Posted in review, theology

Short Reviews: Books, Documentaries, and Movies

By Elizabeth Prata

During this short school break I managed to finish my book and watch a couple of movies. Here are some short reviews of them. In my opinion they are clean and good material, safe for Christians. Some of the diseases the explorers in the Amazon had were described – ahem – realistically…and in the three movies I do not remember any language and certainly no sexual situations. In The Booksellers one seller specializes in fringe books and a cover of a salacious book was briefly shown.

Book: The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, By David Grann

“In 1925, the legendary British explorer Percy Fawcett ventured into the Amazon jungle, in search of a fabled civilization. He never returned. Over the years countless perished trying to find evidence of his party and the place he called “The Lost City of Z.” In this masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, journalist David Grann interweaves the spellbinding stories of Fawcett’s quest for “Z” and his own journey into the deadly jungle, as he unravels the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century.” Amazon synopsis

Grann is a superlative writer, and a fantastic researcher. HOW he got access to as many of the hidden, lost, and protected primary materials, I’ll never know. Some non-fiction writers don’t want to let go of all the research they did and cram it in, bogging down the story (as happened with my book on Jesse James). Others leave out too much of the research and the reader deals with gaps of information or lack of context. It’s a delicate balance. Grann nailed it. His engaging style and the wealth of information wrapped in great storytelling made for a rollicking book. I was fascinated from start to the fantastic ending.

He seamlessly switched between Fawcett’s expeditions of the past, and his own research expedition. I was fascinated with Fawcett’s life as well as Grann’s own increasing curiosity about what happened to Fawcett. All the while gaining insight into the beginnings of the Royal Geographic Society and the early expeditions by these brave and sometimes foolhardy men. A good old fashioned story, just the way you like it. Recommended.

Of similar interest: these incidents in the Amazon were mentioned in Grann’s book, Movies Fitzcarraldo, Burden of Dreams (even better than Fitzcarraldo), and Aguirre Wrath of God. Similar adventure books are Out in the Cold: Travels North, by Bill Murray; and book The Lure of the Labrador Wild, by Dillon Wallace.


Documentary: The Booksellers. A behind-the-scenes look at the rare book world. I enjoyed this documentary so much. The rare book sellers are smart people, they use articulate words to fervently describe their passion, in bookish way, that is. The peek at selling books, fads in book collecting, the passion behind these important social artifacts, the history of book selling…was all touched on but in a personal way, through the eyes of people new to the profession all the way to third generation sellers. Stay on past the end credits, where Fran Liebowitz’s apparent dispassion for books is unwittingly revealed to be just as a heated passion for her books as everyone else’s, lol. Here is a review of the documentary from Variety. On Amazon Prime.

For more on the subject- Bibliostyle: How We Live at Home with Books. (Book)
Midnight In Paris, Movie (must watch).


Movie: Ride Like a Girl. Based on the true story of Michelle Payne, first woman to win the Melbourne Cup. Beautiful scenery, a good story, Sam Neill as the father was terrific. Michelle’s younger brother Stevie, with whom she is very close, is a Down’s Syndrome child, and he appeared as himself in the film. I think he stole the show. A clean, good, normal movie, made all the better because it is a true story. I hadn’t realized the emotional build-up until the end when the catharsis left me in tears. On Netflix. Hollywood reporter review.

Of similar interest: Walk Ride Rodeo, another film based on true events, and the series Free Rein, all also on Netflix.


Movie: Enola Holmes. Adding to the ever-present canon and satisfying an apparent audience clamor for more Sherlock Holmes stuff, comes this Netflix original. Adding a younger sister to the known family of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, the plucky gal has been raised by her eccentric mother (Helena Bonham Carter) who nurtured Enola’s brilliant brain as well as training her physically for challenges of a life of independence. Which is just as well, because when the mother goes missing, Enola sets off to find her. She outsmarts even her brilliantly deductive brother Sherlock, and saves a Viscount in the process. Aside from the usual feminism (women can do anything a man can do…we can change the world…yadda yadda…) the movie was attractive, interesting, rollicking, and felt Disneyesque (in Disney’s earlier more innocent days). Enola’s rated PG 13 for some mild violence (a man tries to drown Enola, she’s stabbed but survives due to the whalebone corset, etc). There is no language I remember and nothing sexual at all. I enjoyed Enola breaking the 4th wall, and loved all the interstitial slides of Victorian ephemera. It is a visually sumptuous movie. I liked it, and I went into it expecting not to like it. 🙂

Of similar interest: movie The Journey of Natty Gann, series Anne of Green Gables.


I like working in an elementary school mainly because I love kids, but also because these short breaks come up every so often. I’m looking forward to the week off at Thanksgiving. I hope to put it to good use both with applying myself to spiritual things- I want to finish Saints and Sectaries (About Puritan Anne Hutchinson) and begin a book Blood Work by Anthony J. Carter, about the blood of Christ. And make progress in my The Masters Seminary course The Doctrine of Salvation with Mike Riccardi teaching.

But I also want to read and enjoy good movies and documentaries. My next book will be Out in the Cold, the travel adventure by Bill Murray I mentioned above. I plan to watch My Octopus Teacher soon or during the next school break, as well as The Social Dilemma (if I dare). I’m also interested in Joan Froggatt in Dark Angel, a story of the infamous Victorian poisoner Mary Ann Cotton.

I hope the above suits your entertainment needs and you enjoy!