Tag Archives: book to movie

Feature Presentation: The BFG

The_BFG_posterThe BFG starring Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jermaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Adam Godley, Michael Adamthwaite, Daniel Bacon, Chris Gibbs, Paul Moniz de Sa, and Jonathan Holmes

Amblin Entertainment/Walt Disney Pictures/Walden Media, 2016. Rated PG.

Synopsis: When Sophie witnesses the appearance of a Giant roaming the streets from the window of the orphanage, she is snatched from her bed and whisked away to Giant Country – lest she be telling anyone about what she has seen. But the Giant who kidnapped her turns out to be friendly, despite his size, and the two begin a friendship that will lead them to an adventure neither of them could have ever dreamed of.

I tend to be a purist when it comes to the book versus movie debate – I’m more apt to choose the book over the movie because I feel like the story becomes warped in its journey from page to screen. I perhaps wrongly anticipated that this would not be the case with The BFG; but then again, look at what happened with James and the Giant Peach (which had absolutely no resemblance to its source material after about 15 minutes). The BFG thankfully kept a grand majority of the main plot points: Sophie is an orphan who is kidnapped by the BFG, who lives in Giant Country in the company of some rather more unsavory child eating Giants and the two enlist the help of the Queen of England to help stop the child-snatching once and for all. The screenwriters inserted a bit in which the BFG had another child companion before Sophie that I suppose was meant to better flesh out the BFG as a character, but it made him more of a tragic hero than an unwitting hero. The BFG is meant to be a fun-loving but misunderstood character that overcomes bullies and becomes a functioning member of society; it doesn’t feel like the same story or character when he’s given a tragic past. I liked Ruby Barnhill as Sophie, but I spent a lot of the movie irked by the fact that she was trying to be Mara Wilson. True, she’s a girl who exhibits wisdom beyond her young age, but the movie makes her out to be more of a caretaker – she picks up the mail the matron forgets off the front mat, locks the door, and turns out the lights after everyone else is gone to bed. She seems to lack the child-like, earnest nature that was so endearing in the book. Even though I felt like the film fell short, there are still a lot of entertaining moments that will no doubt get younger viewers to giggle, most notably the scenes involving Frobscottle – a beverage that fizzes down and produces flatulence of epic proportions. So, if you were hoping for a great film version of our favorite childhood book, you’re going to be disappointed. If you are searching for a great family film with a positive message, then this is going to be right up your alley.

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Feature Presentation: Mockingjay, Part I

mockingjay-1-posterThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Willow Shields, Paula Malcomson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Clafin, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci, Julianne Moore, and Donald Sutherland

Lionsgate, 2014. Rated PG-13

Synopsis: The country is in chaos after the 75th Hunger Games. District 12 has been destroyed. The other districts have drawn battle lines, some siding with the Capital and others with the rebels of District 13, thought to have been wiped off the map. Katniss is trying to keep herself together after learning that Peeta has been captured and used by President Snow to try and draw her out. With the world falling apart around her and inside her, Katniss must find the energy to become the Mockingjay, a symbol of hope for those who fight.

I’ll spare the reader my rant about how Mockingjay didn’t need to be two movies but because of consumerism blah blah blah. That aside, this second-to-last installment in The Hunger Games trilogy had a lot going for it, but I think largely because of the decision to split the film into two parts the story lost a lot of its power (so to speak). Yes, this gave the filmmakers a little more license to show the viewer some corners of the districts we don’t get to see in the books and there’s a more extended scene involving a rescue toward the end of the film that’s exciting. Yet, I left the theater thinking about just how much fluff was inserted just for the sake of squeezing as much money out of this thing as possible. There’s books, you know, it’s not like we don’t know what happens. There’s not a whole lot you can hold back from us at this point. Lawrence is still making us believe in Katniss, but unfortunately because Katniss’s character has become so flat, we almost-kinda-sorta don’t care much about her anymore. She’s lost most of her drive with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) largely out of the picture and Gale (the always gorgeous Liam Hemsworth) doesn’t seem to be helping when he tries to console her. The viewer is almost frustrated watching the movie (or at least, I was) because we want to reach through the screen and shake Katniss until she snaps out of it even though we know that she won’t without Peeta. If that’s not some element of foreshadowing, I don’t know what is. The most redeeming scene in the film is the one in which Katniss sings ‘The Hanging Tree’, which in the following scenes becomes an anthem for the rebels still struggling under control of the Capital. The song is depressing, but it’s moving to see Lawrence singing in a rare moment of peace between battles. I’m hoping Part II has a little more of the substance we were missing from Part I.

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Feature Presentation: Inkheart

InkheartposterInkheart starring Brendan Fraser, Sienna Guillory, Eliza Bennett, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent, Andy Serkis, Matt King, Steve Speirs, and John Thomson

New Line Cinema, 2009. Rated PG

Synopsis: Mortimer “Mo” Folchart has the ability to read characters out of their books, but one night while reading a story aloud, his wife gets read into the story and replaced by three rather sinister characters from a fantasy novel – Inkheart. Mo’s daughter, Meggie, is unaware of her father’s talent until he is approached by one of the men that was pulled from the pages of his book. When she learns the story of why and how her mother disappeared, Meggie becomes desperate to help Mo retrieve a copy of Inkheart and return her mother to the real world.

I’m still trying to decide if it behooves one to have read the book before seeing the movie, although there are elements to the movie that will leave fans of the book somewhat disappointed. Granted, films take liberties to make the story more exciting or characters more likable, but I think perhaps what I didn’t like the most about the movie was that toward the conclusion, it became somewhat obvious that it was trying to keep from becoming a franchise or having a sequel. It draws in a number of elements from Inkspell that allows the movie to have more of a finality to it, but it skews the fates of the characters. It bothered me that the characters remained relatively consistent up until the last ten minutes of the movie when there was a change of heart/personality/goals/etc. that resulted in the story having a ‘happier ending’. And other than the fact that the filmmakers seem to have spent more of their budget on the casting than the special effects, it was a generally enjoyable movie. The acting is good and the cinematography matches the sweeping and epic nature of the story, giving the viewer a glimpse into a part of the world that is still somewhat reminiscent of its medieval roots. It’s a charming family film that will encourage our own adventures both within the pages of books and out in the real world.

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Insurgent Review

insurgentInsurgent by Veronica Roth

Katherine Tegan Books, 2012. 978-0-06-2024046

Synopsis: After the mass simulation that resulted in the death of most of Abegnation, Tris, Four, Marcus, and Caleb join with the rest of the Abegnation survivors seeking refuge in the Amity compound. But once she is there, she learns the real reason behind Erudite’s attack on the Abegnation: the Abegnation had secret information that they were going to release to the public and it turns out Jeanine Matthews will do anything she can to get her hands on it. Tris wants more than anything to be able to stop her, but she’s starting to learn that her Divergence is going to be more of a hindrance than a help.

Why I picked it up: Well, after the ending of Divergent, I wanted to know if Jeanine Matthews would get what was coming to her. Also, I had someone spoil it for me and I needed to know if they were right about the ending or just pulling my leg.

Why I finished it: It’s hard for me to read/watch something where I know the ending because I get bored after a while – which is why I hate spoilers. That said, I don’t know if I would have enjoyed the book any less had the ending been a surprise. Roth is much more show and tell in this novel, showing the reader inside the Amity, Candor, and Erudite compounds and gives us a little more insight as to how the leaders are elected and their duties, but still feels like we are in a massive bubble for no apparent reason. And while the reasoning behind the how and why society came to be in futuristic Chicago is still a little fuzzy, Roth decides instead to focus more on the people, their motivations, and how each of these characters seem to fit into the larger picture. Tris isn’t the only Divergent and she’s still struggling with the notion of divergence along with the guilt from the events at the close of the previous book and her changed relationship with Tobias/Four. So much of the history and the planning of the next move are done through the dialogue, which is perfectly fine, but I was often bogged down by the conversations and the clumsiness of some of the exchanges, especially between Tris and Four. She spends a lot of the book arguing with him (and some other characters) about this, that, or the other thing without much resolution and as a result, no one ever seems to be on the same page. Roth is less wordy with her staging, but it still seemed like there were miscellaneous limbs in awkward places. And though we do reach a climax at the close of the book, it lacked the same punch as its predecessor. It’s an ending that encourages a conversation about human nature and how it plays a key role in steering us in whatever direction we happen to find ourselves going, which in many ways is reminiscent of what my teachers were trying to get across when I read 1984. Unfortunately for Roth, those that came before her are much more concise with their wording and their message.

Other related materials: Divergent by Veronica Roth; Divergent (movie); Allegiant by Veronica Roth; The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins; The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau; Independent Study (The Testing, Book 2) by Joelle Charbonneau; Graduation Day (The Testing, Book 3) by Joelle Charbonneau; Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner; Matched books by Allie Condie; The Giver by Lois Lowry; Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry; Feed by M.T. Anderson; Gone by Michael Grant; Uwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman The Mind Readers series by Lori Brighton; Life As We Knew It series by Susan Beth Pfeffer; The Selection books by Kiera Cass; Under the Never Sky books by Veronica Rossi

 

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Feature Presentation: Divergent

DivergentDivergent starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoë Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer, and Kate Winslet

Summit Entertainment, 2014. Rated PG-13.

Synopsis: Beatrice “Tris” Pryor lives in post-apocalypse Chicago in which society has been divided into five factions: Dauntless (the brave), Erudite (the intellectual), Abegnation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), and Candor (the honest). When she takes the test designed to tell her to which faction she belongs and the results are inconclusive, Tris finds herself having to choose her own path. Choosing to become part of the Dauntless, Tris discovers another side of herself and the society around her, leading her to uncover the darker side of the fragile system that holds their world together.

I didn’t have a whole lot of expectations when it came to this movie, and to be honest, I was glad I didn’t because so much of this movie was a complete train wreak. I liked the casting (Kate Winslet makes a rather diabolical villain and I’m glad to see her changing up her repertoire a little bit), but it was so hard to take Woodley and Elgort seriously in these roles as brother and sister when they were paired as a couple in The Fault in Our Stars. It’s not actually their fault that they have good chemistry or that they play well off each other, but I spent a large majority of the film having to remind myself that the characters were not going to go into a corner and make out like I subconsciously wanted. My other issue with the movie was that the writers appeared not to have even read the book and instead chose to get a summary from Roth herself (who was a producer) and then stick in bits and pieces from the Wikipedia page. They give a lot of screen time to Winslet’s character, which gives us a chance to see how multi-faceted she is, but doesn’t give Jeanine the darker edge we got from her in the book. I didn’t like how they explained – or rather didn’t explain – Tris’s visit from her mother and the visit to her brother. Fans of the book will notice numerous plot threads get dropped abruptly or just left out all together, largely due to running time, but there are so many holes in the story that, again, makes the adaptation hard to take seriously. Granted, I have seen worse book-to-film translations (I’m looking at you, Princess Diaries), but this movie is so focused on cashing in on the fact that its source material is a best-selling YA novel and making an action film that we’re losing what made us like the book in the first place. It certainly has entertainment value, but fans of the book will likely be split between loving it and thinking its crap. On the plus side, it has a pretty kicking soundtrack that makes for some good workout music.

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Mockingjay Review

MockingjayMockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins

Scholastic Press, 2010. 978-0439023511

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Katniss Everdeen is only sure of a few things these days: her name her age, her participation in the Hunger Games, that District 12 is gone, and that President Snow has Peeta. But there is a way to save him: become the Mockingjay, the symbol that the rebels will follow in their continued fight against the Capitol, and continue to participate in a game that she doesn’t know how to win. Can she survive the inner battle with herself in order to survive the rebellion and rescue Peeta?

Why I picked it up: That cliffhanger at the end of Catching Fire was just mean, and I felt like I needed to see that Katniss was going to recover after everything that has been happening to her.

Why I finished it: Very few books have made me openly weep like this one did. I think I spent most of the book in tears because it is a very emotional story, and these characters that we have been gunning for since day one have suddenly had their lives thrown into a chaos that few of us will ever know. Katniss is literally losing her mind because of the trauma and the drugs she is on while in the hospital, where she spends about 30% of the book. Gale is trying to support her the best that he can and her sister is making an attempt to understand the new reality of their lives, but the effects of losing Peeta and watching him deteriorate on live television proves to be just enough to keep her motivated to cooperate as the Mockingjay. But the reader also knows that Katniss is going to be faced with another decision: does she go with Gale or stay with Peeta? She knows that both men have their merits and both have been good friends to her, despite her stubbornness, but something like love has never been at the forefront of her mind. Not to mention that she needs to reconcile her feelings about the lives that have been lost over the last two books and (for lack of a better term) her survivor’s guilt. Collins has told Katniss’s story with a sort of innocence amidst the brutality of the new world order. We like Katniss because she’s at her very core she is a fighter, not necessarily with her fists or her words, but in the actions she takes to protect those she cares about. She fought to survive after her father died, she fought to survive her first Hunger Games, she fought to make it out of the arena in the Quarter Quell, and now she faces a battle with Snow and with herself. We do not often see children go to war, but Collins’ work shows us a brutal reality in which all men and women are soldiers, gives us a glimpse of the true horrors or war, and makes us understand that the fighting does not stop when a soldier returns home. While I am sad to see the characters end their story, I am satisfied with how the series is concluded. And if you are prone to crying through books as I am, read it with a box of tissues.

On a side note, Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier is a very well crafted memoir about child soldiers in Africa that sheds some light on some of the same subject matter I found to be quite powerful and that I highly recommend.

Other related materials: The Hunger Games (Book 1) by Suzanne Collins; The Hunger Games (movie); Catching Fire (The Second Book of The Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins; The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (movie)The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (movie); The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau; Independent Study (Book 2 of The Testing Series) by Joelle Charbonneau; Graduation Day (Book 3  of The Testing Series) by Joelle Charbonneau; The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins; The Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth; The Books of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau; Shadow Children books by Margaret Peterson Haddix; The Giver by Lois Lowry; Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry; Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card; Tunnels series by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams; Maze Runner books by James Dashner

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Feature Presentation: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

catching_fireThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plumber, Sam Clafin, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland

Lionsgate, 2013. Rated PG-13

Synopsis: Katniss Everdeen has managed to survive the Hunger Games, but her fight is just beginning. It seems that her actions in the arena have incited rebellion within the districts, a rebellion the President Snow wants crushed. But when it is announced that for the next Hunger Games, the tributes will be reaped from the existing pool of victors, Katniss finds herself in yet another fight for her life. Desperate to keep herself and Peeta alive, Katniss begins to formulate a plan that she hopes will help them survive against the odds that appear to be ever-growing against them.

The second installment in the book-to-film trilogy is an improvement on the first, most notably in regards to the camera work. Francis Lawrence, the film’s director, made the wise decision to use steadicam shots rather than the handheld work of The Hunger Games, which for me made it a much more enjoyable viewing experience. I COULD ACTUALLY FOCUS ON STUFF BEFORE THE CAMERA MOVED AWAY. IT WAS AMAZING. The stakes have been raised with the announcement that past winners will be facing off against each other, creating even more anger and unrest within Panem as the nation is forced to say goodbye to people with whom they have created a ‘personal’ connection. It gives us a sense of the impending chaos about to erupt if the peace cannot be kept. While the viewer doesn’t have much of a connection with the ‘new’ tributes, we are endeared to them: Finnick (Sam Clafin), who deals in secrets; Johanna (Jena Malone, who has finally been cast in a role that doesn’t make her look like she’s twelve), who just wants to be left alone; Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), whose inventions have revitalized Panem; Mags (Lynn Cohen), who volunteered herself as tribute for Annie. Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson still have the same electric chemistry that made us cheer for them in The Hunger Games, the same energy that is driving their characters to survive and look out for each other, even if Katniss still isn’t sure how she feels about Peeta. The scope of the film is much grander this time around as well: the parties on the victory tour are grand, the arena is much more dangerous, and the costumes are more intricate. The viewer is also seeing a little more of District 12 and Panem itself, giving us a taste of the unique cultures and peoples in each district. It’s a film that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat and gives them feels. So many feels.

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