Aurelius

What was Rome like? Based on all the historical texts and books we read, and the movies and videos that we watched — extravagant and grandiose couldn’t be more pertinent here. In the magnificent villas surrounded by luxurious furnishings, rich men and women in crimson, indigo, and saffron yellow silk tunics were served with cornucopia and exotic dishes. Servants and singers chanted carmens and played tibias along with Roman poetry written by Virgil, Horace, and Ovid. A Roman bath at the end of the day and away from partying lives would be more than one could ask for…

Maximus Decimus Meridus made Rome’s march to victory against the barbarians possible.  He brought prosperity and glory to Rome and the Empire. Yet, the greatest General of the Roman Empire had not even set foot in this Xanadu once in his life. He was out on the battlefields when Commodus, the son of the Emperor, hid in the carriage. It was not because of Maximus’ bravery and excellence in war that earned him the trust of the man in purple, but it was his heart for the people that ‘persuaded” the emperor to give him Rome.

He declined. All he ever wanted was to return to his family. He turned his back from this beautiful city, the fruit of his accomplishment.

But…it was too late…

Fate seemed to detest a hero who did not follow the conventional path. No one would have thought Maximus would eventually enter the gates of Rome invited by vengeance. Sold as a slave who is “a father to a murdered son and a husband to a murdered wife, Maximus became a gladiator. Driven by intense grief and the desire for revenge, he fought his way to most grandeur fighting pit in all of history only to discover the truth about himself and Rome.

The reality was antithetical. Under the facade and the rule of a tyrant, daily lives of the people were casted over with a shadow of suffering and fear.  It is till then that Maximus understood why Marcus Aurelius trusted him instead of his very own son. The emperor’s words of responsibility, “To give power back to the people of Rome and end the corruption that has crippled it. ”

The story of Maximus’ return of power to Rome is intertwined with trust and betrayal, hope and despair, as well as love and camaraderie. Rome is the light of the world, but it can be dimmed if misruled. Is Maximus truly the one to bring back and turn on this light?

The ending is very sentimental (not going to spoil anything, just my personal feeling). But Maximus Decimus Meridus will be forever known by time as the general who became a slave, the slave who became a gladiator, and the gladiator who defied an emperor.

There was a dream that was Rome. It was light.

-Kate L.

The film Gladiator is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Inferno by Dan Brown

You have probably read or watched the Da Vinci Code by the famous author Dan Brown, who created an extraordinary character mirroring himself. But, here comes the greatest escapist read ever! If you are chomping at the bit for some crossover action reads with amazing intellectual cliffhangers, definitely check out his Inferno!

Featuring the well-known Harvard professor Robert Langdon, an incredibly intelligent and adventurous expert in the study of symbols, Inferno sets its scenes in Florence, the city of renaissance and mystery. Lying in the local hospital, the professor was half-conscious with no recollection of the past events. A series of accidents lead him to a resourceful doctor of the hospital — maybe a little too resourceful. Sienna Brooks is the new “Sophie Neveu”, only that she is a more intelligent female with a great many secrets. Together, the two goes on a treacherous journey in order uncover the hidden messages revealed in arts, details, and hints from Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. Through the adventure, the team meets various characters that makes them doubt the true purpose and direction of this mission, including the meddling of the Consortium, the World Health Organization, as well as a female assassin’s relentless pursuit. But in the end, we find out that everything is but a pre-planned “coincidence.” Protagonists become antagonists, and the antagonists are not what we think who they are…

Nobody is more skilled in plot twist and global conspiracies than Dan Brown. I am mesmerized by his usage of symbols, analogies, and innuendos. He is able to incorporate such a massive amount of historical knowledge into a science-related thriller that reflects his distinct view of current crises and schemes 

“Nothing is more creative…nor destructive…than a brilliant mind with purpose.”

-Kate L.

Inferno by Dan Brown is available for checkout form the Mission Viejo Library

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, A Translation by Simon Armitage

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This was the required summer reading assignment for my sophomore year. No matter how unwilling I was to open this book, I had to. When I first started reading, I thought I bought the wrong book in the wrong language, because it turned out that the left side of this translation was the original Medieval English. However, as my eyes skimmed through the lines of words and rhymes, I had a quite different idea about this poem.

The story was written by an unknown author in the Middle Ages, and its only manuscript was found in the house of an early seventeenth-century Yorkshireman. As one of the most significant representation of Arthurian romance, this piece of work is beyond valuable.

Gawain was King Arthur’s niece, the perfect representation of chivalry and honor. As the most notable knight of the Round Table, Gawain’s fame was known throughout the entire country. Nevertheless, there were countless people who wanted to challenge such a fine knight, and the mysterious Green Knight was one of them. This adventurous tale of Sir Gawain was woven between love and trickery, courage and danger, as well as Christianity and paganism. It not only taught me a pragmatic lesson on morality as it did to Gawain, it also brought to me a whole new perspective on the alliterative verses of the Middle English literature.

So, my dear readers, the next time your English teachers assigned you a reading assignment, don’t be a hater like I was. We all read differently and think differently, and that is the beauty of literature. Try to appreciate the joy and excitement that it gives us!

-Kate L.

Simon Armitage’s translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

I was first attracted to this book because of the cover. However, this book is definitely worth more than just the outside.

The story begins within the thoughts of Juliette, the girl who was locked up in an asylum for almost a whole year, under the tyrannical supremacy of the Reestablishment. The only object that kept her from becoming insane was a notebook.

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books. In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. i lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction…”

Just then, the appearance of a boy that existed in her buried memories altered everything, most importantly, it had given her hope. But she knew that nothing could be a coincidence, and it has proved to be true. Juliette is no ordinary girl. She is a walking weapon. And the Reestablishment has plans for her long long time ago.

Tahereh Mafi’s unique journal-like writing style for the main character has brought me into the book right from the start. Unlike any other book that I’ve read, the strikethroughs in Juliette’s journal gave me a closer insight into her own erratic thoughts and of the chaotic dystopian world. with endless fear.

Fear, for the world and for her own power and what she might do, Juliette lived a life full of of shadows. Just as the propagandas of the Reestablishment, the idea of her being a monster has carved deeply into her mind and the others.

Only two people thought of that differently. The two people who craved to have her, craved to want her to join their sides.

Two people who are utterly different.

Who will Juliette choose?

The details of this book and the progressive plot has overwhelmed me. I witnessed the drastic change in Juliette from a weak and powerless girl to an unforgettable heroine who stood up against authority.

But does she know that she is not alone?

Lastly, I would like to end my review of the book with these words written by Juliette in her only journal:

“Hope is hugging me, holding me in its arms, wiping away my tears and telling me that today and tomorrow and two days from now I will be just fine and I;m so delirious I actually dared to believe it…”

-Kate L.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.