Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year! + Changes

I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year's Eve, and a Happy New Year! May it be full of blessings to you and yours.


Now, on to the changes. There is good and bad news. The good news is that I'm leaving for college. The bad news is that I will have much less time to devote to Heavenward Reviews. While this does not mark the death of the blog (for I will try very hard to keep it alive), it will not be updated quite as regularly. That said, I know that I haven't been updating it much lately anyway, and that is due to some poor choices in what to use my time for. That will be changing now, so you can expect more book reviews soon, and I will do my best to keep it going this winter/spring semester as well. God bless!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Apollo 13: Mission Control review


Apollo 13: Mission Control is an interactive theater show where the audience sit at replica consoles and become Mission Control for one of the greatest survival stories of the 20th century. There are switches to be flicked, monitors to study and phone calls to make. One lucky audience member even gets to become an astronaut and travel into space for the evening! Apollo 13: Mission Control has sold out audiences in New Zealand and Australia and is launching its USA tour here in Tacoma.

From the moment you step inside the briefing room, the audience is met with an authentic atmosphere, with "reporters" and "astronauts" walking around, mixing with the crowd. "Walter Cronkite" comes and introduces himself and others, even inviting one member of the audience to become an astronaut for the show! Then, the show-goers make their way to mission control, where they choose a console seat.


At the consoles, each of the seats are different, replicating the importance of what you're set up to do. Some have phones, some screens and earphones, and nearly all (if not all) have switches. While some stations are busier than others, the cast tries to include and interact with every person who has come, even the children! Overhead screens show the astronauts, including the guest, and it is very surreal, knowing that these events really took place.

Because of the reality this show draws on, the roles are very relevant and challenging, putting you in the situation: What would you do if things went terribly wrong? When alarms flash and blare around you, are you baffled and scared, or calm and troubleshooting? While there is some great comic relief, this show reveals some of what it was like to hold the lives of the astronauts in your care. It also reveals mission control's triumph of returning the astronauts to earth alive.

Discount: KIDS FLY FREE! Make sure and purchase your tickets using the code “MOM” and receive up to two free tickets for kids 6-12. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com and the code can be entered in the Promotions and Special Offers box on the purchase page of each event.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Les Miserables (film)

Les Miserables

Synopsis: In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's daughter, Cosette. The fateful decision changes their lives forever.

My thoughts: I think it's safe to say that waiting for this film was pretty agonizing, both for director Tom Hooper's recent successes in The King's Speech and the John Adams mini-series, for for the renown that this book/play/film has accumulated ever since Victor Hugo penned it, and for the well-known cast that has shown a different talent through viral trailers.

Because I don't know the full history of film adaptions, I won't be delving into the comparisons with such, but the history of the London (Queen's Theatre) play has been on the mind, since I took a trip there this spring to watch it performed live. It was an unforgettable experience, and while this adaption had a few pitfalls, it came close to that in many ways.

An inescapable topic is the singing. In the first scene, Crowe (Javert) and Jackman (Valjean) moved the words into odd tempos, and their voices sounded a bit shallow (Crowe's in particular). With the exception of a great (if short) sequence, "A Work", it was a poor opening on the musical front, and they tried to erase it from our memory by quickly distracting us with landscape shots. After that, both Crowe and Jackman got louder, bolder, and much more appreciable. Anne Hathaway as Fantine was amazing. She provided one of the three best song performances in "I Dreamed A Dream", which was very heartbreaking and hardening. Next up comes Young Cosette, who did very well with "Castle on a Cloud," and made viewers sorry that they didn't hear more from her. Helena Bonham Carter did respectably, I suppose, but Sacha Baron Cohen's not a singer, and "Master of the House" had to rely solely on the acting and humor. The real disappointment, though, was Amanda Seyfried (Cosette), in my opinion. While her voice may be very good in other circumstances, her shallow trill didn't do justice to the opera-level voices that Les Mis has seen in the past. Instead, I favored Samantha Barks (Éponine) in every way, including acting. Her "On My Own" was possibly my favorite song from the whole film, and definitely making the top three. Finally, there is Eddie Redmayne (Marius). He is definitely a talented actor I will be watching for. And, he's a marvelous singer, too! Very down to earth, and very loud and bold when he ought to be. His "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" also makes the top 3.

As usual, there were some problems I had with the edits. Here and there, lyrics were changed, removed, and even added, which disappointed me. The worst part, I think, is when they cut nearly the entirety of "Turning" after uttering only a few lines. I can only hope it will come out complete in the extended version.

**SPOILER ALERT** As my final point, for the whole movie, I'd been wondering how Hooper would portray Javert's suicide. I think he did it very well, and it was my favorite scene in the entire movie, for Crowe's great performance in it, the allusion from earlier in the film, the great scope and imager, and for Crowe's final song, in which he brings his best to the table. I had no idea he was as great a singer as he was at his character's final moments. **END SPOILER**

I would not suggest this movie for kids under 13, because they simply wouldn't understand a lot of the underlying themes that make this movie really important. Also, there is some suggestive,  inappropriate material after Fontine is removed from the factory and resorts to the docks.

In conclusion, this is a large-scale, impressive adaption that is definitely worth seeing as soon as you can manage, even if you aren't a big fan of musicals.

My rating: 9 stars

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Apollo 13: Mission Control running this week!


Apollo 13: Mission Control is an interactive theater show where the audience sit at replica consoles and become Mission Control for one of the greatest survival stories of the 20th century. There are switches to be flicked, monitors to study and phone calls to make. One lucky audience member even gets to become an astronaut and travel into space for the evening! Apollo 13: Mission Control has sold out audiences in New Zealand and Australia and is launching its USA tour here in Tacoma.

Wellington, NZ


KIDS FLY FREE! Make sure and purchase your tickets using the code “MOM” and receive up to two free tickets for kids 6-12. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com and the code can be entered in the Promotions and Special Offers box on the purchase page of each event.

SHOW DATES & TIMES
Friday, December 21 / 7:00PM
Saturday, December 22 / 3:00PM
Sunday, December 23 / 11:00AM, 2:00PM & 5:00PM
Wednesday, December 26 / 3:00PM & 6:00PM
Thursday, December 27 / 11:00AM & 3:00PM
Friday, December 28 / 7:00PM
Saturday, December 29 / 3:00PM & 7:00PM
Sunday, December 30 / 11:00AM & 2:00PM

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (film)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson, Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan.

SynopsisBilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) lives a simple life with his fellow hobbits in the shire, until the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) arrives and convinces him to join a group of dwarves on a quest to reclaim the kingdom of Erebor. The journey takes Bilbo on a path through treacherous lands swarming with orcs, goblins and other dangers, not the least of which is an encounter with Gollum and a simple gold ring that is tied to the fate of Middle Earth in ways Bilbo cannot even fathom.

My thoughts: Peter Jackson has done his work well. Once again, staying very true to Tolkien's vision, he has brought everything to life, sharing with us this adventure. Because I haven't seen the HFR version, I won't be talking about it, but the 3D worked relatively well!

Many minutes of this film were focused on the Necromancer, and I think that degraded the experience somewhat. Here, we are given two great evils (Smaug and the Necromancer), and Jackson only delves into the Defiler to momentarily satisfy viewers, which is hard to do after this long wait. We'll simply have to appreciate the fleshed-out story world before our eyes, and scour the internet tirelessly for Cumberbatch's voicing of Smaug. Even a single word would do.

What does satisfy dedicated fans is the attention to detail in the books, and for hardcore fans, the striking nostalgia of scenes re-imagined from the 1977 animated Hobbit film. One that comes to mind is Gollum paddling across the water.

I have to admit, the battle scenes were once again incredible. Indeed, sometimes unbelievable. Near the end, the company seemed to have the luck of leprechauns. Everything happened conveniently, with no reason for it. Also, Gandalf suddenly uses powerful magic at the end. Why not use it before?

Anyway, those qualms did little to sink the pride I felt for Jackson's accomplishment. Gollum was fantastic with his riddles and rhymes, and his selves were quite distinct this time, which was great to see. The dwarves were so much fun, but I wish I'd heard more of certain ones (such as Bombur). I love the energy they have with each other, it's very enjoyable to watch, especially their songs at the Shire.

In conclusion, Peter Jackson has brought Tolkien's story further to light, and with much skill. The characters were great, and I look forward to seeing some new ones in particular. (cough) Cumberbatch (cough)

My rating: 9 stars

Find local showtimes for The Hobbit in 3D!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Ark

The Ark, Ken Newman, Sunbury Press, Speculative Fiction, June 16th, 2012, 244 pages.

Synopsis: Set in an antediluvian world as modern as our own, The Ark is a new spin on the Biblical account of Noah. Noah, patriarch of the affluent House of Seth, is a troubled man. Despite his strong walk with God, and his best efforts, his atheist wife, Kira and their three sons have bought into the depraved world system around them. While Noah struggles with his wayward family, humanity is fighting and losing a ruthless war with a hybrid of human and angel; a savage race called the Nephillim. Disgusted with rebellious humanity, the Lord has decided to destroy all life on earth; however, Noah has found favor in His sight. With the end of humanity at hand, God orders Noah to build the Ark in order to save his family. Noah secretly builds the vast ship, unaware that he is the target of a deadly conspiracy. Lucifer, to prevent the advent of the promised Messiah, who will come from Noah's bloodline, has warned the Nephillim of the coming cataclysm. Plotting the destruction of both the Ark, and the House of Seth, the Nephillim will make certain that when the waters recede, it will be they, and not humanity who inherit the new world.

My thoughts: In the past, I've been disappointed by many books delving into Noah's story, and had yet to find a great one. This time, I found one that needed fine-tuning, but otherwise turned out well. I found that at first it was hard to speed through, because of typos, wording errors, and confusing sentences. When I shut out these distractions, I was able to see the plot arc for what it was. It must be said, though, that it turned out to be a pre-published galley, and these errors are not in the copy being printed now.

While some of the characters could be a bit more unique, staying with the reader longer, Noah and Kira did just that. I appreciate the way he portrayed their strengths and stubborn natures, alike. Similarly, Newman put a unique view on the flood, using modern technology intermittently, but not in such a way to make a point of showing it off, and didn't distract from the story. The finale, which most people know, needed something extra, while not deviating from the original tale. I feel that Newman delivered this well, though some might be able to predict it, yet still enjoy it.

In conclusion, the errors mentioned above are not in the final copy, so if you like a good plot, you will enjoy The Ark's speculative view of the House of Seth and Noah's story.


*This book was provided free by the author. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.*

My rating: 4 stars

Buy The Ark!

Monday, December 10, 2012

How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular

This past weekend, Tacoma, Gig Harbor, and other nearby cities were abuzz with the arrival of the famed How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular at the grand Tacoma Dome! Radio stations were talking about it constantly, as were news channels, and they had good reason to. After a fantastic publicity campaign on the last tour, people were realizing that to attend was the chance of a lifetime. It truly is. Personally, I'm hoping it comes to Tacoma again, if they plan another tour.


My thoughts: Arriving at the venue, the first thing I noticed was the number of semi trucks parked outside. There were 30, and the entire event fit into them, driving around the country to each new location. Once inside, it was clear the Dome would be packed full. After the event, it took over 10 minutes to drive from the parking spot to the exit, about a thousand feet away, because of traffic. The next day, even the owner of a bookstore nearby had noticed many people parking in his lot for the event. All that to say, people didn't want to miss this, for good reason.

While finding seats, the back screen and floor were lit up as seen above, with the Dreamworks logo. It impresses me that Dreamworks has retained control on this tour, both in animation, production, and the script. This truly is an event for the whole family, young and old, whether you've seen or haven't seen the movie (or read the books).



The show's use of animation was very strong in the beginning, and wondrous. It disappointed me that they didn't keep it as strong closer to the end, but they focused more on the story. As seen above, Hiccup (played by Ramian Newton) is riding an animated dragon. I won't give away more details on that, but the tour definitely uses their resources creatively, and immerses you in their world.

A big part of this world, and a big purpose of the tour, is to show off the dragons. And they were spectacular. Breathing fire, flying, and even swimming, the dragons were the selling point. The most amazing part was their attitude and character! Even from a distance, you could tell when they were impatient, scared, excited, or grumpy. Toothless was the best in this area, as he should be.


The next-best part of the show was the acrobatic and upbeat nature of the actors and music. The soundtrack (for the most part) was the same as in the movie, and the cast had several chances to dance to it, but my favorite was the curtain call routine to Jónsi's "Sticks and Stones". There were also several scenes in which characters would fly up and around the middle of the Dome, as with the image below, they would also appear at doors in the walls.

Hiccup (Ramian Newton), Astrid (Sarah McCreanor), and the rest of the cast did a fantastic job. It felt just like a night spent in another world.


This is an event you and your family should not miss. Tickets are not terribly expensive, for regular seating, and it's absolutely worth it. The tour's next stops are: Fresno, CA, San Jose, CA, Sacramento, CA, and Anaheim, CA. Get your tickets here!

Toothless and I would like to wish you a wonderful day!


Monday, December 3, 2012

How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular this week!

As the days count down to this amazing live event, the How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular, I get more and more anxious to see it. I was going by the Dome yesterday, and seeing all the trucks outside amazed me. There were 30 semis parked outside, and they have been all over the country on this tour. All of that to say, this is going to be a show you don't want to miss. Here's a sneak peek from two of the actors, Sarah McCreanor and Ramian Newton, playing Astrid and Hiccup respectively.



Don't forget that the How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular has offered the special discount code MOM which entitles the patron to save 25% on Thursday, and Friday night shows (regular ticket price: $36 - $51).  This special discount ensures the whole family can come out for a memorable night for this not-to-miss event!