Movie and Book: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I love audio books.

It’s only been the last few years that I have gotten into audio books. I used to be one of those books snobs who would not be caught dead listening to an audio book. Then I started making an 16 hour drive round trip a few times a year, and I discovered the wonderful thing that were audio books.

Extremely_loud_and_incredibly_close_bookI picked up Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as an audio book at the library (unabridged because that is the only way to go). I had heard the book was good but that was about it. I had no idea what the story really was about. I’m glad I picked it up. It is about a boy Oscar who has lost his father on Sept 11th in the World Trade Center. Although you don’t figure that out right away because all he calls it is “The Worst Day”. You learn the story of his father in pieces.

Oscar is a unique character with his own terminology of things. He comes across a key and is determined to find the lock that fits it as he believes that his father left it for him to figure out. He comes across many unique characters in his search. It’s a beautiful story well told in the voice of Oscar. My only problem with the book was the side story about Oscar’s Grandma and Grandpa. Oscar’s grandparents suffered the tragedies in World War II and it goes into their story along with Oscar’s journey until both storylines converge. One of the things I really liked about the audio book was that each character was voiced differently depending on whose perspective the chapter was in. The bad thing was there was too much of the grandparents story. I really liked Oscar and I wanted more of his story. I did not really care about the grandparents, especially Grandma. The ending also fell a little flat for such a well crafted story. I would rate the book 4 out of 5.

 

extremely-loud-and-incredibly-close-movieI was interested to see what they were going to do with the movie version and I had heard people rave about the movie. Tom Hanks plays the dad in flashbacks with Oscar and Sandra Bullock plays Oscar’s mom. I loved the little kid who plays Oscar. I thought he did a great job (although I don’t know why his eye color kept changing crazy colors).

One of the things I liked about it is that the movie is strictly from Oscar’s perspective and doesn’t involve the grandparents story hardly at all. The only scenes with the grandparents were their relationship with Oscar. I think I liked them better that way. However, you do lose a little bit of the context of the story. I thought it was a decent movie interpretation but it pales in comparison to rich detail of the book. And actually changes quite a few scenes and add some scenes that didn’t even happen in the book. One of my favorite characters from the book was completely cut from the movie. I understand why it was necessary, but I was still disappointed. There was a lot to put in there. The movie ended on a much more positive note than the book, but I wish the book had come up with it first as it would have been written better. I think I would rate the movie 3 out of 5.

Conclusion- I think it is one of those situations where if you watched the movie, you would be satisfied and thinks it’s amazing if you haven’t read the book. If you read the book, the movie will be somewhat of a disappointment. But don’t listen to this as an audio book while you are driving! There will be tears.

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.

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.

Chick Lit into Chick Flick

Out of all the different books I read, I find that the genre turned into movies most often is “Chick Lit”. Like most females in their young 20-something age bracket, I admit that I enjoy “Chick Lit” type novels. I don’t enjoy annoying, bitchy, or sissy heroine main characters (who would?), but I do like the easy-escape read it can provide.

Since I enjoy reading those types of novels, I tend to read them long before the movie comes out. I thought I would review a few of the novels and their movie counterparts for an entry. I would rather prefer to read the books and watch the movies again for a more in-depth review, however the copies of the books now reside several hours away from me. Besides I remember them well enough to give an opinion for each of them. If I happen to get the book/movie versions at a later date, I would happy to review them again if necessary.

McLaughlin, Emma and Kraus, Nicola. The Nanny Diaries (2003). 320 pages. St. Martin's Griffin. $13.95

First I would like to start with The Nanny Diaries. The book begins as a sociological type of framework as if the narrator is conducting a study, where the main character is called Nanny and the parents as Mr. and Mrs. X. Nanny is a college student who starts her first nanny job for the X’s to work around her school schedule. Chaos ensues. The only name the book gives is 4 year old Grayer.  I understand that the authors themselves were nannies for Manhattan higher society types, and this probably helped them keep their experiences with those clients somewhat anonymous. However, I felt that it distanced the reader from the characters. Nanny is very one dimensional except in her love for Grayer (although why I can’t imagine, since he continues to be the biggest brat in the world). Mrs. X is a total bitch who terrorizes the Nanny as she realizes her own son doesn’t love her, much less anyone else.  I have to admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of the book. The love story even fell flat with Nanny’s love interest, nicknamed “Harvard Hottie” (again he is not given a real name). The book can be amusing at times, but the writing style didn’t work for me. It’s a decent read if you enjoy reading about those types of situations. As an avid babysitter for most of my teenage years, I was just annoyed. Annoyed with Grayer’s brattiness, Mrs. X’s bitchiness, and Nanny’s cluelessness. Rating: 2.5/5.

In comparison, the movie counterpart starring Scarlett Johansson and Laura Linney was a vast improvement. The movie began with an archeological study framework which worked a lot better for the film than it did the book. The love story involving “Harvard Hottie” was written so much better (with the help of adorable Chris Evans). Also, certain scenes with Mrs. X were done a little bit differently making her seem not entirely heartless.* Laura Linney did a great job with the role and Scarlett had all the charisma that her book counterpart lacked.  The movie exceeded my expectations, and I enjoyed it a lot more than the book. Rating: 3.5/5.

The next book I wanted to go over is Confessions of a Shopaholic. I absolutely love Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series! Becky Bloomwood is quirky, funny, and smart. She gets herself in the most ridiculous situations, but it always works out and she manages to grow as a character. The movie is based on the first book also titled Confessions of a Shopaholic. It’s not my favorite book in the series, but I still enjoyed it.  Becky works for a financial magazine, including how to save and stock tips, except Becky has a secret obsession called shopping. And her obsession starts to cause a big problem as she becomes more and more in debt. The book is broken up with letters from her banker which get more and more irate as Becky tries to stall for more time. Becky has a great witty, narrative voice that always makes me laugh out loud, and she has a unique, creative way to get herself out of situations. The book also introduces one of my favorite male characters, Luke Brandon. The only problem I had was the book drags a lot in the beginning. I almost had a hard time getting into it, but it definitely picks up at the end and I couldn’t put it down for the last 100 pages.  Rating: 4/5.

Kinsella, Sophie. Confessions of a Shopaholic (2001). 320 pages. Dial Press. $14 Book Cover pictured with Isla Fisher.

I was really excited when I heard the movie was coming out. First problem I had with it: they chose Australian actress Isla Fisher to play an American Becky and set it in New York (the book and characters are actually set in England). I wasn’t sure what to expect.  As a comparison to the book, it was a huge let down. When I realized that this movie was not going to be like the original story, I put the book out of my mind and focused on the movie for what it was. It was very cute. I love Isla Fisher and she really did embrace the character perfectly. The storyline was different, but the situation and resolution was similar. The only thing that really bothered me was how they wrote Luke and his relationship with Becky. Although Hugh Dancy did his best, he just did not embody Luke for me. Also there was a running joke/thing about Luke, Becky, and the green scarf they met/fought over. It was entirely written in and it really bothered me for some reason. As itself, the movie was cute and enjoyable. However, it lacked for me as a true book adaptation. Rating 3/5.

The last book I wanted to go over is The Devil Wears Prada. It was first time novel and best seller by Lauren Weisberger. It follows the story of Andrea Sachs, a recent Brown graduate, who wants to get into the world of journalism. She lands her first job as a personal assistant to the tyrannical Miranda Priestly, fashion editor of Runway magazine (it is speculated that the character is loosely based on the editor of Vogue, Anna Wintour). Chaos ensues. I had heard so much about this book before I finally made the trip to the library, and I wanted to like it. But I just didn’t. As Lauren’s first novel it shows. The book drags on too long, the writing style was flat, and her characters were forgettable. The only redeeming thing about the book is Miranda’s character. Although she’s a huge bitch (Mrs. X times 3), Miranda makes the book at least interesting. Andrea’s character is utterly forgettable and annoying. She hates her job but she doesn’t do anything about it until it’s almost too late. My biggest issue was that the book was simply too LONG. By the time it finally gets to the ending, the show down between Miranda and Andrea is anti-climactic and I just don’t care anymore. Rating: 1/5

The Devil Wears Prada (2006). PG-13. Starring Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci, and Emily Blunt. Directed by David Frankel. 109 min. $14.98

The movie adaptation took out all the filler in the book and made it better. I love Meryl Streep and she nailed the role as Miranda. I adore Anne Hathaway and she made Andrea’s character charming and remembered. They added a couple scenes featuring Miranda that made her seem more human, which added a lot of depth to her character. And I felt Andrea had a lot more growth as a character in the movie than she ever did in the book. Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci add to the cast of characters that just weren’t there in the book. It was so much more enjoyable to watch then the book ever was as a read. Rating 3.5/5

I was thinking of adding one of my all time favorite Chick Lit book/movie duo Bridget Jones’ Diary to this entry, but I feel that I should reserve a whole entry for that one at a latter date (mostly because I want to reread the book again).

And for regular readers (all two of you), I am trying to be posting regularly on Wednesdays for now. We will see how it goes.


*I have issues with books/TV/movies of heartless bitches. Mean girls do not amuse me, I only get annoyed. It’s why Mrs. X** and Miranda did not amuse me. They just annoy and frustrate me. And I cannot imagine why a main character would bother putting up with it.

**Okay, I realize that Miranda maybe didn’t bother me as much. I think Mrs. X annoys me more because she’s a mom and a drama queen. Terrible combination.

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.