Movie and Book: Beautiful Creatures

When I initially saw the Beautiful Creatures books, I immediately thought vampires. It was on the wave of Twilight when it was vampire everything. I didn’t realize until the movie came out that it was witches. The movie looking interesting so I decided it was time to read the book.

Beautiful creature book 2

Beautiful Creatures follows the story of mortal teenager Ethan from the small town of Gatlin where nothing happens. Ethan has been dreaming of a girl with a face he can’t see. When he meets Lena, the new girl who has moved in with the mysterious Macon Ravenwood, he knows she’s the girl from his dreams. Ethan slowly gets drawn into a world full of magic, mystery, and danger.

I liked Ethan as the narrator. He was the kind of character who did his best to fit into the small town life but realizing that he did not belong and wanted desperately to get out. The problem for me was the book was SLOW to start. It took 150 pages for him to figure out Lena was a witch. UGH.

After 100 more pages, I genuinely liked Lena and Ethan. But most of all, I loved Macon Ravenwood, Lena’s uncle. His devotion to her is heart felt and he supports her even when he disagrees. The BEST scene is when the recluse Macon Ravenwood visits the school and shocks everyone. If you don’t want to read the book, just read that scene.

Overall, the book was decent. The setting of the South really captured the mystical qualities of the witches. However, I found myself not hooked by the series. I liked the characters enough, but the writing dragged for me too much to want to keep reading the series. The ending was tied up enough for me to think, ‘well what now?’ There was not enough of a cliffhanger for me to continue reading. I would give it a 3.5 out of 5.

Beautiful Creatures movieThe movie started exactly as the book and just as intriguing. The pacing was better considering it didn’t get bogged down by details. Visually, they captured the swampy south so perfectly. Towards the middle of the movie, they started to combine two characters into one which I didn’t like. They at least had my favorite scene of Macon Ravenwood showing up at the school. It was more brilliant in the book, but I was still pleased to see it.

The cast was great. I thought the actor who played Ethan was great. The girl who played Lena was meh. Jeremy Irons as Uncle Macon was fantastic. I didn’t care for Emmy Rossum as Riley. I love Emmy, but Riley’s character is supposed to be blonde!

I would have possibly rated the movie higher, if it wasn’t for the ending. The movie ending did not make sense at all. It was a whole mess of confusion and “WTF just happened?’ moments. The gorgeous visuals of depicting the South redeems it. Barely. I would rate it 3 out of 5.

 

All Things Jane Eyre

One of my favorite books of all time is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I like to call it “the book that doomed me to become an English major.” It feels like I read it for the first time only yesterday. I remember vividly being 16 and spending my summer days at my grandmother’s house, enjoying the cool air conditioning to avoid the 100 degree heat outside and physically not being able to put the book down. I remember falling in love with that book and rereading parts of it over and over and over again all summer long.

I was ecstatic when it was assigned reading in college 5 years later. I was worried that maybe it wasn’t as good as I remembered and maybe I changed too much to be able to appreciate it the same way. Luckily, it wasn’t the case. I felt like I was 16, falling in love with the book all over again. I passionately defended the haters of Mr. Rochester in my English class, to the point where the teacher pulled me aside and told me to tone it down. The scene where Jane has to leave Mr. Rochester breaks my heart. Every. Single. Time.

There have been MANY movie versions of Jane Eyre over the years and I doubt I will be able to watch them all (some of them you might not even be able to get on DVD and others might not be worth watching). There have been two recent adaptations of Jane Eyre that I recently enjoyed and wanted to share, a modern retelling novel and the most recent movie adaptation.

Jane BookFor those who don’t know the story of Jane Eyre, it is about a character named Jane Eyre and basically her life story. She is an orphan who is raised by her horrible aunt and mean spirited cousins. Her aunt ships her away to a religious school which ends up being just as terrible as her aunt’s. Despite it all, Jane grows up to be a pious, kind, caring, intelligent woman although often described as plain. She goes to work as a governess for the mysterious Mr. Rochester and then things start to get really interesting. Jane Eyre is a classic gothic fiction novel but also a love story woven in.

The novel Jane by April Lindner is a young adult modern retelling of Jane Eyre. Jane Moore drops out of college after the death of her parents to be a nanny employed by the mysterious, brooding, rock star Nico Rathburn about to make his comeback. I was dubious by a modern retelling as Jane Eyre is really a piece of literature that exists in the time period it was written for. I was convinced by my friend’s book review and decided I had to check it out  myself.

To give you an idea of how much I enjoyed this book, I started it late at night planning to only read a couple pages and instead finally went to sleep at dawn. I thought a successful modern interpretation of Jane Eyre would be impossible, but I was wrong. I loved it. Mr. Rochester as a modern rock star was ingenious and modern Jane was smart, strong, and endearing. I spent most of the book waiting to see if it was going to let me down in someway, but it never did. It gave me my Jane Eyre fix in a condensed, easy read version. I would rate it 5 out of 5.

Jane Eyre MovieI was excited when I learned a new move interpretation of Jane Eyre was being released in theaters. I really enjoyed the Kiera Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice and hoped it would be as good. I was devastated when I missed it in theaters, but added it first thing to my Netflix queue.

The movie starred Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester and Mia Wasikowska as Jane. I enjoyed the movie. I thought Mia embodied the awkwardness and plainness, but as well as the determination and strength of Jane. I wasn’t convinced with Michael’s portrayal of Mr. Rochester, but I thought he had good chemistry with Mia. Their interaction and banter were lines right out of the book which I enjoyed. The scenery for the movie was also beautifully done. The landscape and isolation of Thornfield was demonstrated well visually.

One of the really odd things about the movie was that it starts when she is leaving Mr. Rochester which is right in the middle of the novel. The timeline of the movie was very confusing in the beginning and shows a bunch of flashbacks. It picks up for awhile when Jane and Mr. Rochester meet and then becomes very confusing again when she leaves (which is where the movie initially started). For someone who might not be familiar with the story, they could get very confused. I have read the novel in it’s entirety at least twice and I was even confused at times.

The ending was very abrupt and unsatisfying, which I felt unnecessary as the novel has a complete ending. I also think the movie running time was a little short for the very lengthy novel to give it the depth that it needed. Despite those issues, I still enjoyed it and thought certain parts were done very well. I would rate it it 3.5 out of 5.

Movie and Book: Mortal Instruments- City of Bones

I had heard a lot about The Mortal Instruments series. I never got into them, because after the Twilight craze I became very anti-vampire storyline. My roommate started reading them and explained the plot was not all vampires, and I became more interested in checking them out. This was one of those rare occurrences where I didn’t get a chance to read the book first. I ended up tagging along with my roommate when the movie came out, and the movie finally interested me enough to check out the series.

The Mortal Instruments City of BonesMortal Instruments is about a girl, Clarissa “Clary”, whose mother is mysteriously kidnapped and Clary becomes exposed to an underground world of Shadowhunters, werewolves, and vampires. Shadowhunters kill and destroy demons to protect all of humanity, and Clary gets dragged into the middle of it all by the broody, sarcastic, Shadowhunter Jace. Cue the sexual chemistry and sparks.

Despite not knowing a lot about the series, except the basics, I still managed to follow along with the movie story line pretty well. Clary, played by Lily Collins, suited the role. Jamie Campbell Bower simply embodies the sensual, enigmatic Jace. I liked the chemistry between Lily and Jamie (which makes sense since they were rumored as dating while they were filming this movie). By the end of the movie, I had decided I needed to read the book. My main reason: I needed to make sure the surprise twist wasn’t true. I would rate the movie 3.5 out of 5.

The Mortal Instruments City of Bones bookThe author Cassandra Clare definitely comes off as a first time writer in her first book. It is awkwardly written with a lot of bad similes and metaphors. Despite that, she created a really interesting world and characters that kept me reading. I recognized some of the really good dialogue scenes from the book were used in the movie, which shows the dialogue was stronger than some of the plot points.

Although, the movie actually did some different things with the plot that I actually liked better than how they were done in the book. For example, the first monster you meet in the movie is this terrifying demon dog thing. The first monster you meet in the book sounds like a lame slime monster.

There was only one part of the movie that wasn’t clear and that was due to the script, as it was completely different in the book. I enjoyed getting more involved in the history of the Shadowhunters, vampires, and werewolves in the book.

I enjoyed the overall premise of the series more than the actual writing of the book. Clary was often annoying. Jace was definitely the more interesting character that made reading worth it. I would rate the book 2.5 out of 5.

They set up the movie version City of Bones for a sequel, but I’m not sure if it will be made since the first movie only did so-so in the box office. I would like to see how they would have done with the other books in the series.

Nicholas Sparks-Part I

How much do I love Nicholas Sparks? Let me count the ways.

I randomly picked up my first Nicolas Sparks novel while I was bored at a family friend’s house. It looked intriguing. It was called The Rescue and to this day it is still one of my favorite Nicolas Sparks novels. (Fact: I have read all of Sparks’ novels including his Autobiography ‘Three Weeks with my Brother’).

Many of his books have been turned into movies, because his novels translate extremely well into movies. They’re heartfelt, chick flick, tear jerkers that readers and viewers can appreciate. A lot of people accuse him for being too sad and always having his characters die, which can be the case. However, tragedy can strike at any time and dying is a part of life. I think that’s what Sparks’ illustrates in his books, love and loss.

I thought of reviewing his most popular book/movie releases such as The Notebook and A Walk to Remember, but I actually watched those movies before reading the books so I have very different opinions about them. I decided to go with the books I had read first before seeing their movie counterparts. The ones I will be reviewing are Nights in Rodanthe, The Last Song, and Dear John.

One of the things I like about Nicholas Sparks is that not all of his books are about young, summer love. He depicts romance across all ages, including those who might be past their prime and get a second chance at romance. Nights in Rodanthe is one of those. Adrienne has been abandoned by her husband and takes the opportunity to get away and tend to her friend’s bed and breakfast. Paul is a successful surgeon, also divorced, and the B&B’s only guest. In preparation of a storm about to hit, the two fall in love.

It’s really a story about two people who have broken down and find each other amidst a storm. When I read it, it wasn’t one of my favorites. Maybe I was too young to appreciate the older and divorced pain that the two have gone through. One of the big differences in the movie was Adrienne’s husband asking her if they can get back together, which becomes a theme through the movie as she ponders the question.

Richard Gere is getting old but I still think he’s super sexy in the movie. Diane Lane was brilliant as well. I liked their chemistry together. I would say that I enjoyed the movie more than the book. I would give the book a 3 out of 5 and the movie a 3.5 out of 5.

The Last Song is about Ronnie (Veronica) and her younger brother living with her estranged dad for the summer, finding first love, and saving the sea turtles. The book was well written, seamlessly plotted, and poignantly told. All the characters were fully developed and evolved throughout the novel. It’s one of my favorites by Nicholas Sparks. (Fact: Most of Nicholas Sparks’ books are my favorite).

I was really hesitant about the movie because Miley Cyrus was playing Ronnie. I didn’t think she could pull off the depth of Ronnie’s character and growth that she goes through in the novel. Much to my delight, the basic storyline was very similar to the book and I felt myself drawn into the story. Greg Kinnear, who played her dad, was fantastic. Although I still think Ronnie should have been recast, Miley Cyrus was not as terrible as I imagined. I enjoyed Liam Hemsworth as the leading man as well. They obviously have great chemistry together.

The movie was a very decent adaptation of the book, despite some minor plot changes. I think the book though was much more enjoyable and included less Miley Cyrus. I would give the book a 4 out of 5 and the movie a 3 out of 5.

Dear John

Dear John is another one of my favorites of Nicholas Sparks. It follows the story of John Tyree who falls in love with Savannah while he’s on leave from the Army. They continue their love through letters as John finishes his assignment. Until 9/11 happens and John has to decide to fight for his country or return to his true love. The book is heartfelt and well written. Nicholas Sparks wrote this as a tribute to the people enlisted in the US military, and I felt it was portrayed well (especially with the aftermath of 9/11).

I initially had not heard very good reviews of the movie, but I had to decide for myself. I actually thought the movie was a decent interpretation of the book. I like that it still involved John’s relationship with his father, as that is a large part of the book. It also of course touched on how 9/11 changed the military, which resulted in John’s relationship changing with Savannah. However, I had two issues with the movie. The biggest problem was the chemistry between Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried falls very flat. That factor alone affects the whole movie. The other problem is that the ending is different. I don’t mind a different ending if it works. In this case, it did not.

The book is extremely good and I cried through most of the last chapter. (Fact: I cry often when reading Nicholas Sparks). The adaptation of the book to the movie was decent, but the lack of chemistry between the actors made it unbelievable. I was a bit disappointed. I would give the book a 4 out of 5, but the movie gets a 2 out of 5.

Charlie St. Cloud

It started with my interest in wanting to see the movie. Mostly because I have an undeniable weakness and love for Zac Efron. Then I found the movie-tie in of the book with Zac’s lovely face on the cover. I had no idea that it had been a book, and of course I had to find out how they compared.

Sherwood, Ben. The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud (2004). 277 pages. Bantam Dell. $12.99.

I started with the book. The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud is told from the perspective of the paramedic who saved Charlie’s life. Charlie was in a tragic car accident, which resulted in Charlie being brought back to life and the unfortunate death of his younger brother, Sam. Fast forward 13 years later, Charlie works at a graveyard and, due to a promise he made, plays baseball with this spirit of his dead brother every day at sunset. Charlie’s ability to see his dead brother also allows him to converse with other spirits, and clearly illustrates that he is not truly living hence his “death”. Everything begins to change once he meets a girl, Tess.

I was initially very confused in the beginning, when the story started from the viewpoint of the dead paramedic who once saved Charlie’s life. Despite that, the story telling was simple and straight forward and, I admit, I was drawn in and teared up at the emotional bits. I like Charlie’s character and the bond he has with Sam. I also really like Tess and the connection she has with Charlie. I really cared about the characters and what happened to them.

Although I liked the characters, the writing itself had some issues. The twist to the story wasn’t much of a twist, as I predicted it several pages before it actually happened. The symbolism was a little overdone in comparing Charlie’s “life” to his “death”, and the ending was a little much. In the end, I realized that it was like the writer was trying too hard to be Nicholas Sparks, and kind of fell short. The one thing that bothered me the most was that Charlie had been working at the cemetery for thirteen years, he was 28 years old, and still playing baseball with his 12 year old brother. It just seemed a long time to be playing ball with your dead brother, and I just don’t see how the relationship between them would remain the same. Overall, I liked the story about Charlie, Sam, and Tess but the book seemed overwritten. I would rate the book 2.5/5.

Charlie St. Cloud (2010). Starring Zac Efron, Kim Basinger and Ray Liotta. Directed by Burr Steers. 99 minutes. $12.99.

I watched the movie soon after, and I was pleasantly surprised how close the movie was to the plot of the book. Charlie has a promising college career which abruptly ends with the death of his brother when he starts working at the graveyard instead. I thought the relationship in the movie between Charlie and Sam was played really well. The paramedic was a part of the story (played by Ray Liotta), but was not as big of a part as he was in the book. I pretty much just love Zac Efron, and I thought he did well.

One of the improvements from the book to the movie is that only 5 years pass from the death of his brother instead of 13. Charlie from the book is still hanging out with Sam when he is 28, while Charlie in the movie is only 22 or 23. I felt like it just made more sense. 13 years is a very long time to hold onto guilt, grief, and meetings with your dead brother every day at sunset. I felt like 5 years made a lot more sense. I don’t know why this little thing bothered me so much, but it made the characters in the movie more believable to me.

It still included the same twist to the story, which I felt wasn’t as predictable as it was in the book. I like the chemistry Zac Efron had with Tess (played by Amanda Crew). They filmed the movie in a north eastern harbor town that fit perfectly with where the book was set. I felt that the movie had all the good elements of the story, without the overwriting of the book. I would rate the film 3.5/5.

Push/Precious

After watching The Blindside, I decided that I also wanted to see Precious. I was running with my theme of Oscar nominated movies (although last years Oscars by now). Then I discovered there was also a book that the movie was based on called Push by Sapphire. Already I was hesitant. I tend to have issues with book/movie counterparts when they change the title. It makes me feel like the movie will be vastly different than the written work it’s based on. But I was still committed to this blog at the time (which is laughable because it really doesn’t seem to be the case), so I decided to start with the book.

Sapphire. Push (1997). 192 pages. Vintage. $13.00.

I had assumed that Precious was based on a true story. I’m not sure why I came to that assumption, but I quickly learned that was not the case. The novel Push is actually fiction. It’s about a teenage girl named Precious who has become pregnant by her father raping her, and emotionally, physically, and sexually abused by her mother. She drops out of high school (somewhat kicked out) and ends up in a reform school/GED program for other teenage girls. It’s meant to be tragic for the social conditions Precious lives in, but also inspiring as Precious learns to stand up for herself and grow as a person.

I have to say that I was very uninspired by my book choice and it was very difficult to get through. Luckily, it was short and an easy read otherwise I don’t know if I would have finished it.

The main problem I had with the novel is the narrative itself. The whole novel is narrated in Precious’ voice, which I understand that this is meant to be her story as if she was telling it. However, Precious is a very difficult narrator to follow. She does not give her story any time line,  and the stories she retells don’t match up with where she is when she’s telling it. I understand it was maybe meant to be artistic for the writer, but instead it was confusing and frustrating.

The depictions of Precious’ family dynamic is flat out disgusting. Although Precious is just being honest, the details used to describe the father raping her are vulgar and her mother’s abuse is disturbing.  I will be the first to admit that I have gentle sensibilities, so it was very difficult for me to read through those scenes (and there are a lot of them).

The other issue I had was how difficult it was to see Precious’ growth. Since it is continuously depicted in Precious’ narrative voice it’s hard to see any actual change, because she still sounds uneducated to the very end of the book. The only aspect that changes is her actions, which somewhat shows a hint of her growth.

I felt that maybe I just didn’t get it. I didn’t feel sorry for Precious, and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to. You feel sorry for her situation, as the reader understands that no person should be abused this way. It is devastating to think there are children with parents such as that. But I couldn’t pity Precious for it. Mostly because she didn’t even understand how wrong her situation was. It wasn’t a book that I appreciated artistically or enjoyed. I rate the book a 1/5.

At this point, I was thinking anything had to be better than the book I read. I wanted to be able to root for Precious, or to even like Precious.

Precious (2009). Starring Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey, and Lenny Kravitz. Directed by Lee Daniels. 109 minutes. $19.98.

Thankfully, I did like the movie better. One of the most important improvements was that it had a cohesive, flowing time line. It was easier to see the progression of Precious’ growth, education, and development with having the story told sequentially. It still was in Precious’ point of view, as they had Gabourey voice over a lot of the movie but without any confusion.

The movie also had a great way of expressing visually how Precious saw herself as a person. In the novel, Precious often has daydreams of being a movie star, which always seemed muddled in her narrative. When things would get difficult, she would also imagine herself in a different place. They cut scenes of her movie star self, her imagined white self, and thought processes with scenes happening to her. It worked much better visually than it ever did in the book.

The movie showed Precious’ horrendous situation in ways that were sympathetic but not disturbing. The mother, played by Mo’Nique, was a brilliant performance and rightfully won the Oscar for supporting actress. I even felt sympathetic for the mother’s character which I did not feel at all in the book.  I wasn’t super impressed with Gabrielle Sidbay’s performance until the very end.

The movie was much more enjoyable and a better representation of the overall story than the novel was by itself. I would rate it 3.5/5.

My opinion is to not even bother with the book, and enjoy the more inspiring, hopeful movie interpretation.


Sidenote: If you want a novel with a unique narrative voice that is artistic as well as making believable characters that are interesting, I would recommend The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time. I think that this was the kind of narrative that the writer wanted for Push and failed miserably.

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).