Monday, December 24, 2018

Sometimes the movie is better

So often I hear people echo the catch-cry, "Seen the movie?  The book's way better, but that's always the way..."  

I disagree.  

Sometimes a film adaptation elevates a story for me; be it an exceptional score, better pacing, incredible acting, moderation for minorities or a certain narrative tightening, sometimes a big team and/or a big budget can make magic from a book and leave me whispering, "I think I enjoyed that more than I did the book!"  I'm surprised when it happens, because I agree -- often my imagination's direction of a book can't be topped -- but sometimes, sometimes a film moves me in a way its source book does not.

I've been compiling a list of such anomalies for a while.  This is not to say I loved all of these movies (though the ones I did love are marked with an asterisk), it is to say they moved/thrilled/entertained me more than the books from which they are adapted did.  Some of the source books I couldn't even finish (so perhaps you could argue it's not a fair trial?), but I definitely finished their movie counterparts.  I think that's telling.

Here we go.  

Movies that moved me more than their books:
Mortal Engines
Never Let Me Go
To All The Boys I've Loved Before
The Princess Bride*
The Davinci Code
If I Stay
Mockingjay 1 and 2
How to Train Your Dragon
Paper Towns
P.S. I Love You
Forrest Gump
The Prestige*
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
The Lord of the Rings* Trilogy (comments are turned off, don't bother)
The Notebook

Books I anticipate will be better as movies:

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Mini Movie Reviews: Bulk Hit No 54


Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
I prefer the Newt franchise to the HP films.  I don't love number two as much as the first, but I still liked it very much.  It's way too dark to show my kids anytime soon.  Haki thought the story got a bit too convoluted.  I hear that, but still seemed predictable, so is it too much then? 

The Good Lie
I count this as one of Netflix's hidden gems.  Have watched twice and loved twice.  All thumbnails and posters misrepresent the story, baiting with Witherspoon's face.  Do not watch this film to see her.  My favourite Netflix watch of this year.  Not a romantic comedy.  Not for young ones.  After the second viewing with Haki he said, "Good pick, hon'".

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
I enjoyed the movie more than I did the book (which I found fun but oddly juvenile in patches) and overall, I found this better than the average high school movie. Well acted and good dialogue. I'll definitely watch the sequel.

Murder on the Orient Express
Haki and I both really enjoyed this.

The Clapper
A nice subtle little film.  We found it interesting to watch and talk about; a discussion-piece.

Set It Up
Risqué for sure but excellent rom com in all its rom-comishness.

Mother’s Day
It's okay.  Has some funny moments.  Way to make a watcher feel frumpy though.

I can't believe I haven't shared...I love this movie.  Cried through it with a sister-heart in the theatre.  Bought it.  Girls love it too, have watched more than once.  Adore the book and film both in different ways.

The Shack
Eugh.  I see there's value here but...this chewed up my heart and spat it out.  I can still get upset thinking about it now, months and months later.

Battle of the Sexes
I wasn't adequately prepared for the kind of film this turned out to be, and thus was quite disappointed.  Tonally, I expected a grand slam comedy.  It isn't.  It felt more about the battle against queer prejudice than gender prejudice. 

Maze Runner: The Death Cure
It's alright.  I like the whole trilogy, even if it's only alright.

The Dark Tower
Forgettable, sadly.  Haki had read the comic and had particularly high hopes that weren't satisfied.

A Monster Calls
I don't think this is a bad adaptation, but I do mourn the warmth and humour that came through in the book being lost in this considerably darker film. The movie had a lot to live up to.  Great book.

City of Ember
Fool's gold, this.  I thought I'd found a Netflix gem -- it looked so interesting -- but it was weak.  Also, wanted to scream at characters, "Come on, parents!"  I think my girls may like it sometime though, ha!  The set is great.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!
The first one is so much better.  I was still entertained, but I don't think I'd watch it a second time.  Haki was very disappointed (he really liked the first one!).

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
See previous review; Ctrl + V here.

My irresistible sub-genre.  I found it very intriguing and unsettling in the right way.  Not for those who don't like sci fi.  Quite steamy.

The Cloverfield Paradox
Not the best but not time wasted, sometimes I crave a wee space thriller; this is that.

The Titan
It starts swell then gets too weird.  Haki was mad at it at the end, like, throw your shoe in regret for having stayed so long, kind of mad.  I don't recommend it.

Never Let Me Go
More irresistible subject matter to me.  Liked the book.  Think the movie made it even better.  I'm gonna write a whole post about this rare phenomena.  There's sex scenes and full shots of someone looking at 2D porn in this...I'd avoided the film for a long time because of the sticker warning, but I really wanted to see the adaptation so opted to watch and AE (avert eyes, lol).


Sierra Burgess is a Loser - it's wrong, people

How it Ends - sweary and poorly executed

The Princess Switch - I was hoping this would be one of those cross-over ones where my girls like it and I like it; no such luck (but the girls did)

Yesterday's 20 here.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Mini Movie Reviews: Bulk Hit No 53

These bulk hits are growing title-wise but the word count doth shrinketh.  You can decide if me posting now about some movies I saw in-cinema a year (+) ago is a neg or not.  Maybe I failed to spare you purchasing a ticket for something it turns out we agree wasn't worth it.  Sorry.   Or...maybe you'll get to enjoy these as back-catalogue titles that slipped through the cracks.  (It really has been a long time I've been saving these up.  So when you see how many are here, take pause before you panic I do little else, I haven't posted a hit since August of last year.  I'll break this up over two posts, one today, one tomorrow.)

Here we go...

Mortal Engines
Haki and I saw this in-cinema just this week, that's why I'm leading with it.  I read the book two years ago because Peter and Fran were attached to the adaptation project.   I enjoyed the film.  It's worth watching just to see the premise realised, if nothing else -- it's a fascinating idea and the film opens with a punch delivery of Reeve's vision.  There's some unfortunate preaching, heavy-handed imagery and glaring disappointments that undercut the overall power of the film (including a moment that is too Death Star to ignore), but I'm so glad I saw it!  Because: older protagonists, incredible effects and well-paced action improve on the original story for me!  I found the book revolved around Tom, who I found unlikable and unworthy of being the hero.  The film is Hester's story, and it's better for it.  Sadly one of the biggest disappointments is that Hester is robbed of something that should have been hers (and so is Anna Fang; let's discuss).  Shrike? Brilliant. Visually, I devoured it.  It really tickled my post-apoc-tastebuds.  Is it my film of the year?  No.

Candy Jar
You know how some high school movies are wittier and better than the bulk of them? (for they are what they are)  This is one of those.  (Wardrobe is also a bonus.)

My third-favourite Marvel movie, which is to say I liked it.

Ant-Man and Wasp
This on the other hand, I did not like as much.  I didn't dislike it, but it was just okay.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The effects are top notch.  Not a fave. 

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
A bit funny...though the trailers gave me most of it.  *curse you, trailers*  (And having re-watched the original with my elder two this year, I have to say, the reboot doesn't give the same chills; seeing other-world in our world trumps entering other-world.  But I get it, it's an update.)

Orbiter 9
Spanish sub-titles.  I know I lost some people already.  This is the kind of premise I can't resist.    It wasn't all I hoped it would be and the sensuality registered higher on the heat scale than would allow me to recommend it to more people, but if a lonely woman in space appeals to you and you have some patience, this is worth a look (watched on Netflix).

Miguel's voice!  This one's attention to detail and strong story make it a happy addition to the Disney-Pixar canon; it's quite the all-rounder.

Pitch Perfect 3
I returned for Rebel and laughed at Rebel.  Otherwise not great.

A Quiet Place
This is one of my favourites of this year.   It sits in my scary sweet spot.  Haki and I saw it in the theatre for a day date.  We went in knowing nothing but the cast and the tagline (my favourite thing to do) and felt so rewarded for it.  It went there with the children (something I usually can't tolerate) and one scene was a little too done for my liking (ask me), but so much was perfect; the suspense, the performances, the showing instead of telling -- just right.  I wish I could show my kids this like an education tool (if the going gets tough you MUST listen to me and ask. no. questions!).  The day will come they can see it, but it's a ways off.  P.S.  Yes, I cried.

Kong: Skull Island
Humans are the worst.  Didn't like Samuel L.'s...anything, really (do I ever?).  Also didn't like that the only person in a singlet was a woman and that Samuel L. was wearing gauze around his face to protect from bugs at the same time woman wore said singlet.  Disappointing overall, and I remember little beyond these notes a year later.

A Country Called Home
Found on Netflix.  For all the sad things in this story I found it surprisingly hopeful; I appreciate the messages about redemption and fresh starts. Oft-times understated, consistently well-written and well-acted, supported by a strong soundtrack and an interesting end. There are no sex scenes, but there's swearing, alcohol misuse and mighty servings of disappointing choices. This one's not a family movie, though a message about being intentional in making people our family spoke to me.  It's pretty tough on the South, but one character represents a break from archetypes.

Robot & Frank
Another one found on Netflix. This one's pretty cute and funny.  A bit sweary.

Mary and Martha
Ones like this get me every time.  This film was the inspiration for my last charity dinner (you can help defeat malaria here).  Available on Netflix.  (Speaking of charity events, my girls hosted this year's one, and they did the work.  It was a lovely arrangement.)

Sheep & Wolves

Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2
I want to like this.  For me: not funny.

Everybody Loves Somebody 
Spanish subtitles.  A bit rude.  Great script.  Enjoyed.

Solo: A Star Wars Story
A pretty good time.  Rogue One's still my fave.

Blade Runner 2049
Good.  Haki was disappointed.

The Greatest Showman
This is old news, I know, but in the sake of thoroughness, let it be documented, I thoroughly enjoyed this film when I saw it in-cinema (and the second time, with my kids).  Yes, it’s a flawed, inaccurate movie, but its radical oversimplification, gorgeous mise en scene and constant moving percussion have their own magic. As a work of fiction taken at face value, I consider it an utter delight.  I do think Barnum's actual life warrants a discussion, post-, and I'd really like to see more people from RL margins being cast in spotlight roles about marginalised people, but guys, this movie did something for me that movies don't often do.  It got me grinning and wishing it wouldn't end.  Even if it's been thrashed and over-alluded to since, I won't forget that.

Come back for another bulk hit -- 20 more reviews(!) in brief -- tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Muse of Nightmares
Muse of Nightmares, Laini Taylor
It was good to be back with Sarai and Lazlo and the gang.  Muse of Nightmares enlarges upon the rich tapestry of Strange, interweaving new and worthy voices.  Initially I was lukewarm about spending time away from the original blue bunch, but as the narrative progressed, I conceded these  characters were adding layers and not simply separating me from places I needed to be.  I was thoroughly impressed with the seamless yet thorough catch-up chapter, the rightness of string-tying and the tasteful treatment of sensuality.  (The steam is definitely thicker in Book 2, but for the most part, sexual scenes fade-out before getting too graphic; some attention given to nipples is probably the most scandalous description.  I would think mostly older YA would be reading these anyway, since the prose is denser and more verbose than Laini's other work.)  Muse didn't wind me with its originality like Strange, but then, these characters and settings were no longer mind-blowingly new.  Instead, Muse was about picking up the introduced characters and settings that had stolen my breath and reframing them -- repopulating spaces, upturning cities and engendering sympathy for villains.  If you've been waiting, you won't be disappointed, but you're not in for the same eye-opening journey into the unknown, you're saddling up for a heart-twisting road to redemption.  Happy October!

Review copy received from Hachette.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Dry from the Shustermanssss

Dry, Neal and Jarrod Shusterman
I was looking forward to this.  I snuggled up with it knowing I'd get a survivalist fix.  I haven't really met a survivalist book I didn't enjoy...and Dry was not to end this streak.  I wouldn't say it blew all the others out of the water, but it smugly satisfied and definitely had its own edge.  It's memorable.
  • This doesn't rely on romance.  It may help some of you lovelies to go in knowing.  I wasn't disappointed by that at all.  (Though I'd just enjoyed time with Lazlo and Sarai -- read my Muse of Nightmares review tomorrow -- so wasn't hankering hard).
  • This is told from multiple perspectives and the voices are distinctly different.  Win. 
  • This particular brand of disaster has a haunting and more resonating ring to it than most (though it's entertaining to imagine outrunning zombies / speculate what the moon being knocked out of its usual orbit might do to us....).  Earlier this year, I sweat in L.A. heat while taking in the visible signs of forests recovering from fire.  That memory made this pretty raw and plausible speculative fiction reading, for me. 
  • The prose is tight and well-edited.
  • It's tasteful.  Though there is some violence (including violence resulting in death) and somber insinuations, much is left to the imagination that might have been exploited.
This one's for fans of Shusterman or Station Eleven, The Age of MiraclesZ for Zachariah and Life As We Knew It.

Yes Dad, you'll enjoy this.

Review copy received from Walker.
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