Book & Movie Review: The Help

Book Review:  The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

the-help-cover

My Rating:  ***** (5 out of 5 Stars)

Why Did I Read?

I bought this book at a library book sale years ago.  I saw the movie with some friends from a book club when the movie first came out, but I had not read the book.  This summer, I decided I wanted to read something easier than the self-help books I usually read, so I pulled this off my book shelf.  It pretty much took me all summer to read, but I’m glad I did.  When I finished the book, I went to the library and got the movie to watch again.

Summary (from Goodreads)

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step….

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women–mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends–view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope,The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

What Did I Think/Recommendation

This book took me much longer to read than I had anticipated, but I really liked it a lot, and I learned a lot from it.

This book taught me a lot about the relationships between blacks and whites in the South in the 1960’s.  It really opened my eyes to the cruelty and injustice that existed during that time.  This book reminds me of how far we have come in working towards eliminating inequality and racism.  There is still much progress to be made, but I think this book and movie helps to bring us one step closer to that.

I really came to love and admire the courage of many of the characters in this book.  I liked the way the chapters switched between the perspectives of the 3 main characters:  Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny.  Two of these characters are black, and one is white.  Each of these characters provides her own stories of life in the South during that time, and I admire the way each of them was willing to risk everything to fight for equality and a better life for all.

Thoughts on the Movie

I thought the movie was really well done!  It followed the book closely.  I saw the movie when it first came out.  I had not yet read the  book, and I did not understand a lot of the little details.  When I watched the movie again after reading the book, the details stood out and made much more sense.  I would definitely recommend both the book and the movie!  My daughters (aged 13, 12, and 9) all watched the movie with me, and they all enjoyed it as well.

My Favorite Quote from The Help:

the-help-quote

Aibileen, one of the black maids, said this often to Mae Mobley, the little girl she was caring for.  If nothing else, she wanted to teach her this important truth about herself.  I believe everyone should be taught to believe this about themselves.

For more reviews on The Help, visit Goodreads.

Movie Review: The Best of Me

The Best of Me Movie

My Rating:  **** (4 out of 5 stars)

Why Did I Watch?

I honestly can’t remember the last time I watched a movie before this one.  It has been several months at least, but sometimes I just need to slow down and give my brain and my body a rest and take in a good movie.  That’s what I needed last night.  It was a cool and rainy Wednesday evening, and I was feeling especially tired.  While my husband was working on his computer and my girls were watching one of their favorite shows, I snuck upstairs into my bed with my laptop around 7pm and searched for a good drama on Netflix.

The Best of Me was the first movie that came up when I searched for dramas.  I liked the cover, so I didn’t bother to look further for a different movie.  Of course I have heard you’re not supposed to judge a book or movie by it’s cover, but I usually do anyway.  And, my intuition is usually pretty good at finding the good ones.  I don’t watch a lot of movies, and my time is precious to me so I don’t want to waste it on those that don’t mean anything to me.  I certainly didn’t feel this one was a waste of my time!  It was just what I needed to help me unwind on a rainy autumn evening.

Summary

Amanda and Dawson were high school sweethearts.  After 21 years, they are reunited when they return to their hometown for the funeral of a mutual friend.

Watch the trailer here.

What Did I Think?

Nicholas Sparks has done it again!  He writes the most beautiful love stories, and this one is no exception.  Whenever I’m feeling that my brain is on overload from reading too many deep non-fiction books, I’ll take a break and read one of his novels.

When I decided to watch this, I had no idea it was a Nicholas Sparks movie.  When I saw his name come up on the screen, I knew right away it was just the type of movie I was looking for.

I thought The Best of Me was right up there with The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, and the other love stories Nicholas Sparks has written.  I’m not a fan of the violence, though, and that is why I only gave it 4 stars out of 5.  The violence certainly adds to the suspense, but I just don’t like feeling scared when I’m watching a movie.  Dawson comes from an abusive family. Throughout the movie, I kept waiting for his family members to come up out of nowhere and attack him, and I didn’t like that feeling.  The love story, however, is beautiful.  I believe there are no accidents in life, and this story supports that belief.  It is about love and fate and everything working together perfectly just as the universe intended.  I definitely recommend it if you are a fan of love stories and tear-jerkers.

Find out more about The Best of Me at IMDb here.

Movie Review: The Lorax

The Lorax

lorax

My Rating ***** (5 out of 5 stars)

Earth Day is coming up on April 22!  I love Earth Day, and I think The Lorax is the perfect movie to celebrate Earth Day.  The Lorax focuses on the importance of respecting and protecting the environment…a message I think is so important and something we all need to be reminded of every once in a while.  The Lorax is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I love that it is a movie the whole family can watch together.  For the past few years, we have watched it every year on Earth Day…it has become a tradition the whole family looks forward to!

Summary

Ted is a 12-year-old boy who lives in Thneedville, a walled city where everything is artificial.  Ted is seeking the one thing that will win him the affection of Audrey, the girl of his dreams who wishes to see a real tree. To find it, he must discover the story of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world.  Find a more detailed summary here.

Watch the trailer here.

Here is my favorite quote from the movie:

lorax quote

Movie Review: Food, Inc.

Food, Inc.

Food Inc cover

My Rating **** 4 out of 5 stars

Why Did I Watch?

I find food documentaries fascinating.  Since I started becoming more health conscious, I have taken an interest in knowing exactly WHAT it is I am eating and WHERE my food is coming from.  This is a perfect movie to watch if you want to discover the truth about food in America.  I recently saw it available streaming on Netflix, so I decided to watch it again.

Summary

Have you ever wondered where supermarket food really comes from?  If so, Food, Inc. is a must see!  The movie takes a close look inside America’s supermarkets, slaughterhouses, chicken houses, and more to reveal the truth about our nation’s food industry.  Here are a few highlights I took away from the movie:

  • The industry doesn’t want you to know the truth about what you’re eating…because if you knew, you might not want to eat it.
  • Our food is coming from enormous assembly lines where the animals and the workers are being abused.  And the food has become much more dangerous in ways that are being deliberately hidden from us.
  • The modern American supermarket has on average 47,000 products.  It may seem like a large variety of choices, but in reality, there are only a few companies involved and only a few crops involved.  Michael Pollan followed that food back to its source, and he always ended up in the same place…a cornfield in Iowa.  Most of the processed items in the supermarket can be traced back to corn or soy in one form or another.
  • There are only a handful of companies controlling our food system.  The top 4 beef packers control 80% of the beef market.
  • Processed foods are cheaper than produce, leading consumers to purchase the unhealthy foods.
  • Foods are being engineered to lengthen shelf life.
  • There is an overabundance of corn in the US.  Animals, and even fish, are being fed corn even though it is not their natural diet.
  • Research indicates that feeding cattle a high corn diet results in E.coli that are acid resistant.  These are the more harmful E.coli.
  • Regulatory agencies are being controlled by the very companies they are supposed to be scrutinizing.
  • In the 1970’s, there were thousands of slaughterhouses in the US.  Today, there are only 13 that process the majority of beef that is sold in the US.
  • Meat packing is one of the most dangerous jobs in America.  Many of the workers are illegal immigrants.  The government is arresting the workers, but nothing is happening to the company for hiring them.
  • Processed foods contribute to obesity and health issues.
  • It is against the law to criticize the food industry’s foods.
  • Monsanto created and patented a Genetically Modified soybean seed.  By 2008, over 90% of soybeans in the US contained this patented gene.
  • There are virtually no public seeds anymore.  Monsanto sues farmers for saving seeds.

What Did I Think? / My Recommendation

I found this documentary to be extremely eye-opening.  In my opinion, anyone who eats food in America should watch this.  While it did not turn me into a vegetarian, it did steer me away from buying the products of the big name companies mentioned in the movie.  I first watched this movie about 2 years ago, and I have not knowingly purchased one product by those companies since.  Every time we buy an item of food, we are voting.  I have chosen to vote with my dollar, and I encourage others to do the same.

I was surprised to learn that our government is more concerned about protecting the food industry than it is about protecting our health.  That is very concerning to me, and just reinforces to me that we need to be the ones to take the initiative to educate ourselves and pay attention to WHAT we are eating by closely reading ingredient labels.  The best way to know where your food is coming from is to buy local and seasonal whenever possible.  Or better yet, grow your own garden!

Overall, I applaud everyone who had a hand in the making of this movie because the truth about America’s food industry needs to be known.  I am going to do my part by continuing to spread the word and vote with my dollar.  If everyone does the same, we can make a difference!

As an additional note, if you want to go more in depth on any of the topics mentioned in the movie, I would highly recommend reading the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  The book is not an easy read as it is EXTREMELY thorough, but if you are looking for more details on any of these topics, I feel the book is a perfect companion to the movie.

For more information about the movie, additional reviews, and information about where to find the movie, check it out on IMDb here.

Movie Review: Life of Pi

Life of Pi MovieMy Rating:  **** 4 out of 5 Stars

Why Did I Watch?

Life of Pi is a movie that was recommended to me by a few good friends.  They told me the story was very deep and spiritual, and they both thought I would enjoy it.

Summary

To VERY briefly summarize the story:  Pi Patel, a teenage boy, spends 227 days drifting across the Pacific Ocean in a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger.  In this very spiritual journey, he must let go of his prior religious beliefs and ways of living and learn to come to terms with new ways in order to survive.  For a much more in-depth review, Roger Ebert summarizes and reviews the story beautifully here.

Watch the trailer here:

What Did I Think/Recommendation?

I watched this movie with my entire family.  At first, none of them were interested.  If it’s a movie mommy was interested in watching, they didn’t think it was one they would like.  My husband read the summary on the back of the DVD and said it wasn’t a movie for him, either.  But as I watched it, they all stayed in the room with me doing their own thing.  One by one, I noticed them put down their devices and pay more attention to the movie.  By the middle of the movie, everyone was completely into it.  My 7-year-old even asked to watch it again the next night!  Overall, we all loved the movie!  I agree it was very spiritual and very deep, and there were some things we didn’t understand after only watching once.  I am hoping to read the book soon to gain a better understanding.  I thought it was a wonderful family movie, I thought the cinematography and visual effects were AMAZING, and I would highly recommend it.  Here is my favorite quote from the movie:

Life of Pi Quote2

Movie Review: Fed Up

I just watched the Food Documentary “Fed Up” last night, and I thought it was REALLY good!

Fed Up Movie Cover

My Rating ***** 5/5 stars

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I watched this movie because I really enjoy food documentaries.  I find them inspiring, and they motivate me to want to eat healthier.  My friend told me her 7th grade son saw the movie in school, and it really had an impact on him.  So, I decided to check it out at my local library, and I’m glad I did! 🙂

Summary

Fed Up is a 2014 food documentary film.  It focuses on the causes of obesity in America.  Evidence is presented to show how sugar and processed foods contribute to obesity.  The main message of the movie is to encourage people to minimize processed foods and sugar, and instead eat REAL FOOD.

Check out the movie trailer now: 

What Did I Think?

I LOVED this movie!  I enjoy watching food documentaries anyway because I feel inspired by them.  I think it is important to know WHAT we are eating and WHERE it is coming from.  It is scary to think that many people have no idea what is in their “foods” and where it comes from.  Many Americans are overweight and malnourished because they are filling up on “foods” that provide no nutrition and really are not foods at all.  This is very dangerous because it contributes to many health issues that could easily be prevented.

I think everyone should watch this movie, including children.  I think is is important to educate as many people as possible to get them to understand that their bodies need REAL food.  We all need to be better educated on the impact processed foods and sugar have on our bodies and overall health.  If we don’t get educated, it could have dangerous consequences.

I think one of the most important steps to eating more REAL foods and cutting out processed foods and sugar is to learn how to read ingredient labels.  There is a wonderful video to teach you how to read ingredient labels on the blog 100 Days of Real Food.   100 Days of Real Food is also a wonderful resource for finding REAL food recipes.

Check out the Fed Up movie official website here to find out more about the movie or to take the FED UP 10 Day Challenge.

Movie Review: Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead

I first watched the movie Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead over a year ago.  The title intrigued me, and since I enjoy watching food documentaries, I decided to watch it just out of curiosity.  At the time, I didn’t realize it was going to be a life-changing movie for my family.

Fat Sick and Nearly Dead

Fat, Sick & Nearly dead is a food documentary about a man from Australia named Joe Cross.  At the start of Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, Joe came to America weighing 310 pounds.  As a result of his travels across the country and his 60-day juice fast, he lost 80-85 pounds, regained his health, and learned that “the best way to change the world is to change yourself.”  Since the movie came out, he has inspired many people (my family included) to take charge of their health.

I thought this food documentary was eye-opening and very inspiring, so I convinced my husband to watch it.  Fruits and vegetables are not his favorite foods to eat, but after watching he bought a juicer right away.  Our intention was not to go on a full juice diet, but to include a green juice in our diets each day and increase our intake of fruits and vegetables.  The first month or so, he made green juice daily and was feeling great.  It has been over a year, and while we do not drink green juices every day (as I prefer green smoothies), we do use the juicer regularly.  I make fresh apple juice for my daughters almost daily.  I also juice celery and carrots occasionally to put into soup broth.  Juicing is an easy way to get vegetables into the kids’ diets.  The movie inspired us to try to eat more fruits and vegetables, it inspired us to buy a juicer, and it introduced us to green juices and green smoothies which are now a regular part of our lifestyle.

I would encourage anyone who is interested in taking charge of their heath to watch this movie.  To find out more about the movie or to watch the trailer, click here.