hiccups and creepy girls

Started listening to How to Train Your Dragon this week. FANGIRL ALERT: IT IS NARRATED BY DAVID TENNANT! He reads it with his lovely Scottish accent. You can probably get it for free through your public library (that’s how I got it, through Overdrive.)

But, it’s weird because the story is VERY different from the movie. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, I’ve read enough books and seen enough movies to know they changes things but I guess I wasn’t thinking it would be THIS different. Right now, I might actually be leaning towards the movie as better…but we will see. It might just be the shock. Right now, Toothless is not a cute little dragon but sort of a brat? Hiccup is still a sweetheart but his relationship with Toothless is not the same.

Maybe when I finish the book I’ll rent the movie again. I haven’t seen it in awhile but I’m pretty sure the dragons in the movie did not speak, yeah?

Also reading The Girl with All the Gifts. I didn’t remember requesting this book but the cover has a blurb from Joss Whedon so I am assuming that is how it got on my radar. It’s an adult book. I know, you’re shocked. We will see if I can get through it before the 3 weeks are up.

Trailer thoughts: The Giver

Remember how I was talking about Ender’s Game last week and how it tried to stay true to the book but in the end could not reach that level because of the limitations of a movie versus a novel?

Yeah, well clearly The Giver is not going to have that “staying true to the book” problem. I’ve read this book, that trailer is NOT for the book I read.

Wow, this really looks like a studio exec went into a box, found the rights to the book and said “Hey, make this into Hunger Games for me” to some random intern.

Stephanie pointed out that Jonas is 12 in the book. TWELVE. Looks like they have aged him up a bit JUST so they can give him a bit of romance drama. Also, that last scene of the trailer is VERY SPOILERY WTF!!!!!!!

I don’t think the power of Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep can save this one.

Ender’s Game and the problem with adapting “classics” to film

Ender's Game Theatrical PosterLast week, we rented the big screen adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s science fiction classic, Ender’s Game. I think it is safe to say that this movie was doomed from the start, and part of that had nothing to do with the script or the actors but the legacy of the story.

Published in 1985, I have a feeling that many young adults fans of the genre were happily reading anything science fiction that was published. And many of those young adults became authors and screenwriters whose work was influenced, directly or indirectly, by the story of Andrew Ender Wiggin and his life in the military academy.

But now? In 2014, the dystopian novel with a teen protagonist is all the rage. Hunger Games, Divergent, Roar — many of the top books for teens are about young adults fighting the wars of their parents. Of the blurred lines between right and wrong when it comes to war. And I’m sure we can sit and point at dozens of science fiction movies that have come out since that take the same premise, of raising the super soldier to protect us, of sacrificing childhood innocence to keep the world safe. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…it’s all been done to death.

And here comes Hollywood, so excited that it can capitalize on the popularity of such franchises as The Hunger Games by making a film of a book that many consider the start of it all. But because so much time has passed, the power of the story loses a lot of it’s weight. As usual, the movie becomes obsessed with having the special effects work more than giving us characters we can get behind.

This is my theory as to why Science Fiction films are so looked down upon by the general populace. Fans of Science Fiction novels read the stories and love them for their social and political commentary. They try to spread the word and people scoff at “Sci-Fi” as pulp stories that should be recycled as soon as they are read. Then Hollywood says they will make a movie and (for some strange reason) the Science Fiction fans are excited because finally their love will be our love. But, no, Hollywood must butcher your story, chop it down to 2 hours, and just keep the bits that have explosions. And so the general populace walks out of the movie theater, unaware that there is more to the book, unaware that the movie they just viewed is based on a 30 year old novel that has inspired most of their other popcorn movies since then — all they see is a 2 hour explosion fest with little character development and a plot they have already seen before.

This is true of adapting any classic to the big screen, but I think because Science Fiction and Fantasy are already picked on for being “nerdy” it makes it harder for general viewers to forgive bad film version. Everyone knows (or has been told by their teachers time and again) that Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare wrote classics, so if the movie stinks, its just the movie, not the book. I think the only high fantasy movie series that managed to survive was Lord of the Rings (but then Jackson turned around and gave us the epic mess that is the unnecessary Hobbit trilogy).

I could blog about this for hours, giving examples of other movies that have fallen short but let’s turn it over to you — What do you think? Should Hollywood bother adapting “classics” to the big screen? Are they doomed from the start?

favorite movies: The Princess Bride (1987)

I saw The Princess Bride this afternoon in the theater. I think my family discovered this movie on HBO back in the late 80s as I have a vague memory of a BETA tape with a hand-written “Princess Bride” sticker on the side of it, so this was my first time seeing it on the big screen.

It’s still good. It is just a FUN movie, through and through. Yeah, these are not Oscar award winning performances or effects or anything but it’s just 100% FUN.

Oh, and did I mention quotable? My mom will refer to a love interest in a movie as the character’s “to blave” and who can resist saying “mae-widge” any time a wedding scene appears? It’s inconceivable! And you know you’re among fellow geeks when you can start Inigo’s rhyming game and have someone else in the room do Fezzik’s lines.

I remember that the torture scene freaked me out as a kid. When Humperdink pushed the lever up to 50, I would cover my ears and close my eyes. It was only for a moment, but something about that moment really bothered me.

This is also one of the few situations where the movie might be better than the book, or at least on par with, probably because William Goldman wrote both the novel and the script. It’s worth picking up the book though so you can understand all of Inigo’s and Fezzik’s lines.

And, like Last Unicorn, I feel like the story manages to find this happy balance of all the fairy tale stories you love as a child with the snark and cynicism of adulthood, which is why it is still so watchable almost 30 years later. We are both the Grandson, hanging on every word, wanting to know how the story will end, and the Grandfather, knowing how it must all end, how it might not be fair but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a happy ending. And that we all enjoy “kissing books” every now and then.

Do you have a favorite Princess Bride quote that you use all the time? Or a memory of seeing the movie for the first time (or the fifth)?

movie thoughts: Warm Bodies (2013)

Warm Bodies poster

Warm Bodies is a classic example of preview audiences dropping the ball. What ends up being an okay movie could have been great with just a few tweaks and I feel like a few notes from preview audiences and some quick recording sessions could have brought this up to cult classic level.

The plot is a great change of pace from your typical Walking Dead stories – R is a zombie, shambling around day in, day out, wondering what has become of his life…er, afterlife? Then one day he bumps into Julie (and by “bumps” I mean him and his zombie friends attack her and her human friends). But R is attracted to Julie and he finds his undead life as new meaning when he saves her from being eaten. And this one small act changes everything.

The problem is that the movie starts of really strong – While R meanders around the airport and grunts at his fellow zombies, his very articulate voice over narrates what life has become for him. From the start, you have to laugh as R describes his daily routine and you realize that this zombies life is relatively similar to yours. He just needs purpose.

Unfortunately, instead of just letting this by R’s story, the screenwriter then takes us over to meet Julie and her friends, who are far less hilarious. In fact, every moment that R is not doing his narration is pretty forgettable. All the great lines come from his internal monologue and about halfway through, after R and Julie leave the airport and try to venture back to the city, we lose it entirely and the film just drags like…well like a zombie!

It was a cute movie and fun to watch once, but I doubt I would pick it up again. It might get a following among zombie fans (it’s the perfect Valentine movie for Walking Dead fans), but it’s not consistently funny enough for me to want to see it again. And all they had to do was add a few more voice overs and they would have been golden…

3 stars

movie thoughts: Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Image This movie is so very pretty. So very very pretty and I wanted to like it so much but, like Jack Frost, it has a hard time finding it’s core and fumbles too much for me to become a classic.

The premise of ‘Rise of the Guardians’ is that the childhood “gods” of Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Sandman are real people, sort of promoted to their special job by The Man in the Moon. Guardians are in charge of protecting Children by giving them something magical to believe in (?). Jack Frost has been recently chosen by The Moon to aid in the Guardians fight against Pitch Black, the Boogeyman.

Unfortunately there are a lot of problems with the story which, my guess, arise from this being based on a children’s book series and the writers attempting to cram a lot of backstory into a 2 hour movie.

First, Hades Pitch Black’s motives are not very clear. He wants to give the children nightmares so they will stop believing in the Guardians and start believing in him…but is never really shown.

It takes the movie too long to get going. It starts with Jack’s “creation” story, told from his point of view then switches to 300 years later and we’re with Santa (the elves were a little too much like the minions in Despicable Me) and he has taken over as storyteller, telling us what the Guardians are. Later, when they find Jack to recruit him, he has to tell Jack who the Guardians are…and then again when the Tooth Fairy’s home is raided, she has to explain her actual purpose as a Guardian. Definitely felt like too much story for one movie, though the teeth are important for Jack’s character so the scene had to be in there.

And then there are the children. At first, you think they will just be background characters for this magical adventure, but about a 2/3 of the way through the movie, the Guardians reveal their disconnect to actual children and I sort of got the feeling that was the real lssue here. Pitch Black would have no power at all if the Guardians were better at their jobs. So in a hurried rush, all these background kids who barely had names or personality, suddenly become the heroes.

It just didn’t all gel for me. I didn’t understand why the Easter Bunny not getting eggs out in time would cause an ENTIRE WORLD OF CHILDREN to just stop believing. (Also odd to pick two magical creatures that are tied so closely to religious holidays but then just pretend they are in no way tied to them. While Christmas has been commercialized to the point that almost everyone seems to celebrate, I feel like Easter is still pretty much a Christian thing, the rest of us just wait for the candy to go on sale).

In the end, I felt like Loki Pitch Black actually NEEDED the Guardians more than he actually knew. Because how can there be fear if there is no hope?? Horror stories are only scary because you think just maybe there is a way to survive. But if the end is so bleak that no chance remains, it because less about fear and more about just letting go. They hint a little bit that Pitch Black’s nightmares are wearing the children down but…I felt like something more could have been done to give that more urgency.

So, yeah, I feel like this movie should have just been 100% Jack’s story — having him being tempted to the dark side. Not so much to wipe out the Guardians, because you can’t have dark without light, good without evil. Everyone knows it, even kids. It’s why they embrace fairy tales and fables.

But omg this movie was so very pretty. The animation was smooth and gorgeous and I think it is what kept me watching the entire time. The voice acting was top-notch. I just wish they had taken more care with the story, though I feel it might be the kind of tale that can only be told in a book — without time constraints and “target audiences”. Just pages of backstory, character development and plot that a reader can explore at their own pace.

I got a feva and the only cure is MORE KATNISS!

Okay, I need to read Catching Fire again because I remember almost nothing from it but I really do like this trailer. Clearly, it’s confined to just the first half of the movie. I love watching President Snow and Philip Seymour Hoffman Plutarch discussing Katniss and how they need to bring her down. This is one of the biggest perks about the movies, getting scenes like this, the peek at what was going on at the Capital during the time of Katniss’ tour.

I still don’t like Peeta and I think Josh Hutcherson just has the *perfect* look for Peeta. Because the whole time I was reading the books, and now watching the movie, I just never really trusted him 100%. I always felt like he was thinking too many steps ahead, which made me question is motives and his ability to manipulate those around him. He is not as naive as he plays sometimes. And I think Hutcherson’s face just works so perfectly. In one moment, I want to totally trust him AND slap him. And the same goes for Gale, though he is the opposite. He’s so knee-jerk response, macho man but, again, I want to hug him and slap him all at once.

And I adore Jennifer Lawrence. I just hope the script/directing/editing of this movie is done well. The second movie is always the most important in a trilogy. You have to convince us to keep going with these characters. You have to take us to a place that will end in a cliffhanger, and have us care enough that we want to come back for one more round of pain and suffering…which is all Mockingjay pretty much is.

But, yeah, I like this trailer. Even if Elizabeth Banks looks like a man…weird.