Film Review: The Mule

Earl Stone is a senescent horticulturist and veteran from the Korean War. For all of his life, he has dedicated his time to nurturing his plants and prioritizing work before anything. Due to this reason, he is greatly estranged from his daughter and his wife Mary. At the beginning of the movie, Earl is still earning popularity and money by selling plants to people. However, as the years passed, the internet is the new way of how people sell stuff. Due to this reason, Earl’s business has greatly fallen behind and he was facing a financial crisis. After a heated argument with his wife on how he missed his daughter’s graduation and even the wedding, Earl was headed out of the house. Nevertheless, one strange man approached him and told him to transport some cargoes which can earn him plenty of money. Earl easily agreed and that’s how he came to be the courier of illegal drugs.

There are two reasons why I believe this movie deserves some attention and views. First, it has a central theme of racism that is not outright spoken but can be clearly felt. Due to Earl’s identity as a white man, police officers didn’t bother to check his truck even after the dog has barked after the smell of the drugs. He easily believed Earl when he claims that the dog barks because of the liniment he applies to his hands for medication purposes. The second time the police officers arrested the two Hispanic bodyguards along with him but didn’t arrest Earl due to his race. The third time the police officers directly skipped Earl’s hotel room and only interrogated people of color.

The second reason is that although this movie mainly focuses on crime, its central theme is family. Earl never knows how important family is to him until he attended the performance of his granddaughter. The money he paid for her tuition is illegally earned, but it made him feel special and purposeful about being appreciated by his family members. When his wife Mary died, he deeply regrets the limited amount of time and attention he spent on her until she’s no longer with him.

Therefore, it is important that we recognize and cherish the people and things around us before they are gone.

-Coreen C.

The Mule is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

Amazon.com: No Country for Old Men (9780375706677): Cormac McCarthy: Books

The story takes place in the town of Rio Grande river, west Texas, USA, on the border with Mexico in 1980. A penniless former Vietnam war veteran, Llewelyn Moss, came across several dead bodies, a huge amount of heroin and a large amount of cash used to trade drugs while hunting. The dead were gangsters who had been shot in a firefight. Llewelyn immediately decided to leave the scene of the gun drug trafficking money to take home to hide. During the night, the nervous Llewelyn returned to the trading site. So far, sinister gang leader sends out cold-blooded killer Anton Chigurh, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, and Llewelyn launched the killing journey that pursues each other.

Moss gets in trouble for his lust for money, and his experience is representative of the universal human desire, and the constant pain and fear that comes with it. He reflects the good and evil side of human nature. The ending of the characters gives the world a lot of inspiration. People living in today can’t escape the temptation, who also have to face the temptation. Moss’s tragedy is undoubtedly a wake-up call for those who walk on the edge of desire. The most steadfast self-control is a powerful weapon against temptation. Temptation is the test of personal world outlook, outlook on life, values, moral character and other internal comprehensive quality, among which the most important one is virtue.

In the same circumstances, it is virtue that plays the fundamental role in why some people are able to survive and others are willing to perish. Therefore, in today’s society, everyone should strive to improve personal cultivation and self-protection awareness. At the same time, tempering desire is also key in the face of temptation. From the perspective of behavioral science, desire is a double-edged sword, reasonable and moderate desire is the basic psychological motivation to promote the development of social economy. The unrestrained selfish desire and evil thoughts will make people lose the true, the good and the beautiful and become the prisoners of material desire, and even become the root of evil.

The novel No Country for Old Men shows the dark side of American society, such as blood, violence and crime, attacks the anti-civilization phenomenon of excessive material desire and moral decay under the specific social and historical background, and expresses the sense of helplessness through the absence of heroes. Many Americans do not believe in heroes and worship money, indicating that they think money can bring them more security in life. Neither government nor personal heroes can be trusted. However, the author McCarthy still hopes to express his yearning for the peaceful and tranquil past of American society through allegorical novels, as well as his expectation of energetic heroes who can save human lives and souls.

A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes Book 1) - Kindle edition by Doyle,  Arthur Conan, Penzler, Otto. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @  Amazon.com.

“A Study in Scarlet” has a sophisticated narrative technique that is perfect. From the perspective of narrative layout, this novella is divided into two parts, with seven chapters in each part. The narrative sequence of the first part is as follows: Watson gets acquainted with Holmes — the reasoning method of Holmes — the murder happens — the police statement — the suspected murderer appears — the police statement — the murderer is caught. The second part is as follows: looking back to the past (that is, the motive of killing) — Watson supplement — Holmes explains the reasoning process. The whole narrative can be divided into three parts with the occurrence of the murder as the boundary. Before the crime, the first and second chapters are the chapters where the author sets up the characters to appear. Watson first learned about Holmes from a friend. His friend gave a very good summary of Holmes’s character in a few simple words, such as he was a strange man, a very decent man, his studies were messy, he was a little too hard on science, and so on. The role of this friend is to give Watson, and indeed the reader, an initial introduction to Holmes, and when the two meet and decide to share a room, the friend exits and disappears behind the scenes. The task of introducing Holmes to us fell to Watson. The author makes an ingenious shift of perspective, allowing Watson to amplify the magic of Holmes with several small events, such as knowledge table, argument with Holmes and reasoning on the identity of strangers.

In these two chapters, the narrator is not fixed. The narrative perspective constantly switches between Watson, his friend and Holmes, giving us a multi-dimensional understanding of the life situation and personality characteristics of Watson and Holmes. There are five chapters between the murder and the capture of the culprit. From the point of view of the complexity and brilliance of the narrative, this part of the content is undoubtedly the most worth tasting and analyzing. The author changed several narrators to make the plot more intense. When the postman brings a letter with information related to the murder, Holmes reads it and asks Watson to read it to him again. The letter is written by a policeman, Gregson, and read by Watson, who becomes the first narrator. Gregson, on the other hand, is the latent narrator. Then Holmes and Watson come to the scene of the crime. The two policemen again become the main narrators. By his own observations and the information provided by the police, Holmes got a preliminary understanding of the case. Then, the police officer who found the body described the discovery of the body as the main narrator, the police officer Gregson as the main narrator proudly announced his investigation process, Holmes as the main narrator confirmed to everyone that the dead died from taking poison, and caught the murderer. Basically, each chapter has a different narrator who tells the reader about the case from multiple perspectives.

When the police narrated the case as the narrator, Holmes supplemented the details that the police did not find as the second narrator. Such narration made the case complicated and confusing. All the people were in the fog, but Holmes had already reached the conclusion at this time. At this point, the murderer has been arrested, and is caught. This catches all the readers by surprise, for everyone, except Holmes, is in the dark. The criminal is suddenly caught, but the author does not explain to the reader how he killed, why he killed, and how Holmes learned who the criminal was. Normally, this would have been part of the first book, but Conan Doyle took a different tack, going back in time 30 years. The narrative space is transferred from London to the desert of North America. He tells us the motive of the murderer in the objective and calm third person with the content of five chapters. After going back through history, the author adds two more chapters. In the sixth chapter, after the first five chapters have laid the foundation for the motive of the murderer, Watson as the first narrator is actually the criminal Jefferson Hope as the second narrator to describe the criminal process in detail. At the end of chapter 7, when the criminal has died of illness, Holmes tells Watson his reasoning process. At this point, the whole novel really came to an end. Conan Doyle used dozens of narrators in “A Study in Scarlet”. The narrative perspective is constantly shifting from person to person (seemingly arbitrary, but actually carefully arranged by the author).

From the detective to the police, from the police to the criminal, and then to the author of the whole novel Watson. Conan Doyle weaves the whole story with the narrative structure of crime discovery, crime solving, crime story and reasoning process, which integrates love story, crime story, historical story and detective story, expands his creative horizon and greatly enriches the artistic charm of detective novel. From the irony and ridicule in the novel, we can also feel the skillful use of the narrative discourse, so that the listener can indirectly feel the thorns in the words through the derivation of the meaning. Such sarcasm actually attacks the face of the other party through narration, and it also plays an auxiliary role in the construction of the character image. It is in this way that the author gives us a description of a sharp, distinctive character of the detective image. Through the construction, metaphor and transformation of the narrative discourse, the author employs a lot of ink to render the characters of the three detectives, with the purpose of describing the incompetence and vulgarity of the official detective as a contrast to the wisdom and courage of the private detective. Moreover, the poor performance of these two detectives undoubtedly enhances the readability and entertainment of the novel, which enables the readers to enjoy the art of murder and achieve the artistic effect of relaxation after tension.

Film Review: Ocean’s Eleven

I love this movie so much! I’ve probably seen it over ten times, and would gladly watch it again. Sometimes, I’m just not in the mood to watch something dark and intense and ominous. I know there are countless other movies out there that aren’t dark and intense and ominous, but Ocean’s Eleven is always my default. It’s just so funny and clever! It’s actually a remake of the original Ocean’s Eleven (with Frank Sinatra). But when they released the remake, it did really well, so they made two more movies (Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen) which are equally as good and humorous. 

The movie starts out with Danny Ocean (played by George Clooney) who has just been released from prison (he was in for robbery). He immediately seeks out his friend, Rusty (played by Brad Pitt), and together, they begin formulating a plan to rob a a group of casinos in Las Vegas owned by a man named Terry Benedict. 

Although there are so many different characters (eleven on the team), I love all of their individual personalities and qualities. It’s actually really impressive that each character is developed so well as there are so many of them so props to the director! The plot of this movie is also really clever and well thought out. I love the twists and turns, and even though what they’re doing is pretty serious, the characters still seem to keep a light and humorous demeanor. 

This is definitely one of my favorite movies, and if you like funny heist movies, you should totally check it out!

-Elina T.

Oceans Eleven is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

TV Review: BBC’s Sherlock

Maybe we’re not all nearly as intelligent as Sherlock, but we can, at the very least, tune in and try to decipher and understand his thought process (even though we’ll most likely never succeed in this – his thought process is very complicated).

Sherlock Holmes has been acting as a consulting detective for the Scotland Yard Police Department in London for some time now, and has been very helpful in successfully solving many of their cases. He does, however, seem to lack the sort of emotion that most people have. In fact, he himself identifies as a sociopath. But this does not, in any way, inhibit his incredible ability of making amazingly accurate deductions and thinking far faster than even his own brain can follow. 

Because of his keen intellect and blunt demeanor, he comes off as a rude know-it-all to nearly everyone he meets. That is why it’s not surprising that Dr. John Watson, a veteran, is taken a bit off guard when he first encounters Sherlock and is asked if wants to share a flat despite the fact that he had only just met him. 

After getting over the initial shock of someone knowing so much about him by merely looking at him, John moves in with Sherlock at 221B Baker Street and promptly begins solving crimes with him. John turns out to be a very valuable asset in his contributions to investigations, but more importantly, Sherlock grows to care about him, which is most uncharacteristic of a sociopath. 

I think this is an excellent show, especially for people who like crime/mystery. It gives a unique, contemporary take by placing these original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in modern London, making it easier for people today to understand and relate to the familiar culture. It’s also got some really funny parts. The mysteries are always really well thought out, and I love how well and thoroughly they’re solved by Sherlock, John and Scotland Yard. I also like how there’s such a wide variety in the types of mysteries that they solve. No two of them are alike- they’re always very different so it never gets repetitive. 

This is an amazing, humorous, yet sophisticated show with great characters, intriguing crimes, and a suspenseful and thrilling story line that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s easily one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. 

-Elina T.

Season One of Sherlock is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Transparent by Natalie Whipple

Image result for transparent natalie whippleI’m a big fan of sci-fi books, and sometimes I want to read something set in the modern era. Transparent, by Natalie Whipple, is exactly that.

In the Cold War, an anti-radiation pill called Radiasure was invented due to fears of nuclear warfare between the United States and Russia. A couple years later, mutations started appearing, but they weren’t that strange. But through every generation, the mutations grew worse, even with babies that never had contact with Radiasure.

Fiona is an invisible girl, and the only invisible person in the world. Imagine living your whole life never being able to look into a mirror, and never knowing what you look like. She’s the daughter one of powerful people who controls Radiasure. Her mother decided to escape with Fiona at the beginning of the book, and go into hiding, to get away from Fiona’s father, who treats them as weapons, and not people.

Being the only invisible girl is hard for Fiona when she starts in her new school. Algebra doesn’t make sense to her, and has to be tutored by an annoying senior, Seth. She doesn’t trust anyone, even Brady, and Bea, the two people who try to be her friend. Instead, she emails one of her brothers, Miles, at lunch and tells him what’s going on. Fiona especially doesn’t trust her other brother Graham, who has taken her back to her father every time she has tried to escape. Graham is supposedly trying to help Fiona and her mother, but she doesn’t trust him and thinks that he’ll tell her father where she is.

Eventually, Fiona begins to trust Brady, Seth, Bea, and Bea’s brothers. But is she going to jeopardize her friends and her safety? Or can she live a normal life where her father can never find out? Read the book to find out!

I enjoyed this book, and I think that it’s a cool glimpse into what superhero powers can be like for normal humans. There is also a sequel, called Blindsided. I recommend this book to older teens who like sci-fi and superheros.

-Rebecca V.

Transparent by Natalie Whipple is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library