Tag Archives: film

Book Review: Red Sparrow

Red Sparrow is a thrilling novel full of horror and passion. The story follows two characters: Dominika, a Russian, and Nate, an American — both tangled in the dangerous world of spying for opposing countries.

Dominika is dedicated, passionate, thrill-seeking, and short-tempered. And Nate is a fiery man who is very clever and intelligent. He is more logical and levelheaded, although still has a deep heart.

Dominika was born with a special gift: her extraordinary vision that lets her see the color of people’s auras. When music plays, she can see distinct notes right in front of her eyes. Her ability to see music is what makes her such a talented dancer.

“Dominika gravely explained that when the music played, or when her father read aloud to her, colors would fill the room. Different colors, some bright, some dark, sometimes they ‘jumped in the air’ and all Dominika had to do was follow them. It was how she could remember so much.”

After graduating high school with a particular admiration for history and political debates (due to her strong patriotism,) she attends ballet school in pursuit of becoming a professional ballerina. However, Dominika’s career plans are halted when a jealous couple on the team plots to break her leg, thus destroying her capabilities as a dancer.

“In young adulthood she had learned to cope with the buistvo, the mounting rage, but now she let it grow, tasted it in her throat.”

Following the tragic, sudden death of her father, Dominika is approached by her uncle  with an offer to essentially become a Russian spy. Desperate and lost, Dominika feels she has no choice now but to accept. From here on, her loyalty will be tested: to her country, to her family, to her dignity and principles, and most importantly to her own self.

Dominika attends Sparrow School, where she trains to become an official “sparrow.” Here, is where she is taught in depth about the art of seduction. Sparrows use not just their bodies, but their magical charm and quick wit, to gain precious information for the Russian government.

“This school, this mansion secluded behind walls topped with broken glass, was an engine of the State that institutionalized and dehumanized love. It didn’t count… it was training, like ballet school.”

The trials and tribulations Dominika goes through prove her strength, as the harsh reality sinks in that being strong is her only option if she wants to survive. Too late to back out now. At one point she witnesses a man get brutally, painfully murdered, as his blood spats on her body.

Finally, Dominka meets Nate, her next assignment. Nate seems to always have a deep purple aura, presenting honesty and calmness. Her mission is to recruit him for Russia, while Nate has a counter-mission to recruit Dominika for the USA.

“Dominika played it slow, indifferent. She was correct, reserved, a conscious counterbalance to his shambling American informality. She constantly told herself not to be so nervous. When he looked at her she knew from his expression that he was unsuspecting. He doesn’t know what this is, she thought with a thrill. The CIA officer doesn’t know who he’s up against.”

Although Dominika is successful at capturing Nate’s attention, she quickly realizes that he is different from anyone else. Her feelings build, yet her loyalty to Russia remains firm. As the two get to know each other, Nate notices how triggered and defensive she is when criticism of the Russian government comes up.

“God, she’s serious, thought Nate. Typical Russian, afraid of putting a foot wrong. But he liked her reserve, her underlying sensuality, the way she looked at him with her blue eyes. He especially liked the way she pronounced his name, ‘Neyt.'”

It is not long before Dominika questions the intentions of her team. The murder of an older fellow sparrow, who she saw as her future-self, is the final straw. Dominika can no longer hide her fury as she goes on another date with Nate. At this point, she realizes that she actually has more trust for this American stranger than she does for her own country, even her own family — most especially her evil uncle. And so, she confesses her identity to Nate, who in turn tells her to join his team.

“It’s just that you should learn to get high on something other than adrenaline,’ he said.

“‘You mean like wine?’ she said, and threw the wineglass against the wall. ‘No, thank you. I prefer adrenaline.'”

At this point, the trouble has only just begun. The pair work well together with a rare, strong sense of trust in one another. Still — they know that they cannot let their passion for each other get in the way. Yet of course, passion persists and finds a way to make things very messy…

I really enjoyed this book. This lengthy nearly-600-pager took me a while to finish, although I’m a slow reader anyway. There were some parts that seemed drawn out and skippable. But there were also many parts that had my eyes glued to the pages. The story is intense and shocking.

***Photos used from the adapted film***

Melanie Martinez’s “K-12” ~ A Cute & Creepy Film About the School of Life

Melanie Martinez just dropped a visual album, “K-12.” The film, essentially a sci-fi musical, is over an hour-and-a-half long. It’s a continuation of her first album, “Cry Baby,” which is the introduction of the persona of Crybaby. Her style is very unique and specific — cute and creepy, a theme of childlike innocence mixed with adult context. Her music tackles serious issues with a splash of creative imagination. It has been four long years since her previous album but it was certainly worth the wait.

The story starts with Crybaby waking up in her bubblegum-pink home and preparing herself for the very beginning of her school years that will take her from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Crybaby looks in the mirror and brushes her half-black-half-rainbow pigtails. Heading into the kitchen, she pours cereal and is pleasantly surprised to see her pet spider fall out of the box.

The pink school bus scene is when her first song plays, “Wheels on the Bus.” Crybaby is getting bullied and feels anxious about making friends. But she has already found herself sitting next to a girl she seems to have already clicked with, and they share their fears about not fitting in. A boy walks onto the bus and they smile at each other, but he has been snatched by an aggressively jealous mean girl.

Now they have arrived to the school building, which looks like a beautiful haunted mansion. Ghosts fly by through the hallways. Crybaby and her new friend head to class, located in room 222. It’s time to say pledge of allegiance but one boy refuses because he’s angry at this country, so a group of people barge in and take him away.

At recess, “Class Fight” plays. The jealous girl from the bus ride attacks Crybaby and cuts her. This somehow “activates” Crybaby’s powers as her eyes turn black and the two girls float above the ground, and then she chokes her with her hair. This song is about the difficult feelings that come with jealousy, questioning if you should give the person up or fight harder for them.

The class fight causes the girls to get sent to the principal’s office. “The Principal” is about blindly following a leader who abuses his/her power. The students wait outside the office while a teacher is getting fired for being transgender. After the students enter, the song plays, and the scene is set like a traditional courtroom mixed with a ballet dance floor.

Later we see the principle drinking a mysterious substance that causes him to pass out, then a group of people with rabbit heads come in and stick him with a needle. If you haven’t figured it out yet, by now we can clearly see that something is very wrong with this “school.”

Crybaby returns to class for “Show & Tell” and every person in the room turns their head and stares her down, conveying the feeling of being watched and judged, causing one to become controlled. By now we are around the age of third grade, generally the time when a child becomes much more self-aware.

Nurse’s Office,” plays as evil nurses drug the students with needles that causes them to go crazy. This represents reaching puberty and becoming flooded with hormones. After being locked up by the evil nurses and rabbit-head people, a magical goddess-like figure appears out of nowhere to save them and offer deep words of wisdom.

Drama Club” is about the roles we are expected to take on, especially as men vs. women. “Strawberry Shortcake” is about body issues that come with puberty and will follow for the rest of your life. It also covers how women are expected to cover up and feel ashamed of their bodies because of how men might react. Both tracks do a great job at addressing sexism.

“Lunchbox Friends” deals with navigating friendship and surrounding yourself with supportive and open-minded people. During lunchtime, Crybaby goes to the bathroom and discovers a classmate with bulimia, then goes onto comfort her with “Orange Juice.” Both tracks deal with social pressures.

Next in the film, a food fight breaks out and the principal’s son has the rabbit-head people send Crybaby to “Detention.” The evil nurses are back to once again stick the students with needles. Crybaby is dragged onto a stage where she is forced to dance with two other girls. She then seems to have used her “powers” to cause the principal’s son to set her free and she successfully escapes detention. The girlfriends gather together and make a plan to set the students free from school, but the son is spying on them and listening to their every word. On another note, Crybaby find a love letter in her locker.

A student falls for a teacher as “Teacher’s Pet” plays, yet luckily Crybaby sees that this girl is being controlled and comes to her rescue. “High School Sweetheart” is a very sweet love song. Crybaby sings it while gracefully dancing around the school.

The film wraps up at the school dance. She is asked to go with the principal’s son and only accepts his invitation in order to help with the plan to get free. Unfortunately it was too late for the other boy who genuinely adores her. But she ends up taking down the principal’s son, gaining access to the loudspeaker so that she can tell everyone to exit the building immediately. “Recess” is about running away and breaking free.

Finally, Crybaby unites with the boy who had been originally planning on asking her to the dance — who confesses to writing the love letter — and the two of them blow a conjoined spit bubble which causes the school to blow up. FREEDOM!!! A magical portal opens up, and Crybaby hesitates to enter, and then the screen goes blank!

I was blown away by “K-12” and all the symbolism and metaphors that came with it. Not only does it cover the joys and challenges of our childhood school years, it also emphasizes the fact that we never truly graduate because life itself is school. The traumas from our early years follow us into adulthood. That inner child sticks with us, for better or worse. Adulthood still comes with insecurities, peer pressure, authority figures, and drama. Most importantly, we must wake up to the injustice of the world and realize our own power.

30-Day Challenge (Know Thyself): Day 7

Day 7: favorite film & TV

My favorite type of film or TV to watch is “dramedy,” AKA drama/comedy mix. I like watching something that can make me laugh, but also keeps me interested and excited.

I would say that my favorite show is Friends. I’ve seen every episode and I could watch them over and over again without getting sick of it. It’s certainly way more than a comedy than a drama, although there’s still a bit of drama in the storyline. Other than that, there’s a lot of other shows I like that would be too hard to rank.

The same goes for movies. There are so many out there, that it’s hard to choose one favorite… or even a top 5. Anything with a good mix of intensity and lightheartedness captures my attention. Also, sci-fi is awesome!

Film Review: The Love Witch

“The Love Witch” is a horror-comedy that was released just last year. The most captivating aspect about the movie is that it seems like it was filmed and released back in the 60s. As I began watching, I started to wonder if the film was supposed to take place in current times or from a few decades ago. It wasn’t until DNA testing was mentioned, when I knew it couldn’t have taken place in the 60s or 70s. But I really love the vintage vibe.


The main character, Elaine, is such an enchanting character that you really want to like her when you know that you shouldn’t. Elaine is witchcraft practitioner who uses spells and whatnot to find true love. However, her spells work too well, and she ends up somehow killing every man who falls for her.


This film is not exactly a ha-ha comedy, although some parts will make you laugh, don’t expect to be smiling the entire time. It’s also not your typical horror film; there are a few graphic scenes, but nothing that will give you nightmares. The film mixes a bit of comedy and a bit of horror to create its own unique genre.


The 2-hour film takes it time to tell the story without rushing everything so you don’t miss a single detail. (Another characteristic of old films – not too fast-paced.) The plot line is quite interesting, but it would be nothing without the remarkable film style that makes you feel like you have truly entered another world.


Because the movie revolves around witchcraft, there is also a great emphasis on the medieval and Victorian eras. I absolutely adored the makeup, costumes, and scenery setup. This film is a piece of art.


Overall rating: 5/5 stars