Inkheart

I went through a Cornelia Funke phase, where I read most of her books from the library. I can’t remember if it started with Inkheart, or if I ended with it. I do know that I love the title Inkheart. It strikes a chord with the writer in me.

Funke, Cornelia. Inkheart (2003). 534 pages. Scholastic. $17.99 (hardcover).

Inkheart is about a girl, Meggie, and her father, who she simply calls Mo. He’s a famed bookbinder throughout Europe and they travel as he rebinds very old books. It’s a mystery about what happens to Meggie’s mother, as Meggie doesn’t remember and Mo refuses to talk about it. Then you find out that Mo has a very rare gift. If he reads out loud, he can read characters in and out of books, but has no control over who and what comes in or goes out. Mo and Meggie get thrown into an adventure with the fire-eater named Dustfinger, book collector Aunt Elinor, a boy from Arabian Nights, and the evil Capricorn.

It’s been awhile since I read Inkheart (as it is the first in the trilogy and I read its sequels more recently), so I don’t remember it as well. However, I love Funke’s writing. She has beautiful imagery and a great storyteller flow. It’s the reason why I read most of the books that she’s written. The English major in me wonders how well it’s translated (since it’s originally in German). As I’m never learning German, I suppose I’ll continue to wonder.

My only complaint really is Inkheart itself. The book titled Inkheart talks about a book, ironically, also titled Inkheart that Mo accidentally reads out some of its characters. As I enjoy the characters and it has its own entire plot, I wish I could read that book. However, I doubt Funke would ever write it. There’s so much told about the “original” story, it made me want to actually read it.

Towards the end of this first installment, it becomes a little predictable. When I learned that it was a trilogy, I decided to read the rest of the books series. Inkheart didn’t really end on a cliffhanger, and I would have been happy not reading the other two books. However, I’m glad I did. The last 2 books of the Inkworld trilogy are truly amazing, and it all comes to a conclusion that keeps you in suspense. For Inkheart alone, I would rate it 3.5/5. For the series, I would rate it 5/5.

I was very excited to learn that they were making a movie of this book. Then I learned Brendan Frasier would play Mo, and I wasn’t as excited.

Inkheart (2008). Starring Brendan Fraser, Eliza Bennett, Helen Mirren, Paul Bettany, Andy Serkis, and Jim Broadbent. Directed by Iain Softley. 106 min. $9.99

I decided not to have high expectations for the movie. Some great children’s books that have the potential to make great movies never actually turn out that great (Golden Compass, a perfect example). I was also very leery about Brendan Fraser being cast as Mo, as Mo is one of my favorite characters.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I actually was very impressed by the movie. It turned out to be a decent visual representation of the book. This was mostly due to the cast.

As I predicted, Brendan Fraser wasn’t all that impressive (but not nearly as terrible as I imagined) and the girl who played Meggie was so-so. The supporting cast actually made the movie (which made sense as they were my favorite characters in the books as well). Helen Mirren as cranky, bookish Aunt Elinor was fantastic. Andy Serkis as the very evil, creepy Capricorn was also amazing. Jim Broadbent as the absentminded, writer Fenoglio was brilliant. However the actor who stole the show was Paul Bettany as Dustfinger. I might be a little biased as Dustfinger is my favorite character. Half magical, part brooding, all around good guy with the best intentions, but only out for himself. Paul Bettany nails the role like it was meant for him.*

Especially his shirtless, fire dancing scene:

And now you understand.

The movie was a decent visual interpretation of the book, although it could have been a little longer to help explain and develop the movie plot a little better. I rate the movie a 3.5/5. I would still recommend reading the book first though.

And if you love Dustfinger, then definitely watch Paul Bettany.

 


*Then again Paul Bettany is pretty much excellent in everything he does (except for that crap tennis movie he did with Kirsten Dunst. Horrid).

The Tale of Despereaux

The most prestigious award for Children’s Literature is the Newbury Award. Some of my favorite kids/junior fiction are Newbury books such as The Giver or The Witch of Blackbird Pond. When I worked at the independent book store, The Tale of Despereaux was the latest pick and it was flying off the shelves. When the movie came out, I decided I would take the time to read it.

DiCamillo, Katie. The Tale of Despereaux (2003). 272 pages. Candlewick. $17.99

The Tale of Despereaux tells the story about a mouse named Despereaux who doesn’t act like other mice. His ears are too big, his eyes open too soon, he doesn’t scurry, and worst of all, he’s not afraid of humans. The mouse who is not like other mice also learns how to read, and imagines himself as a knight. Unfortunately, his kingdom has been saddened by the loss of their queen who died in a terrible mishap involving a rat (Roscuro) and soup. Therefore the king has outlawed soup through out the land. The beloved mouse has a huge adventure involving falling in love with a princess, a dungeon full of evil rats, a servant girl who dreams of being a princess, and bringing the joy of soup back to the kingdom. It’s heartwarming and endearing. Even the evil bad guys in the plot aren’t all that bad.

Overall, the book reads beautifully. It sounds like a fairy tale, as the author directly addresses the reader to give insights into the motivations and history of the characters. Katie DiCamillo writes a charming story with adventure and romance. I could imagine how it would be a great book to read out loud to children. I rate the book a 4/5.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the movie. I had heard that the movie was “boring”. After reading the book, I could understand why some people would think that. Although the story has a sense of adventure, it’s more of a mental story than a visual one. The narrator of the book really sets the tone for the whole story, and the words are much more compelling than what is actually happening. There are a lot of main characters and you better understand the character’s motivation by reading the book. For example, the reader feels the fear and apprehension in the dungeon because Despereaux is so terrified.

The Tale of Despereaux (2008). Starring Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, and Emma Watson. Directed by Sam Fell and Robert Stevenhagen. 93 min. $14.98

 

 

 

 

 

 

The movie was so-so. It is very slow paced which I think is an effort to draw out the story for the big screen. They changed a couple things that weren’t bad or good, just different. The evil rat (Roscuro) wasn’t exactly evil but not in the same way that it was written in the book. They added the character of the king’s cook and his magical vegetable counterpart. A bunch of random vegetables came to life to help the cook make his soup. My first reaction to seeing it in the very beginning of the movie was “What the hell?” It was really weird and he played a very odd role in the movie. It was never explained how he could come to life or if he was simply a delusion of the cook’s. It was obvious he was added as comedic affect (as the story itself isn’t very funny), but he came off as creepy.  The only parts that redeemed it for me was the voices of Matthew Broderick as Despereaux, Dustin Hoffman as Roscuro, and Sigourney Weaver as the Narrator.

Overall, I don’t think the movie was successful in translating into a visual story. Kids would be better off reading the book, and enjoy it much more. I would rate the movie a 1.5/5.

On a side note, I decided I liked Katie DiCamillo and read Tiger Rising. I actually enjoyed it better than Despereaux. Although the symbolism for the novella kind of punches you in the face, it blended realism with a bit of fairytale that DiCamillo did so well in Despereaux. I also really would like to check out her other Newbury Award winning book, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

The Blind Side

(Sorry, I was going to post this a week ago. But work and life got in the way. Better late than never).

During my brief stint at Border’s, the movie-tie in version of The Blind Side were flying off the shelves. I had heard how great the movie was, but when I looked at the description of the book it sounded…boring. The online description made it sound like it was all about the evolution of football and not necessarily the story of Michael Oher. I decided that the book was not worth my time. So I watched the movie instead.

The Blind Side (2009). Starring Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, and Kathy Bates. Directed by John Lee Hancock. 129 min. $29.98

For those who don’t know the story (although it seems like everyone saw the movie before I did), it follows the life of Michael Oher plucked from Memphis poverty and becoming an all-star left tackle for the NFL. The movie starts during his life as a high school teenager. He manages to enroll in a rich, white, Christian school where the coach salivates over Michael’s vast size and athletic ability. He meets Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, the typical rich, Christian, suburban Memphis family who eventually begin to care for Michael and adopt him into their family.

The movie was fantastic. It was a typical inspirational, heart-warming movie. Some of the scenes were not only touching but funny. Leigh Anne’s character was sassy but with a caring heart for those around her. Sandra Bullock nailed the role and made it completely believable. There was moments when the movie dragged a little bit, but you cared so much for the characters that it didn’t matter too much. I absolutely adore Sandra Bullock and was excited to see the movie that garnered her Oscar win. Although the kid who played Michael was decent, Sandra stole the show. Tim McGraw* played the submissive role of Sean Tuohy. I easily give the movie a rating of 5/5.

I loved the movie so much that I decided to take another look at the book. On closer inspection, it wasn’t as much about football as I originally thought. So I took a trip to my library to check it out.

Lewis, Michael. The Blind Side (2008). 288 pages. Norton. $13.95.

The book did end up being A LOT about football. I will warn you ahead of time that if you don’t know the basics of the game, you will be completely lost (or at least skip almost half the book). I happen to be a rare species of females who understand football very well.** The football history is mixed in with the narrative of Michael Oher’s story. There is a lot about how football has evolved with players and coaches that have changed the game over the years, especially in the evolution of the left tackle position Michael plays. Despite a lot of football talk, there was a detailed account of the story surrounding  Michael Oher and the Tuohy family.

I was pleasantly surprised that the movie very closely resembled the true story of the book. I feel that movies based on a true story rarely accurately portray the true events. This is not the case with this movie. Although the time line was a little different in how some things happened, most of the events related in the movie did happen to some degree. There were several quoted lines in the book from the real people that were written into the movie word for word for their characters.

The only real difference was about Sean Tuohy. The movie mostly depicts the relationship between Leigh Anne and Michael (mother-son), and Sean is seen as just supporting whatever she does and rarely doing anything himself. The book relates a lot of what Sean did for Michael (the first one to meet him and introduce him to his family, found a way to replace his ‘F’s with ‘A’s to get into college). Although I liked the movie as it was, I wish Sean’s character would have been a little more proactive. I felt it was relevant to how this family deeply cared for Michael, including the Tuohy children, Collins and SJ.

I think what impressed me most about this novel was the detail. Michael Lewis did A LOT of research to make this book. There were hundreds of football statistics, and thousands of quoted lines from people ranging from NFL football coaches to the gang-bangers who lived in Michael’s neighborhood to the Tuohy family. It’s hard enough to write a novel from your imagination, much less a book based on a true story that required so much research into football and the lives of the Tuohy family and Michael.

Despite the football lectures, Michael Lewis wrote the story well. And it is definitely a story worth telling. I rate the book 4/5.


*I did not even recognize Tim McGraw till weeks after when my roommate mentioned he was in the movie. I think it was the lack of the cowboy hat. I haven’t decided if not realizing who he really was is actually a sign of his superb acting ability.

**My father had a daughter for his only child and I lived in a one TV household. Consequently, I was stuck watching football on Sundays. I figured I might as well learn how the game is played or die at an early age from boredom. I obviously chose the former.

Marley & Me

Grogan, John. Marley & Me (2005). 291 pages. William Morrow & Co., Inc. $21.95

This was one of the rare cases where I actually saw the movie before I read the book. I didn’t intend to read the book, but after I saw the movie I decided that I wanted to see how the book differed. Especially since that is something that I enjoy doing (if it wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t bother with this blog). Although I saw the movie first, I will start with the book.

The book chronicles the life of John Grogan, his family, and their dog Marley. The book is not one cohesive novel as it is non-fiction and based on John’s columns when he wrote with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.  John’s book starts with him and his wife Jennifer, just married, recently moved to Florida, and deciding to own a dog. Strong, powerful, destructive of property, and terrified by thunderstorms, the golden lab Marley turns out to be quite a handful.  However, he makes up for it in his abundance of love and devotion to his owners.

The novel follows the life of Marley through being kicked out of obedience school, protecting his family in a crisis, and a brief stint as a movie star, while the Grogans live through a miscarriage, the birth of their three children, and moving to Pennsylvania.

I’m not much of a die hard dog lover or pet/animal person in general, but the book was heartwarming. It’s a simple light-hearted read written to make you laugh and cry a little (even though I already know what happens in the end).*

The writing is simple and straight-forward. The story is cute with something everyone can relate to, owning a pet no one else will love. I rate it a 3.5/5.

Marley & Me (2008). PG. Starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson. Directed by David Frankel. 115 min. $29.98.

The book translates very well into the movie. Most of the scenes in the movie are directly from the book, such as the obedience school, Marley trying to escape out of the car on their way for a  ‘snip, snip’ vet appointment, and swallowing the gold diamond necklace. Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston basically play themselves, and Marley the dog is just as crazy as ever.

The only thing about the movie that was different was a sideline to the story about John dreaming of being a big time news reporter, instead of becoming a family man and columnist. John has a friend who works at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel who becomes a hard-hitting news reporter, and John seems to envy him a little of this. There is nothing of this mentioned at all in the book, and I’m not sure if it was true of John’s life. It seemed sweet that he chose the better life than his thrill-seeking friend, but it seemed unnecessary in the plot of the movie and would have been better without it.

Overall, I actually preferred the movie. The movie paced well over the years it depicted in Marley’s life and it was a cute, simple story (did I mention heartwarming?). I rate it a 4/5.

I am willing to admit that I might like the movie a little bit better because I saw it first. However, I think the story translates better as a visual one opposed to the written book. I enjoyed seeing Marley’s crazy antics more than reading about them. I think Marley’s good intentions and lovable nature through his terrible behavior is better suited to film. Also, I would rather watch the movie again then read the book.


*If you haven’t noticed yet, I tend to cry. A lot.