Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Book Review: Courage to Change by Elizabeth Maddrey

If you read my previous review of Elizabeth Maddrey's Wisdom to Know, then you know that, while the book was decent in and of itself, the ending left a bit to be desired.

I'm thrilled to say...the second book more than makes up for it.
Courage to Change shifts focus from the main couple of the original book, Lydia and Kevin, to Kevin's long-time attorney friend, Allison. She has a secret crush on her law firm partner Phil. But Phil comes with some pretty heavy baggage: a psychotic ex-wife. It's a part of his life he doesn't talk about much. Since getting saved and leaving the hard partying lifestyle they shared, Phil tried everything he could to salvage his marriage to Brandi. But Brandi would have none of it. She walked out on him and he was left with the stigma of divorce, a condition he believes makes him ineligible for remarriage.

When Allison finally works up the courage to even hint at the beginnings of a relationship, Phil quite literally runs away. Allison is left wondering what it is about her that seems to drive men away. After all, she's 27. Her parents expected her to be married and settled by now. Even her friends are beginning to mock her for holding onto her purity for so long instead of playing the field and having a little fun.

But Phil and Allison will be forced to draw closer together when they begin working with a client in some pretty extreme circumstances. Can Phil overcome the problems of his past? Can Allison overlook the emotional baggage that comes with loving a divorcee? Or will disapproving parents and a vengeful ex-wife tear them apart for good?
I really liked this book. It has a lot of the punch and drama that the first one was missing. Every other chapter has a new twist or angle to keep your interest. I actually listened to the audiobook version (because when you have 2 small kids, you can't take your eyes off them for a second) and found myself loath to turn it off whenever I got interrupted. Every time I thought I knew where the book was going, it would shift directions on me and keep me guessing.

I love the characters. They have so much personality and I feel as though I actually got to know them rather than just know about them. I did think Phil's belief of not being able to remarry was just a tad out of character for him. He is an attorney after all. I get the feeling the first thing he'd do after becoming a Christian would be to research everything to learn what is and isn't allowed. But I suppose I can chalk that one up to his brains running off with his emotions.

We do get to hear more about Lydia and Kevin as they plan their wedding. Lydia seems to have mellowed and matured a bit since the last book (a welcome change). And I really liked getting to know Lindsey, the pregnant teen that Phil and Allison are working with.
Not only does her portrayal give an accurate description of teenage pregnancy (fathered by a much older man, which is something my family actually knows a bit about) but it shows just how wonderful and beautiful adoption can be. As a friend to several women who either adopted children or were adopted themselves, and as a mother who hopes to adopt some day, it really does my heart good to see it shown in such a positive yet realistic light. It can be messy. It can certainly be painful. But it's almost always worth it. In a world where children are treated like disposable accessories, I'm glad there are authors out there willing to show that giving life is far more heroic than taking it. I almost found myself wanting to know more about Lindsey and her journey after the book ended. Maybe she'll get her own book some day. (Hint, hint!)

All in all, it was well written, action-packed, realistic while still being romantic (a tough balance to pull off), and a beautiful story about how a person's past may affect who they are, but it doesn't have to define or limit what they can become. An excellent read through and through.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Once Bitten, Twice Shy Cover Reveal

Time for another great cover reveal from the amazing Kelly Martin. I've not read this one yet, but you can bet I'll be publishing a review once I do!

Today is the official cover reveal for the very last Love in the 80s book from WaWa productions! 1989 finished out the decade in style, as does Kelly Martin's scandalous ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY. 




Nancy Corbin makes a living screwing with the minds of Nashville's less than upstanding men.

As the owner of the underground business, Once Bitten, Nancy makes it her mission to give scorned women the justice they deserve. She lures in the man who has wronged her client, flatters him with her considerable charms, then strikes. 

It's only business.

Until the ex-girlfriend of tabloid-proclaimed Romeo, Chad Harris, comes in. According to the ex, Chad is the worst Nancy has ever had the pleasure of manipulating. However, after their first encounter, Nancy isn't so sure.

As business becomes pleasure, will Nancy be able to finish the deal? Or will Chad prove to be more of a challenge than she ever realized?



ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY by Kelly Martin is on pre-order!
Get it for 99 cents for a limited time!
Book release: October 28th, 2016
Once Bitten, Twice Shy is a standalone story.

PRE-ORDER on Amazon:

PRE-ORDER will be on all online retailers soon.

Bio: Kelly Martin loves paranormal books, villainous characters, and the dark... but she can't sleep without a nightlight. She has been married for over ten years and has three rowdy, angelic daughters. When Kelly's not writing, she loves taking picture of abandoned houses, watching horror gamers on YouTube-- even though she's a huge wimp-- and drinking decaf white chocolate mochas. She's a total fangirl, loves the 80s and 90s, and has a sad addiction to Netflix.

If you ever have a question or comment, feel free to email her at kelly@kellymartinbooks.com ♥ You can follow her writing adventure at
http://www.kellymartinbooks.com/


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Top 10 Movie Soundtracks (Non-musicals)

Since I'm between books at the moment and was at a total loss for what movie to review (my days have largely been consumed by preschool programming, courtesy of my 3 year old son) I decided I needed to take a break from visuals and focus on the auditory. (I have to get that "Three Special Steps" song from Special Agent Oso out of my head somehow!)

So, I'm going to share my top 10 movie sounds tracks. This is going to be specifically from movies that aren't explicitly considered musicals (because, let's face it, they'd dominate the list) so any movie where characters dance about and burst into song is excluded (sorry, Beauty and the Beast and Prince of Egypt).


10. Kung Fu Panda 2

Not the last time DreamWorks will be on this list. I specifically chose the sequel because while the original did have some nice bits, the sequel really shines in it's musical quality. DreamWorks upped their game from the first one and took what was originally a remarkably silly concept (a fat dorky panda learning martial arts) and turned it into a genuine story that's almost adult in its maturity. And boy does it have a score to match! This is the kind of music I'd expect in an actual Chinese kung fu movie. With a distinctly Asian flavor throughout and a general feeling of enormous size and weight, it's a joy to listen to even if you've never seen the film.


9. The Incredibles

Not the last time Pixar will be on this list, either. If you love the thrill of first generation Bond-era spy flicks, not only will you love this tenderhearted thriller, but you'll love the score that accompanies it. The music is fast paced and frantic, conveying all the energy and excitement that a superhero movie should. It's not so light that you can't take it seriously, but not so heavy that it doesn't have a fun quirkiness to it. Composer Michael Giacchino infused 60s jazz with so much enthusiasm and action, you can't help but call it incredible.

8. Brave

Told you Pixar would be back. This Celtic flavored gem accompanied a mediocre (by Pixar standards) film, but it many ways it far outshines its source. The first few songs and a couple later in the album are lyrical and the rest is instrumental score. But all of it is positively gorgeous. Julie Fowlis's vocals are simply stunning to listen to. I could hear "Touch the Sky" again and again and still want to get up and dance a jig every time. I just hear this soundtrack and picture myself running through green picturesque glades chasing will-o'-the-wisps under a bright blue sky.

7. Guardians of the Galaxy

I know what you're thinking: 'Finally, a movie that isn't animated!" What can I say? I like what I like. And what I like...is 70s music. Ok, I like a lot of decades. Blame it on being raised by 2 generations of people. The movie's now-famous Awesome Mix was even released on LP vinyl and audio cassette (when's the last time you saw one of those?) and still managed to sell over 2.5 million copies. Whether you're rocking to "Cherry Bomb", grooving to "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", or jamming to "Hooked on a Feeling", I can almost guarantee that if you don't love this album...your parents probably will.


6. Home Alone

Yeah, the soundtrack is probably not the first thing you think of when it comes to this movie. Odds are you just picture a deranged psychopathic child inflicting untold pain (enough to kill his victims multiple times over, I might add) on a pair of bungling burglars. But if I played you the soundtrack and didn't tell you where it was from, you'd probably never guess until you got to the track "Somewhere In My Memory"...a song that will surely make you misty-eyed if you hear it around the holidays. Especially if you, yourself, happen to be home alone at Christmas.

5. Fireproof

An indie Christian film that most mainstreamers have probably never heard of or watched, Fireproof is more than just the story of one man's quest to become a better husband. It's also a movie with some really kickin' songs in it. Aside from the score, which is decent enough, there are some great songs you'll want to sing along to by some bands you probably already enjoy. Third Day's "This Is Who I Am", Casting Crowns' "Slow Fade", John Waller's "While I'm Waiting", Grey Holiday's "You Belong To Me" and Warren Barfield's "Love Is Not A Fight" will probably all find their way on to your favorites list by the time the credits roll. Sherwood Baptist's earlier film Facing the Giants might have had a good album, but Fireproof upped the ante and did it 10 times better.


4. Fantasia

Some of you may complain that this is technically a musical, but since no one gets to sing anything, I'm allowing it. I've already talked plenty about this movie previously, so I won't rehash it here. Suffice it to say, if you love classical music, you'll love this.

3. Back to the Future

I'm an 80s kid. So I'm naturally a bit biased about this particular film. My father wouldn't let Keith marry me until he'd seen all three films. It's a pretty big deal in our family. And the soundtrack accompanying the film just oozes 80s nostalgia. I remember the first time I felt really old in my life was when I was at a doctor's office and they were playing Huey Lewis and the News singing "Power of Love"...on the oldies station. I wanted to cry. Most of the rest of the lyrical songs are good, too. "Earth Angel" and "Johnny B. Goode" are classics of course. But the movie's theme itself is something else. This score just makes you want to go on an adventure. That's really the only way to describe it. It's fun, it's exciting, and it just reeks of adventure. If ever I see a DeLorean go by, this song is all I'm going to think of.

2. Pride and Prejudice

Another film I've talked about before, so I won't take too much time on it. If you want a soundtrack to take a long tub soak in...this is it. Enjoy those bubbles and a good book while you listen.


1. How to Train Your Dragon

This is by far and away my favorite non-musical movie score. I could listen to it over and over and over again. I literally never get tired of it. When I had a day job and felt like time was crawling, I put this album on and I was suddenly a LOT more motivated. It's got action, it's got danger, it has wonder and mystery...it's just awesome. The score just feels so huge and epic. There are pennywhistles and bagpipes and drums and just...gah! It's freakin' gorgeous! If you don't want to listen to the entire thing (and there's no reason on this planet why you shouldn't!) you should at least listen to the tracks entitled "Forbidden Friendship", "Test Drive", and "Romantic Flight". They're easily the most magical in the film.



And that's it! My top 10 non-musical movie soundtracks. I'll probably do one strictly for movie musicals down the road (bet you can all guess what #1 will be!) but this should tide you over for now. Enjoy the music and dance like you mean it!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Book Review: The Glass Coffin by Kelly Martin

OK, so, we come to the end of Kelly Martin's Shattered Fairy Tale series (or is it...?) and it's...ok. Yeah, just...ok. I'll get to why in a minute, but first, let's get the formalities out of the way.
So, we started hearing about Gertrude "Trudy" Dodsworth all the way back in Betraying Ever After, but at the time she seemed like a throwaway character; she was just someone for Emma to bounce off of. But now, she gets her own book. We get to find out where she disappeared to and why William Haddington (Vaughn's BFF) was acting so strangely at the ball where Emma and Vaughn met. Seems old Frederick Dodsworth turned Trudy and her mother out of the house in order to continue exacting his nefarious revenge on some former "friends" who wronged him...or at least that's how he sees it. To go into all the whys would probably spoil a good chunk of the book (and the series as a whole, really) so we'll just have to leave his reasoning at that. Trudy and her mother have taken up residence in Everdale...which is unfortunately the same town where William has also drifted to. Only neither of them are the same person anymore.

Trudy has become engaged to the haughty and borderline abusive Lawson Stockwell, a wealthy earl, for the sake of her ailing mother. And William? Well, he's done unspeakable things. Become an alcoholic. Lost his virtue. Oh, and set the fire that disfigured Nicholas Wellington, Duke (or Beast, depending on whom you ask) of Ravenston. It was never Will's intention to harm anyone. He just wanted to spite Dodsworth for refusing his suit to Trudy. But that worked out all the better for Dodsworth, who used that knowledge to help accomplish his evil schemes. Will was hoping to start over, live out a quiet life in solitude.

But when he sees Trudy and Stockwell arm in arm, his bitterness gets the better of him, and he does...some of the stupidest things out of any of the male leads in the series. But more on that in a minute.
 
To complicate matters, Nicholas (thanks to Dodsworth's intervention) is hot on Will's trail, seeking his own revenge. Of course, he 's torn, too. In his thirst for vengeance, he may very well lose Elizabeth, the woman he's come to love. But still he doggedly pursues William and decides that what Elizabeth doesn't know won't hurt her. And he'll make sure she never knows.

Can William redeem himself enough for Trudy to forgive him? Can Trudy escape a lifetime of potential abuse and mistreatment by a man she doesn't really love? Or will Nicholas satisfy his bloodlust and destroy everyone's happiness? Well, everyone but Dodsworth's, that is.
I....wanted to like this book more than I did. It had a lot of good moments (the finale was EXTREMELY satisfying for...reasons. #DodsworthGetsHis) but it also had a lot of cringe-worthy moments. I get that William is dealing with a lot of guilt, and guilt (and booze) clouds your judgment, but dang. For a guy who was once so upstanding, he really lets himself go. I honestly don't think even Vaughn would stoop so low. Love 'em and leave 'em, maybe. But William positively slums with the lowest of women (sometimes more than one at a time) and lives in the bottle. I wanted to reach into the book and slap the guy.

Trudy's plight is rather more sympathetic. She's spent her entire life under her father's thumb and she's only trying to do what's expected of her. At least her motivations were selfless. She's still woefully naive, but at least there's justification for it.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment in the book is that it doesn't really follow the formula much. I mean, it's obvious that the first book was Cinderella and the second was Beauty and the Beast. It's rather unfortunate that a book that is supposed to reflect Sleeping Beauty, at least a little, really didn't fit with that concept. I mean, it tied all the ends up nicely enough. And it sort of picks up on the original story at the tail end. I guess I just expected it to be tied to the source material a bit better. It felt kind of shoehorned in at the end.

That being said, there's still a LOT to like here. Everyone has their own personal struggles to deal with. None of the characters are one dimensional or boring. Mr. Everett and Mrs. Bea were positively ADORABLE and I would have liked to see more of them. But I suppose they came into the story at just the right time and stayed only as long as they needed to. As I've said, the ending is very satisfying, they bring back basically all of the characters from the rest of the series, and...you'll never look at a stable the same way again.

I'm not gonna lie. As hot as the library scene was in Beast of Ravenston...that stable scene was en fuego. They never cross the line into actually having sex...but they dance on that line. Vigorously. So if you're sensitive to that kind of thing...you may need to skip a couple chapters.
All in all, it was a decent book and did a nice job of tying up everything with a nice bow. Could it have been better? Eh...yeah. But it definitely could have been a lot worse. Besides...it's hard to top Beast of Ravenston. ;)

For more of Kelly Martin's books, check out her website at www.kellymartinbooks.com. You'll find info on her, her books, links to all her social media (which you should subscribe to all of them, just so you can bask in her epicness in every possible forum), and all that other fun stuff.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Where in the World is Carm-...I mean, The Media Mom?

You're probably wondering why the blog went dark a few months ago. (Or no one actually reads this thing and I'm just talking to myself. In either case, HI!)
I know I've been as elusive as the infamous thief. But I can explain. Really!
To make a long story as short as possible, we sold our house (literally within 72 hours of listing it), packed up all our earthly goods, and moved a thousand miles away. That's not an exaggeration. It literally is a thousand miles away. That's right! This Florida city chick is now a certified North Carolina country girl. I mean, we got deer and everything.
In my yard, no less!
Obviously with packing a house, moving across country, unpacking a house, updating all the necessary stuff, and potty training a preschooler (yay, me), watching movies and reading books and writing about them totally got put on the back burner. And it took ages to find all my computer parts because in my rush top pack everything, some of it may have gotten disorganized. I still don't have speakers.

But, I'm back, the boys are on a (somewhat) normal schedule, and I even have a little time for pleasure reading again. (Not much, but some.)

So I'll definitely have all sorts of goodies coming down the pike for you. I still have to do a review of Kelly Martin's third Shattered Fairy Tale The Glass Coffin and I've got a few other posts in the works. Just bear with me as I try to put my life (and my PC) back together after so much upheaval. Your patience will be rewarded.
Because what isn't made better with an Alton Brown meme, amiright?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Book Review: Wisdom to Know by Elizabeth Maddrey

When a pastor's daughter goes completely off the rails, she feels as though she's ruined her chances at life, love, and forgiveness. But God has a way of bringing His own back to Him, and sometimes He uses tough love to do it. The road back for a prodigal is never easy, and it's never a journey that can be completed alone. This is a lesson that Lydia Brown, her family, and her friends are going to learn firsthand.

*SPOILERS ABOUND*

When Lydia goes on a quest to marry the perfect guy (while completely ignoring the one right in front of her) she compromises her convictions and convinces herself that it was a worthy sacrifice if she ends up married to a powerful political hopeful. But when her pseudo-fiancé severs all ties afterward, and Lydia ends up pregnant, it seems there's only one option: abortion. It's an idea she's fought against her entire life. And now, it seems to be her only way out. If her friends and family knew she wasn't really the perfect Christian girl they all imagined her to be, they'd reject her for sure. And so she goes and does the most detestable thing she's ever done. It's the first of many compromises on a downward path to destruction.

Through it all, her best guy friend Kevin (who's only been hopelessly in love with her for practically forever) can't seem to figure out why Lydia is growing more and more distant. He's felt for ages that God had meant for them to be together. He's waited patiently as she's gone through boyfriend after boyfriend. But Lydia shows no signs of pursuing Kevin. And Kevin's all but given up pursuing her in return. Little does he know, he may be the only one able to bring her back from the brink.

Can Kevin ever forgive Lydia if he finds out her secret? Can Lydia ever forgive herself? Is there any sin so great that even God cannot forgive?

This book speaks to me on a lot of very personal levels. Primarily it is a book about one woman's recovery from the horror of abortion. But part of that process involves running away from life and burying herself in drug addiction. This hit very close to home for me, since my own father had been a drug addict for a number of years. Like Lydia, prescription narcotics was his drug of choice at one point. Many people talk about what the addict haS to deal with during withdrawals. But few touch on what the family has to deal with. The disappointment, constant worry, and fear that one false move could end a life weigh heavy on our minds. I think the book captures that essence brilliantly.

The book is also very accurate to the abortion recovery process. Having worked closely with a few pregnancy resource centers, I know full well the mental and physical consequences of abortion on a woman. Recovery is a tough road. But praise be to God, it is a possible one. There truly is no sin so great that our Father cannot forgive, if only we would ask.

And forgiveness has to come from more than God. On the one hand, family and friends must be willing to forgive. Of all Lydia's allies, Kevin struggles the most with the concept. It's understandable. After all, he's had Lydia on a pedestal for most of his natural life. It takes courage to step back and accept her as a flawed human being just as in need of love and forgiveness as any other. And such courage doesn't develop overnight. But Lydia, too, must come to forgive herself. And when you don't feel worthy of forgiveness, it's a bitter pill to swallow.

This is another area that hit very close to home. While I never had as severe a problem as drug addiction or an abortion, I did struggle with an addiction to perfectionism for years. Thinking that I was unworthy of forgiveness drove me into a deep depression, to the point of more than one suicide attempt. It took the Spirit of God to save me from myself and teach me what grace really was all about. I was right, of course. I was unworthy of forgiveness. But worthy or not, God was offering it to me anyway. Once I finally embraced that in my heart, I came to realize a very important thought: who am I to deny myself forgiveness if God doesn't deny it? Am I better than God? Why then should I presume to know better than He about who should and shouldn't be forgiven? That thought has made a world, nay, an eternity of difference in my life.

As interesting as Lydia's and Kevin's respective journeys are though...the most interesting couple in the book was their best friends Matt and Laura. I found myself wanting to read more about them! Their relationship history is only hinted at here and there throughout the book, but I'd seriously love a spinoff book about those two. It's rare to find such a true-to-life married couple in a work of fiction, and they were just oozing chemistry. They remind me very much of myself and my husband.

I do have one gripe, though. While the emotions portrayed in the book are very strong...the ending isn't. The last few chapters feel so rushed and predictable, I could see the ending long before I even got there. For a book that's supposedly all about drama and conflict, I was expecting the ending to have more drama than it did. As it stands, it's extremely anticlimactic. And that's a real shame. The finale had the potential to be something spectacular, but it just sort of fizzled out and came grinding to a halt. If I had my druthers, I'd rewrite the ending almost completely. It's a huge dent in what was an otherwise very good book.

Criticisms aside, though, if you're looking for a book that gives a painfully real exploration on what the after effects of abortion can be like, I recommend giving it a read.
For more books by and information about Elizabeth Maddrey, you can check out her website at elizabethmaddrey.com. And don't forget to stalk her (virtually, of course!) on Facebook.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Prince of Egypt: An Underrated Classic

Whether you're a Christian, a Jew, or some other faith completely, odds are you've at least heard the Exodus story. It's been portrayed in everything from a cinematic epic to a Rugrats episode to an animated musical.

I know what you're thinking. Death. Destruction. Large-scale natural disasters. Hardly Disney-esque animated musical fodder. (Then again, have you seen Bambi? Yikes.) But when fledgling DreamWorks animation decided to make their very first (well, technically second, but the actual first one is a rather long story for another post, so suffice it to say, their first original) animated film, that's the subject matter they chose. It was a bold risk. But did it pay off?

Did. It. Ever.

The result was nothing short of a breath-taking artistic masterpiece, and one that I feel is grossly under appreciated. So, just in time for Passover (this weekend, y'all), let's dive in to The Prince of Egypt.

If you've read the book of Exodus (or seen The Ten Commandments), you know the story. But I'm gonna rehash it again anyway. Because it's my blog, that's why. And because it's a story that's always worth telling again.

Pharaoh of Egypt feels threatened by the growing Hebrew population, so he sentences all the Hebrews to slavery and all their baby boys to death. But one mother saves her child by setting him adrift in a basket in the river. The boy is adopted by Pharaoh's daughter...or...wife, I guess, in this version. (The film has some glaring historical inaccuracies, for sure. Would I have appreciated having a more accurate film? Yeah. But... I'm not gonna chuck out the baby with the bathwater on his one. The left-out bits, slight truth fudges, and over exaggerations aren't enough to distract from the spirit of the story.) And Moses grows up in Pharaoh's household as a prince of Egypt, second to Rameses, his older brother.

As they come of age, Rameses is having difficulty gaining his father's approval while Moses seems content to be a care-free goof-off pulling pranks and getting into mischief. But despite his immaturity, Moses does truly want to see his brother succeed. They have a close bond. And even though Moses always ropes Rameses into his trouble, he's always around to get them out of it again.

But a chance encounter with Moses' biological siblings Aaron and Miriam reveals Moses' true heritage. He's not a prince of Egypt at all, but the son of Hebrew slaves. Moses flees to the palace but in the midst of his identity crisis discovers that it's all true and that the man he calls father really did order the slaughter of countless baby boys- a number Moses should have, by all accounts, been part of. Later, as Moses witnesses an Egyptian officer beating a Hebrew slave, Moses attacks and kills the official (by accident in the film, very much deliberately in real life). Fearing for his life, and convinced he could never really belong to the royal line given his ancestry, Moses opts to run away. He doesn't exactly know where he's going. He just sort of races into the desert.

Eventually he comes across the Midianites where he meets up with Tzipporah, a woman he had previously been introduced to in Egypt. She had been meant as a concubine for him, but he opted to let her escape, impressed by her fierce independence. He's accepted into the Midianite clan and becomes friends with Jethro, priest of Midian and Tzipporah's father. Jethro makes Moses into a shepherd, he and Tzipporah eventually develop a relationship and marry, and Moses settles into a quiet humble life with just his wife and his flock.
But Moses can't retire just yet. While watching the sheep one day, Moses encounters God. Not any Egyptian god, but the God of his ancestors. The Creator of the Universe. The Great I AM. True, at the moment...He looks an awful lot like a flaming bush. But stranger things have happened. God tells Moses that He has heard the cry of the Hebrews and is sending Moses to speak to Pharaoh and demand their freedom. Moses isn't too keen on the plan, but how do you say no to God?

And so Moses packs up his family, heads back to Egypt, and prepares for a confrontation with the man he once called brother. The most powerful man in the known world. Rameses.
It's quite a literal face-off.
I'm assuming you know how this story ends, but for the 1 person in the universe who hasn't heard it... oh, good grief! Just go read the book of Exodus and come back. All caught up? Yes? Good.

The two men who were once brothers are now forced to become bitter enemies. Moses is doing the work of God in trying to free his people. Rameses is trying to live up to his father's legacy of strength and unyielding power. It's a perfect standoff of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. But unlike the dead gods of Egypt, the God of the Hebrews can move mountains. And turn rivers into blood, flood the earth with frogs and flies and lice and all sorts of other nasties...heck, He can even make it hail fire. Let's see Ra pull that one off, eh?
Through all these plagues and more, Rameses hardens his heart and refuses to grant the Hebrews their freedom. But there's another plague coming. And this one hits very close to home. Just as Seti ordered all the Hebrew boys to die, the first born son of all the Egyptians will die. The Hebrews are charged to slaughter a lamb and paint their doorposts with its blood as a sign to the angel of death to pass over them. No one is safe unless they are covered by the blood (sound familiar, hmm?) even Rameses. Despite Moses' pleading with Rameses to surrender and prevent this horrible tragedy, Rameses holds his stance and determines that because of Moses' meddling, maybe Seti didn't go far enough with the slaughter of the Hebrews. Moses resigns himself to the fact that the catastrophe that follows is Rameses own doing.That same night, all the unprotected firstborns die. When Moses goes to see his grieving brother, who is mourning the death of his own son, Rameses bitterly tells Moses to take his people,leave Egypt, and never come back.

This should be a moment of celebration and victory of Moses. But it isn't. He's heartbroken that his brother has brought such destruction on himself and countless others and wishes he could have convinced Rameses otherwise before it came to this. He's frustrated that his brother's own stubbornness has caused such mass suffering. And he misses the heart of the best friend he once knew- a heart that has now turned cold as ice in hatred toward him.

The Hebrews gather their few belongings and make their way to the seaside for a brief respite. But it is not to last. Rameses has once again had a change of heart. Content to no longer simply let them be, he seeks vengeance. The Hebrews are helplessly trapped between Rameses' army and the sea.

I say helplessly. But that isn't true. For God is always a helper to His people. He blocks the army with a pillar of fire and parts the sea clear down the middle, allowing the Hebrews to pass over on dry ground. But it isn't long before the army is on their heels. As the Hebrews reach the other side, the walls of water begin to cave in. The army is drowned, and Rameses is thrown back against the opposite shore. With no more army and no more slaves, he has witnessed the downfall of the greatest empire the earth had known to that point. All he can do is curse Moses' name to the heavens.
I just wanted top put this gif here because it's awesome.
For his part, Moses' journey is far from over. He may have escaped the wrath of Rameses, but he still has several million people to lead through a desert to the promised land. He leaves his heart for his brother at the seaside and continues onward to a mountain where God Himself writes down some very specific instructions. Moses comes down from the mountain to deliver God's message to his people. But that's another film entirely. (One they'll never make, I'm afraid. Which is a shame because I'm sure given the nature of what really happened...and modern society's thirst for violence and irony, it would make a great movie. As far as Israel's history goes, the next 40 years would be repetitious as heck. Ok, more like the next 400 years, but who's counting?)
Oh, yeah. And...there's that.
There is so much to love about this film. It was an ambitious project from the get-go. The last time it had even been attempted on this scale was Cecil B. DeMille's classic The Ten Commandments. And that movie was huge, even by today's standards. To try and make an animated musical out of it...it took some serious guts. But the end result was brilliant. Like I said...there were some inaccuracies. The entire part of the story where Moses is nursed by his own mother thanks to Miriam's intervention was completely dropped, Moses' son was written out. His conversation with God was very abbreviated, as were his conversations with Rameses. But, on the whole, the message was still there. That God looks out for His people and can use anyone, even a man like Moses, who was likely spoiled, a murderer, a fugitive, and all-told, a bit of a screw-up. A man slow of speech and short of temper (it may not have shown in the film, but real-life Moses was VERY short-tempered. In fact, it was that very temper that prevented him from entering the promised land he'd worked so hard to get to. But that's another post.). And he became the most significant prophet the Jews ever had. (At least until a guy named John shows up a thousand-ish years later. But that's also another post.)

Aside from the story, the acting is great. Well...most of it. Val Kilmer and Ralph Fiennes both blow everyone else out of the water in this film. And Val not only had to play Moses, but God, too! Some of the rest of the cast...eh. I get that they were trying to bring a lot of A-listers to the table. But Sandra Bullock, Jeff Goldblum, Patrick Stewart, Steve Martin and Martin Short....tried. You can tell they really did. But they just didn't seem to fit. They didn't "become" the character (which is particularly shocking since both Stewart and Bullock are GREAT at that in live action films). This is one reason why I much prefer to leave voice acting to the voice actors. They know how to wear a character vocally, a task not always easy to do, especially if you're used to acting on stage or screen, playing off of other actors, not recording your lines in a booth by yourself. People with acting experience know what I'm talking about. But their performances aren't enough to kill this film completely. It's a minor distraction. That's all.

The art in this film is positively stunning. I mean even the layouts are fantastic. It may be hand drawn animation...but it feels like an epic. Just look at the size and grandeur of this thing!


A real feast for the eyes. It takes a lot of talent to make ink and paint on a piece of paper look this huge.

But perhaps the most amazing thing about this entire film is the music. It is my second-favorite movie soundtrack. (The other, oddly enough, also belongs to another DreamWorks film. But that's another post.) First of all, they actually have real Hebrew in some of the songs which truly adds an authentic flavor to the music. The fact that Ofra Haza, an actual Israeli singer, plays Yocheved just adds to that fact. But everything from the opening chorus number "Deliver Us" to the joyous celebration that is the song "Heaven's Eyes" to the point-counterpoint of "Let My People Go" just fits perfectly within the frame of the story. Even the orchestral theme they use for God is sort of out-of-this-world. A mix of mystery, majesty and wonder. Usually whenever I watch the film, I can't get it out of my head for several days. So I'll pass that joy on to you. You're welcome.

All told, minor issues aside, this film is a classic. At least, it is to me. The music is great, the story is great, even the art is great. If you're not going to a Seder this Passover, or heck, even if you are, gather the family around and give it a watch. It's a great reminder that there can indeed be miracles when you believe, and sometimes, even when you don't. Because we serve an awesome God. And He can do anything.

Oh, and Pesach Sameach. (That's "Happy Passover".)