Hmm...the last week of September was an odd reviewing week. Three movies, completely different from one another, and a Civil War picture book that made me cry.
The Narnia Code is an hour-long documentary based on Michael Ward's literary theory regarding C.S. Lewis' use of medieval cosmology in the Chronicles of Narnia. It provides a great introduction to his ideas, which are unpacked at length and with great scholarly elegance in the book Planet Narnia.
Thor is a totally enjoyable (and action-packed!) feature film based on the comic book character Thor, a sort of Norse god/superhero. The particularly fun twist is that this summer blockbuster kind of movie was directed by Kenneth Branagh, the director who has brought us Shakespearean delights for years. Shakespeare meets Marvel Comics. And it works.
Soul Surfer is an inspirational film based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton, a young surfer who lost her left arm to a shark, survived, and went on to become the world's best woman surfer. The movie asks good questions and walks a lot of potentially cliched lines without falling off any of them entirely. Not a great film, but a solidly good one, with the real story of the young girl's courage shining through some inspired performances.
I don't often cry my way through picture books, but that's what happened when I read Patricia Polacco's Pink and Say. There is a power and beauty to this simple story of the friendship that developed between two young men, one black and one white, who found one another in the midst of the chaos and pain of the Civil War. It's a story of heroism and courage, and it's brought home the Civil War to my nine year old in real and moving ways. The fact that it turns out to be a true story -- a story passed down in Polacco's family for several generations (Say was her great-great grandfather) adds even more powerful punch to the tale.