Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A new movie adaptation coming soon!

To make things a bit more fun, I decided to introduce a new movie adaptation each week. And my first one is...

Dear John
Book by: Nicholas Sparks

From the Facebook Fan page:
Directed by Lasse Halström and based on the novel by best-selling author Nicholas Sparks, DEAR JOHN tells story of John Tyree (Channing Tatum), a young soldier home on leave, and Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried), the idealistic college student he falls in love with during her spring vacation. Over the next seven tumultuous years, the couple is separated by John’s increasingly dangerous deployments. While meeting only sporadically, they stay in touch by sending a continuous stream of love letters overseas--correspondence that eventually triggers fateful consequences. Coming February 5th!

I know, Nick Spark's novels are always guilty pleasures, but I find his writing competent. It's a book I've been planning on reading soon. Besides, I love Amanda Seyfried. Check back for a review really soon!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Virgin Suicides movie

The Virgin Suicides
Director: Sophia Coppola
Cast: Kathleen Turner (Mrs. Lisbon), James Woods (Mr. Lisbon),  Leslie Hayman (Therese Lisbon), A.J Cook (Mary Lisbon), Chelsea Swain (Bonnie Lisbon), Kirsten Dunst (Lux Lisbon), Hanna Hall (Cecillia Lisbon), Josh Harnett (Trip Fontaine)
Screenplay: Sofia Coppola
Year: 2000
Length1 hr. 37 min
Distributor: Paramount Classics
Verdict: SEE

Rated: R (It's really more like PG-13. Gah! See book review rating.)
Faithfulness: 98% faithful 

UNLIKE The Other Boleyn Girl I was shocked at how faithful this adaptation is in comparison to the book. There were only two scenes that were dropped from the book. Anyway, on to the review. The movie can be boring at times, but other than that I appreciated the way the film was shot, making us care for the Lisbon girls. The girls were absolutely brilliant, Kirsten Dunst is so sensual as Lux and Hanna Hall, who plays Cecillia has a mysterious aura about her which makes her perfect for the role. The rest of the girls don't have big speaking parts but they make great teens who just want to live. I loved the way Kathleen Turner portrayed her character, vulnerable but also caring. 
The movie as I said can be boring since there is not much dialogue but that really brings out the girl's feelings of being bored and trapped so I didn't mind that too much. The pace was much faster when Trip Fontaine (Josh Harnett is so cute!) starts his relationship with Lux then boring again when the house arrest starts. But it's not dreadfully boring as in you really want it to turn the damn TV off and go to sleep. This movie has beautiful shots that is not quite shy and not quite big, it has just the right pace, the right material the right setting, everything is so well presented, you can't help but feel haunted by the end of it.
Like the book the movie dosen't try to explain what's happening, but like the book brings out the gruesome reality of suicide. Sofia Coppola did an amazing job bringing in all the emotions you feel while reading the book and brought in dialogue and monologues her narrator says from out of the novel, so that sense of poetry not only from the writing but the tone comes forward. There's nothing fancy, nothing to impress you, just real life shown on screen in front of your own eyes.
Again, this movie tends to get boring so I guess I could give it a RENT. But fans of the novel will be absolutely thrilled, and the acting is high class. It's beautiful and haunting and even if you know nothing of the book, this movie will still really impress you. Well Sophia, you really are talented after all.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Suicide, told in an unsusal way

The Virgin Suicides
By: Jeffery Eugenides
Setting: Grosse Point Michigan, 1970's
Format: 243 pgs.
Verdict: READ IT
Rated: PG-13 (A bit creepy to be a PG book. Plus there's mentions of sex and language.)

Suicide, is no laughing matter. Especially when it involves five sisters committing it in a course of a single year. Their suicide begged the question: Why? Why commit suicide? Most importantly, why all five? These questions cycle through four boys, who grew up in the same neighborhood, overlooking the same incident twenty five years ago. It all started with the death of their youngest sister, then a forbidden romance. Sooner than later, one girl violates the curfew, and all of a sudden, consequences start coming, and boy are they drastic.
A book about suicide can grab your attention. The originality of this book, the genius of this book, is what makes you grab the very edge of your seat with its graphic and true depictions of suicide. Eugenides doesn't make suicide just another myth, this is a wake up call. The book is gritty and realistic, not littered with cliches and dramatic soap opera-like plot points. Instead of telling you what happens, it asks you the question, trying to make you the reader figure that question out.
One of the best characters in this book are the sister's themselves. Eugenides' doesn't write them as imaginative characters in the boy's mind, but literal real flesh and blood literal characters.These girls have flaws and the best part is when the boys realize it. The most daring, Lux for example, is sexual and acts like the female version of a womanizer, while Cecillia, the youngest and the first to go is a misfit. What helps create that sense of imperfectness is the writing. The sheer poetry and brilliance comes off Eugenides' writing, which trigger vivid images with its striking, beautiful language. This factor is one of the best in the novel, and sometimes when I felt the pace too slow for my taste, the reason why I continue reading is because of the writing.
The one critique I have of this novel is that it's painfully slow at times and it wasn't abnormal that my mind was shouting GET TO THE POINT! Alright, the youngest died. It's sad. We don't need an endless account of her parents getting ready for her funeral. We don't need an endless scene about discussions of suicide. In the end I didn't mind really, you just have to just realize that the book isn't set up like a normal fiction. It reads like a memoir, and if you respect that, I don't see why anyone would have a problem with it.
I hesitated on giving it a CHECK IT OUT just because of the pace. But the writing is so beautiful and the characters are so delightful, and it's just so poignant, that I'm going to have to say READ IT. It's heartbreaking, it will make you think, it will challenge you. But beware readers who get irritated by slow paced books: This book is not for you. It will only be annoying as hell. As for the others, it's an important classic in the making.

Last sentence (just for the proof):
"It didn't matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn't heard us calling, still do not hear us, up here in the tree house with our thinning hair and soft bellies, calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, alone in suicide, which is deeper than death, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together. "

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Other Boleyn Girl movie

The Other Boleyn Girl
Director: Justin Chadwick
Cast: Natalie Portman (Anne Boleyn), Scarlett Johanson (Mary Boleyn), Eric Bana (King Henry VIII), Jim Sturgess (George Boleyn), Mark Rylance (Sir Thomas Boleyn), Kristen Scott Thomas (Lady Elizabeth Boleyn). David Morrissy (The Duke of Norfolk), Ana Torrent (Katherine of Aragon)
Screenplay: Peter Morgan
Year: 2008
Length:  1 hr, 55 min.
Verdict: SKIP
Rated: PG-13 A little sex, (not a whole lot) and two pretty frightening executions
Faithfulness: 2%

BE FOREWARNED BEFORE WATCHING THIS MOVIE: The movie is NOTHING like the book. Nothing in this is similar in any way to the book except for one scene, and the overall plot of the book and ending, which is obvious. That aside, the acting in this movie is great. Natalie Portman steals the show, although Scarlett Johanson is quite close. Everybody from Jim Sturgess who portrays George just as I imagined he would be, and David Morrissy, who plays her uncle, the real antagonist, has such a presence when he's on screen that I was scared of him during the whole movie. The only person who doesn't quite make it is Eric Bana, not a poor choice, but they could have chosen someone better. Bana just doesn't have that presence, I found him quite weak compared to what I imagined Henry in the book.
But of course even when you have good actors, even when you have delectably GORGEOUS sets and costumes, even when the script isn't that bad, the movie just skips over the major scenes in the book. Instead, unnessecary scenes were added in, or tinkered with (Jim Stugess goes to the scaffold like a coward). A lot of the characters were cut out of the whole movie (Cardinal Wolsey the king's adviser, and a major player in the book went missing). And as good as Portman and Johanson are, a lot of the actors murmur their lines than speak them normally, which gets annoying after a while.
The whole movie desperately wants to rush to a conclusion , because of that it leaves out many important character motives and events including George's homosexuality. I know that most movies aren't completely faithful to the book, but this one just didn't make it. It's great eye-candy, but there's nothing containing substance. Readers of the book will notice the rush the movie decides to take, (and a few historical innacuracies concerning several plot points) so this is not for them. In fact, only a Tudor fanatic that has the brain to not take this movie seriously will enjoy it.

In the Tudor period, two sister lie abed with the king...

The Other Boleyn Girl
By: Philipa Gregory
Time Period: 1521-1536 Tudor England
Rated: R LOTS of sex (and talk of it), miscarriages and executions...OH MY!

Surely you know about Anne Boleyn and her relationship with the young and reckless (and later tyrannical) King Henry VIII? I bet you didn't know she had a sister who vied for his attention as much as she did. No, this is not the historical fiction version of Mean Girls, we're talking about The Other Boleyn Girl. Who is the other Boleyn girl, the book has no answer to that question. At first, the other girl is Anne, fresh from the French court and had been ordered by her family to force her sister Mary, then the lover of the king, into his bed. But Mary dosen't know that her sister can be as manipulative and ambitious, and as Mary bores him a son, Anne brushes Mary out of the spotlight. So now Mary gets the role of the Other girl, and watches her sister woo her lover and king that she had loved ever since she was a young girl of thirteen.
Of course Anne succeeds Katherine of Aragon, by then totally brushed aside by Henry, but that dosen't make her any happier. On the contrary, more sibling rivalry occurs, and the fact that Mary has had three kids while Anne only contents herself with Princess Elizabeth does not make things easier. Sooner than later, the king finds himself in the skirts of another mistress, while Mary and her brother George have to content themselves of burying dead baby corpses from the queen amoung other things. It's not until the last deformed baby comes out that the lies and the sealing of Anne's fate comes into play.
Philippa Gregory does a nice job of creating an atmosphere of the Tudor court, but that's not enough. During the first part of the book, I had no idea what the dresses and court looks like, all we know is the dresses are made out of "rich cloth" which after about the fifth time really got on my nerves. But after the beginning, the court was nicely described, and I felt in the halls of whatever castle the court moved to during the seasons. Setting aside the details, the characters were probably the best thing in this book. Some reviewers might disagree and call all of them one-dimensional, but one dimensional characters means nothing. You can still have one dimensional characters and they can still be interesting. Anne and Mary for one, have numerous flaws, Anne and her family has a particular tragic flaw which ruins her and her family based on one ambition that turned out to be a mistake.
Mary's thoughts on life, however banal (wants to marry for love and live a quiet life in the country while poor, we've all seen those before) is touching. The fact that she was a narrator really enhanced the book. Had Anne been the narrator, we would miss out on an important thought process and life no matter how historically inaccurate. She is a really interesting bystander and reminds us that she hadn't changed Tudor history, but she had been a pawn in her family's ambition and while watching Anne grow to becoming queen then falling, it had become an experience that she won't forget.
That's all fine... for a while. Does it drag? Does it read like the author has a limited vocabulary? Yes. It's historical fiction after all, the bad bunch tends to do the exact same thing. I have told you about the rich cloth, but a lot of repeated words are used in the same sentence. Not to mention that "and" is one of Philippa Gregory's favorite words. Sometimes, you will get frustrated, rooting for the characters but finding some parts dragging, there's an especially long, LONG scene where Mary is riding to the countryside where she is banished. Nonetheless, it's still a good read, I recommend it for adults, definitely, but instead of wasting your money, check it out of the library. In the end, it's a nice read.