movie thoughts: Let The Right One In (2008)

See that box art to my left here?  Looks spooky, huh?  Scary even? 

Yeah, well, the movie you’re imagining from the box art and the random images you saw online?  It doesn’t exist.  Instead, you have this movie, the most arranging-matches Vampire movie ever. 

And it does not make me want to visit Sweden any time soon.  The children are pasty, it’s always covered in snow, and the adults are just fugly.  And no one seems too shocked when a child jumps on someone and drinks their blood. 

I don’t know, I was expecting a lot more from this movie.  The actress that played the vampire had a very unique face, but I kept waiting for more story, more plot, more vampires!  Especially when we saw her eyes changes in the light, and even her face change when feeding…but no, these teases did not lead anywhere and, in the end, the movie was a bit of a let down.  It felt like it wanted to have some deeper meaning about life, death, killing for survival vs hurting for fun…but I never felt like it all came together. 

I know the rumor is that an American film studio has picked this up.  Something tells me it will bear little resemblance to this quiet, awkward film. 

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book thoughts: Local by Brian Woods & Ryan Kelly

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Brian Wood

Sometimes it takes all the running you can do to stay in one place. 

Local is a collection of stories, told in graphic form, all of them revolving around the life of Megan as she tries to find herself out in the big wide world.  It starts when she ditches her boyfriend and leaves town.  Each chapter is about here, though sometimes indirectly, such as the issue about the rock band from her home town that breaks up.

Local is gorgeous.  Ryan Kelly’s black and white drawings fit perfectly with these coming of age stories.  Panels with no text have just as much to say as ones full of dialogue.  Kelly draws Megan with such love, you can actually see her growing up from issue to issue. 

I found myself immediately drawn into the story and the characters.  I highly recommend this collection if you want a break from superheroes and dark stories.  Megan’s life is both strange and familiar at the same time.  You’ll probably recognize a little bit of yourself in her.  The desire to understand why you’re here, what you’re meant for, and where you belong.

5 outta 5

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book thoughts: Well Witched by Frances Hardinge

Think about all the times you’ve made a wish; tossing a coin into a fountain, blowing away an eyelash, or blowing out birthday candles.  Were they simple wishes – I want a toy! – or were there layers to these wishes – wishing for the toy meant your friends would find you more attractive?  What if all of those wishes, layers and all, had to be granted?  And what if YOU were in charge of granting them?

Well Witched by Francis Hardinge opens with three friends are out in a part of town their parents have forbiddenthem to visit when they realize they don’t have enough change to payfor the bus ride home.  Desperate to find some coins, the teens stumbleupon a well.  They grab a handful and use them to pay for the ridehome.  Little do they know those coins do not belong to them, and thespirit of the well wants them back.  She gives each of the teens a special ability – Ryan communicates with her via magical eyes that have grown on his fingers; Shell can speak the thoughts of the wisher; and Josh has the power to effect electricity.  At first, it seems like it will be easy – how many coins could they have taken?  How hard could it be to fullfill a wish?  But they soon discover that there is no such thing as a simple wish and that not everyone wishes for nice things. 

I listened to the audiobook version of this book, and I think I might have enjoyed it more if I had read the book.  It’s a bit too long, and one of the downsides of audio is that you can’t skim a page if you’re not interested in the current content. So I found myself checking the track numbers on the discs, wondering how much was left of the story. 

And there is a lot of story.  It feels like Hardinge might have had two story ideas in her head but tried to get them both into the same book.  She takes great care in creating a family life for Ryan and his friends but the story of the parents feels a bit too complicated and it weighs down the narrative, especially since we already have the story of an angry well witch trying to manipulate the three teens as they struggle to “grant” wishes.

The book has some creepy images, so I would suggest this book for older children, maybe 5th grade and up.  The story was original and interesting, but in the end the overwelming amount of random plotlines makes it drag, so I would only give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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book thoughts: Hero Type by Barry Lyga

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Barry Lyga

In ‘Hero Type’ by Barry Lyga, Kevin goes from total loser to favorite son overnight when he stops the attack on the town sweetheartLeah. Everyone in Brookdale loves him and the mayor of the townpractically gives him a car.  The car is fine, but the mayor slaps ontwo “Support Our Troops” ribbons to the back of the trunk.  WhenKevin arrives at home, his father orders him to remove the ribbons fromthe vehicle.  Kevin obeys without question and is caught be reportersas he tosses the magnets into the garbage.  When asked why he did it,Kevin decides not to blame his father, but to take a stand, going from favorite son to outcast.  The simpleact of throwing away the magnets turns into an experiment in free speech.

‘Hero Type’ is a conundrum of a story, teetering on the edgebetween poingant and annoying.  I feel that it will be more readable aswe move away from the era of ribbon magnets and flag pins…wheneverthat might be.  This book would be great for a teen discussion group,but I think it would take a teacher with a lot of experience and gutsto use this book.  Not because there is anything racy, but because itis an argument that is being debated by adults as well as teens.  Thefree speech debate is never easy but this book would be a great toolfor someone teaching about the first amendment and why the debatecontinues today.  It is obvious which side Lyga comes down on, andsince I agreed with his attitude, I found the book enjoyable.  Butsomeone that does not agree with him might find this story unreadable. 

But really, the story of the free speech debate is only a subplotto the story of Kevin and his run in with Leah in the alley, along withhis strained relationship between his estranged family members.  Kevinstruggles with the idea that he would ever be considered a “hero” dueto personal issues he has dealt with over the past year. 

‘Hero Type’ was a very intriguing read, the kind of book you wantto read with a friend so you can discuss it right away.  You might notagree with everything Kevin says or does, but he makes some very goodpoints about free speech, America, and how we treat our heroes.

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movie thoughts: Watchmen (2009)

Well, the wait is finally over.  The adaptation of Alan Moore & David Gibbon’s highly acclaimed graphic novel Watchmen has finally hit the big screens (and the REALLY big screens – I saw it at the IMAX).

So…is it even remotely possible this film will be anywhere near as good as the book?  Of course not.  I mean, how can it be?  Really, the movie is a total fanboy experience.  The writers almost seemed afraid to change too much, worried that they would upset someone by cutting their favorite moment.  Many scenes are word for word and shot for shot from the panels of the book.  Some things are cut (Black Freighter, the giant amount of backstory that would be impossible to cover) yet the movie still clocks in at almost 3 hours. 

The story of Watchmen of both simple and very complex.  What would the world be like if masked vigilantes and superheroes really existed?  How would this affect society, culture, and the outlook on life?  And, above all, who watches these “Watchmen”?

Like the comic book, this is not a superhero movie ala Dark Knight or Superman (and the weakest points in the film are where it acts like maybe it wanted be) but a murder mystery.  At it’s core, it’s about the one remaining vigilante – Rorschach – trying to solve the brutal murder of his old co-worker, the Comedian.

Rorschach steals the show, as he does in the book. (Jackie Earle Haley manages to even pronounce “HURM” correctly)  He is the Dark Knight of the series (even sounding a bit like Christian Bale’s Batman).    Billy Crudup plays Dr Manhattan in a certain grace (though this movie has a bit more blue butt and penis scenes than I expected!).  The Comedian (played by Jeffrey Morgan, best known in my circle of friends as the Dad on Supernatural) is probably one of the most interesting characters as he is both repulsive and attractive at the same time.  Malin Akerman as Laurie Jupiter does a very good job, as do Dan Drieberg as Night Owl and Matthew Goode as Ozymandius.

If you haven’t read the comic, you won’t be lost but you might be confused.  The only Superhero in this movie is Dr Manhattan, the rest of the characters are merely normal people that have taken the law into their own hands. Zack Snyder’s slo-mo fight sequences that were fine in 300 are distracting and out of character in this movie and may confuse viewers not familiar with the comic into thinking that they all have superpowers (at least, it confused a few in my group).  Otherwise, I didn’t feel the movie was too hard to follow.

Diehard fans might be upset that bits and pieces were changed or left out, but overall I think the film succeeds in doing what it was supposed to do.  It’s a 3 hour love letter to Watchmen (I believe Snyder called it “a trailer for the comic”).  The opening sequence, set to the music of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A’Changin’ is very well done, setting up the entire alternate universe and taking you from the 1940s to the 1980s.  The actors look so much like their book counterparts at times that it is eerie. 

The movie is visually stunning and well acted, but very exhausting.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to watch it again in it’s entirety until the DVD release.  Not the best movie ever, but it could have been so much worse.  I’d say a solid 4 outta 5 stars. 

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book thoughts: Just After Sunset (audiobook)

It’s hard to deny that Stephen King is a writer to be reckoned with.  I may not enjoy every single one of his books, but when he’s good he’s good.  My pet peeves with him aside, the man can write a story that grabs hold and doesn’t let go.  Just After Sunset is a short story collection, some new tales, some old ones he had published in magazines, but all very Stephen King.  While uneven at times, on the whole this is a solid collection.  I listened to the audiobook because it had a variety of different readers, a new voice for each story, and it kept me interested as I drove back and forth to work. 

I’m going to give each story a mini-review because it’s just easier that way:

The book has a brief introduction by King (read by him on the audiobook) explaining how this collection came about.  Nice bit of insight into the writing process.  The book also concludes with a collection of tidbits about his inspirations for the stories.  I find that stuff interesting so I enjoyed them.

Willa – the first story in the book, and the story that King says got him back into writing short fiction.  While it is a bit predictable, I think it is a great example of why King is so read-able: even when you know what’s coming you still feel compelled to read (or listen) on. 

Gingerbread Girl – Scary story that will make you hair stand on end, especially during the intense ending.  

Harvey’s Dream – Another classic of King reinventing stories you have already heard.  This one feels like a story you would tell at a sleepover.

Rest Stop – This story was okay, a little bit too long.  Interesting idea but it didn’t keep me interested the way the first three did.

Stationary Bike – This one is just creepy…but in a good way.  It also made me want to ride my workout bike again lol!  Very cute little moral at the end.

The Things They Left Behind – 9/11 story.  I guess they are obligatory at this point.  Didn’t do a whole lot for me in the end.  Kept waiting for more…but I guess you have to tread carefully when using 9/11 as your backdrop.

Graduation Afternoon – short, simple, and felt like something you would write as a warm-up project/writing exercise to get your brain in the right mode.

N. – BEST STORY IN THE COLLECTION.  I wanted to get back in my car to hear the rest, disturbing.  Destined to be Classic King.  You’ll never look at OCD the same way again.

The Cat From Hell – Icky but fun.  Felt like a B-movie. 

New York Times at Special Bargain Price
– I…I don’t remember this story at all….hm…

Mute – another good creepy story that feels like an urban legend waiting to happen. 

Ayana – Interesting idea but I think we’ve seen it done better *coughdeadlikemecough*

A Very Tight Place – Yeah, gross.  And too long.  I think if it hadn’t been so long, I would have been able to enjoy the ridiculousness of it all.  But it got a little too mean, a little too sick and it stopped being fun to listen to. 

So, in short – it’s worth picking this book or audiobook up at your local library and reading a few, if not all of the stories.  Some of them are really good. 

I’d say 3.5 outta 5 stars.  Solid, but not his best.  But if it is a sign of things to come, I’m looking forward to more.

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movie thoughts: Fanboys (2009)

Are you a Star Wars Fanboy?  Could you survive a week long road trip and have enough Star Wars t-shirts on hand to wear a different shirt for the trip there and back?  Is it hard to get through a conversation with dropping at least one Star Wars reference (or just a movie reference)?  Have you ever been to a convention?  Or, better yet, do you go to monthly Star Wars club meetings? 

And are you PROUD of all of these things? 

I know I am, which is why I think I enjoyed ‘Fanboys’ as much as I did.  Yeah, it’s not the best moviie evar, but I didn’t go in expecting Lawrence of Arabia, I went in expecting a really geeky comedy about guys that love the classic star wars movies. 

The plot is simple – It’s 1998 and 4 friends from high school run into each other at a party.  One of the friends has put his dreams on hold to works at his dad’s car dealership, the other 3 are still living their extreme geek lifestyles.  But, when one it is disclosed that one of the buddies has cancer and that doctor’s have said he will only live a few months (and won’t make it to the official release of episode 1), the boys decide to embark on the road trip they have fantasized about since they were in 5th grade – invading Skywalker Ranch.  It’s a road trip movie with a nerdy twist. 

A lot of the jokes are movie quotes, nerd stereotypes, and jabs about being virgins.  Yet ‘Fanboys’ works because of the cast and crew behind the scenes.  You will recognize many of the main actors and cameos, and they all have established geek-cred, so you know when they poke fun at Star Wars nerds, Trekkers, and more, they do it all in good fun because they are fanboys too.  In essence, this is the biggest fan film ever – a bunch of friends getting together to write a movie dedicated to the movies that inpired them to do what they do.

Now, if you’re just a casual fan of the movies – you watch them and forget them, then this movie won’t mean much to you.  But if you stood in line for the prequels and watched midnight viewings with all of your friends, cheering each time a character said “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”, then this movie was made for you.  Because you know that it’s not about the special effects or the lightsabers, it’s about the experience, the bond that Star Wars fans share.  Go to any convention and look at all the people brought together by these films.  Fandom is less about the show, and more about the people you get to meet when taking part in it. 

So, being a Fangirl, and proud of it, I’d give this movie 4 outta 5 nerdy stars.  Best way to watch is with a large group of Star Wars fans so you can laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of it all.  Because, as I said, it’s not about the movie, but the bond we share as big ol’ fanboys and fangirls.

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