3 stars · books to movies · young adult

Books to movies review: Dumplin’ (except I didn’t read the book)

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Well, for the sake of full disclosure, I read about 50 pages of Dumplin’. Then the ereader app I was using logged me out and I lost my password so I hadn’t found myself another way to read the rest of the book before I got to watching the newest Netflix film . . .

DUMPLIN‘.

I was very excited.

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If you haven’t heard, Dumplin‘ is about a plus-sized girl who enters a beauty pageant (run by her mother) to prove that girls of all sizes should be included in what is culturally considered beautiful. There’s also so much Dolly Parton music and I just love Dolly Parton so much so this is wonderful okay.

The movie has great, important themes, about body confidence and plus-sized representation, about loving yourself and about recognizing that every type of person is deserving of love.

I want to talk about the few sour notes first. (None of which involve Dolly Parton’s music, which is pitch perfect and will never be criticized on this blog.)

Willowdean, “Will”, “Dumplin'”, our main character, really dislikes herself. Almost all of her character revolves not just around her appearance but her own perception of her appearance. She sometimes makes the wrong assumptions about what others think about her, which leads to her doing some not very kind things. For which there are no repercussions.

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My question was, if everyone else in the film is made to consider their past actions and change their view, and if Willowdean has some soul-searching to do as well, there should have been at least more of an apology from her. Because it seems like through her character arc she comes to improve herself, but not necessarily apologize for the mistakes she’s made along the way.

There were a few clunky pieces of the script, that I think comes from adapting something from a novel. Not having read the book, there were times when characters would appear or lines of dialogue would come up, and I’d think to myself that it sounds like that should be something significant. Something I should care about. Except they haven’t taken the time in the context of the movie to develop it properly so I have no idea where these things are coming from.

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Overall though, it’s a very fun movie, and I think that I’ll end up watching it again. The tone of it is a fun, bright comedy, the sort you always want to put on in the summer after a long day out in the sun. Some of the jokes made me laugh out loud. Millie is possibly the best character I’ve seen in a while. I love her so much and she’s so strong and nice and no one is ever allowed to hurt her.

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It’s also a beautiful movie visually. I love the costume choices and the lighting used throughout just helps to emphasize the cheery, teen romcom-y atmosphere. I have no idea what the budget was for this movie, but it seems to be proof that you don’t need big sets to make scenes that really land.

Also, I just have to say that I love watching movies that discuss mother/daughter relationships. The whole typical embarrassing mom, as they try to come to understand each other. Sure, not everyone’s mom is Jennifer Aniston (I was very surprised to see her cast in this movie and very pleased with how she played her role). Dumplin’ does what many teen movies don’t: it makes parents into actual characters, not just cardboard stereotypes that never seem to care where their children are at all hours of the night. Willowdean and her mother have their differences. At times, Will is so incredibly mean to her mother, and her mother doesn’t seem to understand anything Will is going through. But I loved that their relationship had such an emphasis in the plot.

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Overall, I say give this a watch. It’s not long nor is it complicated. It’s fun, funny, and leaves you with a good feeling and Dolly Parton’s music ringing in your head. Actually, I think I’m going to have to go and check out that soundtrack . . .

3.5/5 stars

 

 

 

 

5 stars · books to movies

Thor Ragnarok: Movie Review

This was my least anticipated Marvel title for a while now. I never really expected to actually see it in theaters.

I’m so glad that I did.

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Thor: Ragnarok follows a more Guardians of the Galaxy kind of tone when it comes to superhero films. It doesn’t take itself too seriously–actually, it doesn’t take the previous two Thor films too seriously. It pokes fun at itself, while simultaneously building on the mythology of the world and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was fun, and sad, and had a lot of amazing fight scenes complete with superpowers and explosions.

Basically, all I want in my Avengers films these days.

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Thor has always been my least favorite Avenger–maybe tied with the Hulk. And because both of those Avengers happen to be in this movie, I never really gave it much thought. The previous two Thor movies never really stood out to me. They were dark and serious, without the hearty punch that’s come from previous Marvel movies with the same tone. Which is crazy to me because undoubtedly out of the favorite characters of the MCU is Loki. The previous Thor movies didn’t have the charm and heart of the Captain America films. None of the punchy pizzazz that comes with Iron Man. Those two series succeed in having rather dark and twisted plots, amazing characters to pull them through, and memorable witty moments.

Thor didn’t really succeed with the funny for me until this movie.

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I will admit that Ragnarok did at times feel like it was trying too hard. That it wanted so much to be seen as something separate, so it could be more successful, that it was punching its way out of the setup given by the previous movies. What happened to Thor’s friends? I could only remember Lady Sif. Where did all of his friends go? Thor really doesn’t seem to care. He cares a whole lot for saving the world (well, stopping the start of the end of the world, I guess) but it’s a lot of generic for the greater good and not the good of, you know . . . all those guys he spent thousands of years fighting beside.

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The character of Thor himself was decidedly different. Of course he would have changed, what with the ‘stuff’ he’s been through (I have to be vague–I literally have no idea what he’s been up to and he gives the vaguest answer, too, okay?) and the whole Jane situation (does anyone else remember when Thor used to date Natalie Portman?). There were just a few random moments where Thor seemed very un-Thor like for the sake of throwing in a few extra jokes.

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BUT I will say that those are the only bad things I can say about this film. As soon as I finished watching it, I decided I wanted to watch it again. I loved the amazing settings, the new characters introduced, the dynamic between Thor and Loki (I MISSED THIS SO MUCH). I want more. Am I a Thor fan now? I guess. Am I even more excited for the next Avengers movie? I didn’t think it was possible, but YES.

Have you seen Thor: Ragnarok? What did you think? Most importantly: What was your favorite joke?

I give Thor a resounding 5/5 stars because the entertainment of it outweighed anything else.

 

 

 

 

books to movies · fiction · young adult

Books to TV Shows: 13 Reasons Why

To start off, I have to admit that I watched the show without reading the book first. Sometimes I like doing that because often reading it will get my expectations too high–but there was so much hype and controversy about this series that I wanted to start watching it without having any of it spoiled for me.

First I wanted to talk about Thirteen Reasons Why visually. It wasn’t particularly stunning, structured like a typical teenage TV show. Most of the scenes take place in a high school, or a coffee shop it seems that every kid in school goes to at all hours of the day. If you’re going to tell a story about contemporary teens, you don’t have very many choices, so I’ll give them that. What really got to me was that it seemed like, eventually, half of every episode was spent with multiple, extremely slow, zoom-ins on characters staring soulfully at nothing, while various other characters repeated their name. Seriously, I think that’s how I learned everyone’s names, because these scenes happened so much. I just wanted to fast-forward and push on.

Speaking of, let’s talk characters. Most of them are pretty unlikable throughout; only a few seem to have a spark of redemption, or explanation for why they may act they way they do throughout the series. Jeff and Tony were my absolute favorites and probably the only people that I would really want to befriend. High school is rough for everyone, but this one seems exceptionally horrific.

There aren’t too many characters seen that don’t attend or work at the school. Most of those other characters are the parents of those involved in some way–most importantly, Hannah’s and Clay’s. Hannah’s parents . . . I felt terrible for them. I could understand their struggle to find something, someone, to blame for this tragedy, because to them it came completely out of nowhere. It was impossible for them to know her school life as intimately as her classmates did.

On the other hand, there are Clay’s parents, who seem to know there are horrible things happening to him, and that he has problems with anxiety, and yet can’t seem to enforce any rule that might help him heal, grieve, or grow. To me it felt like every time they doled out a punishment or decided they were going to force him to do this or that to help him, there was absolutely no follow through. No mention of it again, beyond a few arguments after he disobeys them. Obviously Clay has realized his parents have no real intentions of forcing him to do anything.

I’m not going to go into any detail about the tapes or anything, though if you do watch it or have read it and want to discuss more specifics I’d be happy to in the comments! Honestly, I think what confused me the most is that I never really had a clear idea of what Hannah’s intentions were by making these tapes. Some kind of revenge? Desperation? Or did she just want everyone else to feel that same nothingness she had been? By the end of it, I was left feeling like she’d created them to make others feel so guilty, so bad, that they might be driven toward suicide, too.  I’m not sure this was the intention, but it slowly ate away at how I’d felt for Hannah throughout the series.

I’m still left with conflicted thoughts. It wasn’t the best series I’ve watched, just judging from composition, and wasn’t the best when it came to content, either. I don’t like how I felt while watching it. I don’t like how I felt after watching.

Have you watched the Netflix series? What did you think of it?

 

 

5 stars · action · books to movies · Uncategorized

Books to Movies: Logan

I can’t accurately express how completely excited I was for this movie. Wolverine and Hugh Jackman are undoubtedly one of the best character and actor pairings I’ve ever seen. As in if anyone else ever tries to play Wolverine in my lifetime I’ll be disappointed.

It’d been a while since I’d seen any X-Men film, really, but all of them pretty much stand on their own as separate films, which is nice if you really aren’t sure about where to dive into the movieverse. I’d say watch at least a few of the originals before getting to this one because, after all, you want to save the best for last, right?

This review will only contain mild spoilers, but if you want to know absolutely nothing about the movie other than knowing I give it 5/5 stars, get out now.

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Let’s talk about characters. I loved the dynamic in this film, because it makes everyone seem so much realistic, more fleshed out, than happens in most superhero films. As always it was amazing to see the relationship between Logan and Charles, aka Patrick Stewart, because I think they have one of the greatest, most interesting relationships out of all of the X-Men. They’re just so good. I can’t even reflect on it without getting hit by a mixture of emotions, that I don’t think I could accurately explain even if I spoiled everything in the entire movie.

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Laura. I’m torn between wanting desperately to adopt her, giving her the good life she deserves, and running as far away from her as possible because she’s terrifyingDafne Keen conveys so much while not speaking a word, and as a child actress that’s only more impressive. I want more movies with her. I want a trilogy that’s only about her. Because those fight scenes including her were so intense, I couldn’t sit back in my seat.

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Still, what I love about these movies (or just Wolverine in particular) is the tongue in cheek humor that comes with it. Maybe to keep me from being a complete and utter sobbing mess, there are still lighthearted moments perfectly interspersed in the script.

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I love that while there’s backstory here, while we know everything that’s going on — behind the amazing action sequences there’s so much character work happening. Between Laura and Logan and Charles, yes, but even minor characters have their chance to shine. And I loved every minute of it.

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That ending? Perfect — perfectly devastating. Everything I’d dreaded and hoped for realized.

Have you seen Logan? What did you think?

 

 

 

 

 

books to movies · young adult

Trailer Talk: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

I recently realized that I somehow never got around to watching the official trailer that was released for the film adaptation of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I remember reading and loving the first book (don’t worry, I’ll get around to the others eventually!) and particularly liked the use of old, odd photographs in the book’s pages. To be able to see the entire book visually will be awesome.

Judging by the trailer, the film certainly will be exciting. I’m still unsure of how close it will match up to the book. I mean, I read it a long time ago, but even I saw the trailer and wondered where the heck they’d gotten some of those scenes from. Still, as long as it’s done well and they justify what they’ve had to take away, I don’t really care how much they add to it.

Check out the trailer below and let me know what your thoughts are on it. Are you excited? Disappointed? Indifferent? I’m feeling the urge to re-read book one and then marathon the other books as well.

books to movies · fiction · young adult

“A Monster Calls” is becoming a movie???

Apparently I’ve been living under a rock, because not only is A Monster Calls becoming a movie, the trailer for it came out over a month ago.

Yes, so apparently I missed it, even though this is one of the best children’s/young adult books I’ve ever read, written by one of my favorite authors EVER. Apparently he also wrote the screenplay for the film, so that makes me doubly excited! I was actually fortunate enough to meet him at BookCon last year and he is incredibly nice, too. So basically everything about this is going to be perfect.

I mean, Liam Neeson is in it. This book gave me so many emotions and just judging from this trailer, I feel like the movie is going to capitalize on that, too. Click the video below to watch for yourself and let me know what your thoughts are. Are you as excited as I am?? I can’t wait to see this.

books to movies · Uncategorized

Film Friday: Macbeth

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I have a Shakespeare class this semester, which means that I’ve been inundated with different versions of Macbeth so we can compare them. One of the films we watched in class was this version with Patrick Stewart playing the titular role. It was significantly creepy and awesome.

First of all, the setting was updated. Macbeth’s war features updated military weapons, yes, and also an updated backdrop, as his intense military tactics and murderous dictatorship are portrayed to be something akin to Germany or Russia in the 1940s.

Then there are the witches, who are CRAZY. I literally gaped at the screen when they first appeared, dressed as nurses, pretending that they were going to save a soldier, before they ripped out his heart and spoke their first lines. And this is all in the first scene, setting the mood for the entire film.

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There’s a lot of blood and death, but where would Macbeth be without all of that? Because it’s a film and not a play, there’s the chance to make it all a little more intense, a little more gruesome. Particularly when Macbeth & crew go around murdering innocent people and children. It gets to the point where you realize he’s going to kill anyone who may even think about getting in his way, and you see how utterly mad with power he is now that he’s fulfilled the witches’ prophecy.

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Still, the play is pretty long, and the film does drag in some points–which is a little unbelievable, what with all the action they have to work with in the text. Patrick Stewart as Macbeth and Kate Fleetwood as his Lady are wonderfully conniving, despicable, and compelling characters. They pull through where I feel the intensity starts to wane, somewhere between the initial murder and then the build-up to all of the insanity culminating in a brutal finish.

5 stars · books to movies · Uncategorized

Film Fridays: The Good Dinosaur

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You may or may not know, but I’m kind of obsessed with everything Disney. I did the college program at Disney World last semester, so I’ve had Disney on my mind, and when The Good Dinosaur was released from Disney/Pixar I knew that I needed to go and see it. I also paid a few extra dollars to see it in 3D–I haven’t done that for a movie in a long time!

 The movie starts off very cute. We have a little dinosaur family, who’s kind of advanced from what we think dinosaurs should be like because the meteor that struck the earth and eradicated the dinos never came. Arlo is the youngest son in the family and doesn’t feel like he fits in; he’s always too scared to do everything and can’t accomplish any of the jobs his father gives him. Including the last job he’s given, to kill the critter who keeps eating their stores for the winter, before tragedy strikes and nothing is ever the same for Arlo again.

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After that point in the movie, there are so many things that go wrong for Arlo. He’s separated from his family and has to team up with that critter he was supposed to get rid of. Honestly, watching this, I feel like some kids might be scared of what happens in this movie because there are so many bad turns for Arlo. Practically anything he did, you could expect it to go wrong–and usually not in a lighthearted way. Actually, there were less funny moments in the movie than I’d expected. The adventure was more serious and a little darker. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

The animation throughout was gorgeous. GORGEOUS. If you can see it in 3D, do it. You won’t regret spending a little extra. The scenery in the movie is so spectacular and so well-crafted that it often looks like Arlo is the only unreal thing in the entire landscape. And the water! There were so many scenes involving water and it might be a world thing to go on about but it’s such a hard thing to animate and it looked real.

The movie talks a lot about the importance of family, finding your place in the world, and understanding others who are different from you. It teaches that you can love someone who came from a completely different place and who can’t speak with you. It also shows that our expectations of people won’t always be the reality. There are some dinos you’d expect to be bad who’re the kindest people around . . . and some who could be good, but choose to be bad. And that’s a lot to take out of an animated movie about dinosaurs.

I think that kids will enjoy this movie, despite its darker parts, and will definitely take its messages home with them. Any audience will root for Arlo on his way home, and fall in love with that vicious critter, waiting for that happy Disney ending.

books to movies

Fairy Tale to Film: Cinderella

I have to admit that when I first heard about a live-action version of Cinderella being produced, I wasn’t too excited, except for the fact that practically anything Disney will be great. Not as excited as I was when I heard they’re making a live-action Mulan. I was honestly going to wait until the DVD release to finally watch this. But hearing everyone raving over the film (coupled with my chance to watch a Disney movie in Downtown Disney!) convinced me to buy a theater ticket.

Even though it isn’t my favorite Disney film (animation or live action, as Tangled will always have my heart) it was still completely magical to watch. And I’ve already bought some of the soundtrack for myself.

While I heard this version made people cry, I only teared up a few times. Once of sadness, once when Ella looked incredibly happy and the cinematography was so great that I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with emotion.

Everyone knows the Cinderella story so it isn’t like it can be spoiled and most would assume that the live action film covers the ground laid out by the animation. There you’d be wrong. As I’d hoped, Cinderella combines more, previously unused elements of the original fairy tale as well as cherished portions of the animation. Definitely worth a watch, if you’ve been afraid they only copied themselves. Disney never does the same thing twice–they redo it bigger and better than before.

This movie is just beautiful. I could rewatch it just to get a chance to appreciate more of the details in the scenes. I also need to look out for hidden Mickeys and Easter Eggs!

Of course, I loved Helena Bonham Carter’s scene-stealing moments and wish that she’d been in the movie a little more. Cinderella herself wasn’t exactly as I’d pictured her to be, but that’s what comes of turning an animated princess into a real-life lady. Still, she was fantastic at presenting the kind of silent strength Cinderella has to have.

Overall, I really loved this adaptation when I hadn’t expected to like it very much. I’ll recommend this to other people and I’d even say give it a chance in theaters. It’s worth the ticket!

What’s your favorite Disney movie? What do you think of this adaptation?

books to movies

Book to Movie: The Maze Runner

I’ve been so excited for this movie! When I first read the book, it was back when young adult movie adaptations were just getting started (think Twilight) and I was so sure that The Maze Runner was going to see the spotlight one day. I’m so excited that I got to see the movie on the day that it came out, after years of waiting!

I’d definitely recommend checking out the trailers for this movie because I think they did a fantastic job capturing some of the suspense and intrigue that really make this trilogy special. I’m no expert on film but really loved the angles used and how those few minutes really captured the emotion of the book as well as the movie.

Our leading man, Thomas,  is played by Dylan O’Brien. I’ve only seen a few episodes of Teen Wolf and he has a small appearance in The Internship but I always had it in my mind that he was a great actor so I was excited when I heard that he was Thomas. I think he did a fantastic job creating Thomas’ character even through the confusion and memory loss Thomas experiences. Because I haven’t seen O’Brien much on screen, I think that also made it easier for me to imagine him as that character.

The same was true for most of the boys. Some of them began to get mixed up with one another (because in a pack of all boys, things can get confusing) but overall I was happy with the group. Chuck was appropriately adorable. Alby was a great leader. I wish that we’d gotten to see a little more of Minho and Newt. Also, it’d been a while since I read the book, so I completely forgot Frypan’s name and they never directly introduced him in the movie. I was sitting there in the theater thinking, What are they calling him? Fred? Frank? until it clicked.

As with all book to movie adaptations, I was terrified that The Maze Runner was going to tear apart one of my favorite books. Instead, it showed off some scenes that looked absolutely amazing done in film. I think that the Grievers were awesome and terrifying, even though they were nothing like what I’d pictured in my head (think Robosnail from Rugrats, except smaller and more terrifying). The maze scenes were awesome, with all of those moving parts and great effects. The Glade was less impressive but I think that’s because it can do nothing but pale in comparison to the awe of the maze.

There were some parts of the book that were completely left out. I won’t point out anything very specific because I think you could watch the film, like it, and then go to the book to get another great story that’s slightly different. There was so much between Thomas and Teresa that just wasn’t included, so I don’t know how they’ll skirt around that when it comes to the next movie. I think that overall I wasn’t too annoyed by anything that was taken out of the film because it’s been so long since I’ve read the book. I’ve learned my lesson not to reread the book right before the movie or I’m almost guaranteed to dislike the film!

The great thing about reading the book before the movie? You get to enjoy the theater’s reaction to a plot twist you know is coming. Yeah, maybe I was a little too smug, looking to see how my friends who hadn’t read the book were reacting to what was happening. There was a particularly funny part for me when everyone thought the movie was over, but I knew that the action was just getting started. I feel like with The Maze Runner, which absolutely thrives on plot twists, there’s never any way of knowing where the story’s going to go next.

The ending disappointed me a little. I hate enjoying an adaptation and then leaving the theater unsatisfied because they just needed to change up the ending. It happened with The Giver. Divergent. Now The Maze Runner. The end is important because it’s the last thing I get before I leave so of course I want it to be on a great note. Not that I’m saying they completely changed the end of this; they just left it off at a different part and didn’t go quite as far with the plot as the book does, which is annoying.

Overall, I was so impressed with The Maze Runner that I need the sequel immediately. I’ve heard that they’re planning to make one, but it isn’t coming until 2016. How can I wait that long? If this movie does well in the box office, I’m hoping that means The Scorch Trials will have an even better budget for a greater movie–not that I’m saying the visual effects in this first installment didn’t impress. Far from it. The maze was terrifying realistic and the Grievers . . yep, part of my nightmares now.

I’d recommend this movie to fans of the book, those unsure of whether they want to read the series, and people looking for a movie filled with suspense and action. This is a book that I read and thought would be even cooler as a movie. I’m glad that the film proved me right.