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Tag Archive: Abraham Lincoln


i-am-jane-goodall

Do you remember your first book?  Was it Grover and the Monster at the End of This Book?  Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore’s Birthday?  A Child’s Garden of Verses?  De Angeli’s Book of Nursery & Mother Goose Rhymes?  The Pokey Little Puppy?  Milton the Early Riser?  Horton Hears a Who?  The Little Golden Book of Manners?  The Five Chinese Brothers?  The Ugly Duckling?  Curious George Goes to the Hospital?  I remember all of these (all recommended), but am not sure which was my very first.  A Child’s Garden of Verses was my first exposure to 3D via its magical lenticular cover.  I’ve read them all years later and they have much in common–compassion and respect for others and yourself is a common theme of them all.

Throughout the past year Brad Meltzer, noted fiction and non-fiction author and television personality (and DC Comics writer for the Identity Crisis and Green Arrow series) joined former Marvel Comics artist Christopher Eliopoulos to produce the Ordinary People Change the World series of books for young readers from Dial/Penguin/Random House.  Each of these could–or should–be your child, your nephew, niece, grandchild, or other young friend’s first book.  The latest, released this month, feature Dr. Jane Goodall and President George Washington.  As the holidays get closer, make a note of I Am Jane Goodall.   It’s a storybook written in an autobiographical style incorporating actual quotes from the noted scientist, environmentalist, and animal rights advocate, and belongs at the top of our recommendation list for today’s young readers.

jane-goodall-with-book

Meltzer and Dr. Goodall have gone back to young Goodall’s decisions and thinking as a child to relate to readers her influences, desires, and dreams, and how she went about carving a path to change the world.  Eliopoulos draws Dr. Goodall as an adorable girl throughout.  We meet her first stuffed chimp named Jubilee, and witness her thinking about moving to Africa to study chimpanzees at a young age, then actually saving the money to go to Kenya at 23 to visit the animals, meet Dr. Louis Leakey and eventually work for him, then to go on and live among the animals and learn more about communication and primates than anyone before her.  The story is sweet, inspiring, and beautifully written and drawn.

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prideprejudiceszombies

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a classic story in possession of fans must be in want of retelling.  Likewise, that if that story is a novel, it should also thence be made into a film.  And if you can find a way to put zombies in, wins all around.

Thus, writer/director Burr Steers’ new Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, based on the eponymous 2005 novel “co-written” by Seth Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter) and Jane Austen.  Cleverly packaged to release in time for Valentine’s Day, the film is a sure winner for date night: costumes; romance; actors in various states of fetching undress; violence; girls with swords; shambling, oozing undead in fetching period costumes; and powerful women with estates and eyepatches.  And Matt Smith.  Need I say more, really?

As a version of Pride and Prejudice, PPZ is probably below average, and relies on the viewer’s familiarity with the story, since much of the film’s 108-minute runtime must be given over to worldbuilding and action sequences (although fans of the 1995 A&E adaptation will be rewarded with plenty of homages, especially with respect to Mr. Darcy).  Prideful Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James, Cinderella) and disdainful Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) have even less onscreen chemistry than Austen’s off-again, off-again lovers normally display–but they more than make up for it with their zombie-fighting prowess.  Lizzie’s intolerable-yet-lovable family is neither interesting enough nor loathsome enough to inspire much response from the viewer; thank goodness for the zombies to give us something to care about.

PPZ zombie

As a zombie film, it’s probably also less than what the average zombie flick fan is looking for.  There are the requisite scenes of shambling hordes, rotting flesh, and brain-eating, but it’s somewhat tame thanks to the PG-13 rating, and in comparison to so many other recent zombie properties.  In fact, it’s actually a credit to the filmmakers that they didn’t try to outdo the competition with their zombie horde, and instead showed a certain 19th century refinement and restraint in the presentation.

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Ben Walker as Lincoln

Would the real Abraham Lincoln please stand up?

With all that has been written and all the photographs we have of Abraham Lincoln, moviemakers keep trying to convey their own visions of the one and true 16th U.S. president.  Americans have such a revered image of Lincoln that Hollywood has rarely portrayed him.  Famed director John Ford’s brother Francis played Lincoln in a 1913 production called When Lincoln Paid.  In 1930 Walter Huston, father of famed director John Huston, portrayed Lincoln in D.W. Griffith’s Abraham Lincoln.  But the two best-known and best-loved performances were by Henry Fonda in John Ford’s 1939 production of Young Mr. Lincoln, and Raymond Massey in 1940’s Abe Lincoln in Illinois.  In 2012 we saw two major movies with Lincoln as the lead character, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln starring Oscar nominee Daniel Day-Lewis, and Benjamin Walker as a younger Lincoln in Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.  The latter was dismissed by critics as fluff for the most part, instead heaping praise on the big Spielberg film.  This is unfortunate, because in any other year Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter might have received a better reception.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter poses the purely fantasy idea that Abe Lincoln was not only a politician and patriot but an apprentice hunter cleaning up the countryside to avoid the spread of vampires throughout the U.S. before and during the Civil War.  Gettysburg wasn’t just about conquering the Southern rebellion, it was about defeating the vampire-laden confederacy.

abraham-lincoln-vampire-hunter

Where Daniel Day-Lewis opted to play Lincoln as craggy and gruff, more so than Raymond Massey portrayed him in Abe Lincoln in Illinois, Benjamin Walker’s take is much closer to Henry Fonda’s pleasant and forthright everyman from Young Mr. Lincoln.  Despite Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter offering up an admittedly male, historical version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, director Timur Bekmambetov went well beyond what you’d normally find in a film so blatantly tied to a gimmick, that of screenwriter/novelist Seth Grahame-Smith following up his earlier well-received mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  In fact, pushing aside for a moment the vampire hunting, the film offers an admirable view of the president, and in particular his relationship with Mary Todd.  And that is saying a lot for a film that is part axe-waving and vampire killing.

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If this film doesn’t scream Oscar nominee I don’t know what will.  And no, we’re not talking about the film about Lincoln as a Vampire Hunter.  This afternoon Steven Spielberg released the first trailer for his film Lincoln, a big-screen account of the last days of President Lincoln and the U.S. Civil War.

Check out the supporting cast: Sally Field (The Amazing Spider-man), Tommy Lee Jones (Men in Black, Captain America), David Strathairn (Alphas, Memphis Belle, Sneakers), Hal Holbrook (The Fog, Into the Wild, All the President’s Men), Bruce McGill (Star Trek Voyager, Animal House), Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Dark Knight Rises, Looper), Jared Harris (BBC’s Sherlock)… Continue reading

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