Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016) & The Girl On The Train (2016) Reviews

Two quick reviews of two film adaptations of two books I read. My reviews of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs can be found HERE & The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins HERE. Okay, one is a thriller but the other is close enough to being a “horror” so I’m doing these for October Horror Month. Let’s see what I thought of the movies…

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016)

Directed by Tim Burton

Screenplay by Jane Goldman

Based on Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O’Dowd, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell, Judi Dench, Samuel L. Jackson

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that stretches across time, he finds Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. But the danger deepens after he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.

My Opinion:

When I was in the middle of reading this book years ago, I said to the hubby “Tim Burton needs to make this into a movie”. Imagine my surprise when Hollywood did something right for a change! He was the absolute perfect choice to adapt this book & he did a very good job with it. The problem is that 1) I didn’t exactly love the book, although I loved the “gimmick” of the old photographs that were used throughout it and 2) Tim Burton hasn’t made anything truly fantastic in years, which still breaks my heart as I absolutely adored his oldest films. I’d say this was somewhat a return to form for Burton but, as I said, I didn’t love the source material so was unlikely to love the movie.

From what I remember of the book, it seems a faithful adaptation until the end. But I didn’t care enough to continue reading the books so it’s possible the movie continues a bit into the next book for all I know? I wouldn’t say it renewed my interest enough to read the remaining books but I’d certainly watch a sequel if Burton makes one. The performances were pretty strong and, like Burton being the perfect choice for director, I think Eva Green was a perfect choice for playing Miss Peregrine. The child actors also all did a good job (I think Burton always does well in casting his films), with the lead young roles (played by Asa Butterfield & Ella Purnell) as the standouts. Terence Stamp & especially Judi Dench weren’t given much to do, which was a shame. And I enjoyed Samuel L. Jackson as always (who doesn’t love Sam Jackson?!) but he’s phoning it in a bit with this baddie role. Sorry, Mr. Jackson! I apologize a trillion times!


Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a good adaptation of a bizarre book thanks to its also bizarre director. And I liked the look & vibe of it, as I always do with Burton’s style. I wish I liked both the book and the film more than I do, though. I like “weird” so can’t really put my finger on why the story didn’t quite work for me. With the book, I think I just couldn’t connect with the characters. To be fair, I think Burton improved on this with the film and I’d say this is one of those cases where the movie might be slightly better than the book. It also helped that it got a proper ending, as opposed to the open-ended cliffhanger that just left me frustrated with the book.

My Rating: 6.5/10

The Girl On The Train (2016)

Directed by Tate Taylor

Based on The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Starring: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Haley Bennett, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Édgar Ramírez, Lisa Kudrow

Music by Danny Elfman

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A divorcee becomes entangled in a missing persons investigation that promises to send shockwaves throughout her life.

My Opinion:

I thought this book, although fun in a pulp-y sort of way, was pretty horrible. This was mainly because the characters were all truly hateful. The story itself was okay and I found it a very quick read as I wanted to get to the resolution of its mystery but, wow, I didn’t give the slightest crap what would happen to any of the characters. Not even ONE likable person? Really?? I’ll never understand stories that choose to make us despise everyone in them. And the thing with the baby upset me too much (and kind of pissed me off).

Well, the movie is a faithful adaptation, so… What can I say? I didn’t like the book so I wasn’t going to like a faithful adaptation anyway. The fact that is stars Emily Blunt, who is kind of a girl crush of mine, is what made me even bother to stick this on one evening & half pay attention to it. Meh. I don’t know. I just didn’t care. The actors did what they could with the material but the material was weak. Hold on a second – in this double review, Danny Elfman did the music for this movie but not the Tim Burton movie?! Now that’s bizarre.

My Rating: 5/10

Advertisements

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo (Book Review)

The film adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s novel The Snowman is out today in the UK & out October 20th in the US. It was directed by Tomas Alfredson and stars Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer and J. K. Simmons. Here’s my review of the book…

**Quick edit to say I wrote this review before the reviews came out for The Snowman movie. Ohhhh.. Reviews are NOT good!**

The Snowman by Jo Nesbø
Norwegian: Snømannen

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
On a cold winter night, a young boy wakes to find his mother missing. The house is empty but in the garden outside he finds his mother’s favourite scarf – wrapped around the neck of the snowman that appeared in their garden that day.

As Harry Hole and his team begin their investigation they discover that an alarming number of wives and mothers have gone missing over the years. Is there a link between the disappearances and a menacing letter Harry was sent months earlier?

When a second woman disappears it seems his suspicions are confirmed. For the first time in his career Harry finds himself confronted with a serial killer operating on his home turf; a killer who will drive him to the brink of insanity…

My Thoughts:

Murder & crime stories are really not at all my sort of thing but I’ve been spending 2017 reading books that are being made into films so I decided to give this one a try. I probably won’t go to the film but I’ll Netflix it at the very least, mainly because Michael Fassbender is a hottie. Netflix & chill with Fassbender! Oh yeah, there’s one other reason I decided to read this: I quite liked the film Headhunters, also from a Jo Nesbo book. Good movie – I recommend it.

As for this book, I’d have to say it’s a good crime thriller and had some inventive murders (if you’re the kind of psycho who’s into that sort of stuff). 😉 I didn’t realize it was part of a series: the “Harry Hole” series, following the life & cases of detective Harry Hole. I don’t know how necessary it is to read the other books first (it looks like The Snowman is the seventh). I didn’t feel like I was missing anything as far as the murder mystery went. I’m assuming it’s a case unconnected to others, although there were some references to previous cases. The only thing I felt I was missing was knowing anything about Harry Hole & his relationships with the other characters prior to this book, such as his ex-girlfriend & her son who were clearly a big part of previous book(s). I still enjoyed the story but suppose I had less of a connection to the characters than readers of the entire series would have.

If you like the look of the below trailer and prefer to read a book before seeing the movie, I do recommend this one. I’m not an expert on this genre but it’s a got a good murder mystery that keeps you guessing and I got to know the characters just well enough to start to care about what would happen to them. I’ve not rated it more highly since it’s not my type of thing but I’d think any fans of this genre should definitely like it.

My Rating: 3/5

The Snowman movie trailer (Fassbender is so hot…):

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
– The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– Blaze by Stephen King
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
End Of Watch by Stephen King
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Fireman by Joe Hill
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

**Currently reading I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Cell (2016) Review

Welcome to my final day of Stephen King Week. King turned 70 yesterday so I posted something King-related all week. One book review (End Of Watch), two movie reviews (including 2017’s It), and two Top Ten lists (My Top Ten Stephen King Movies & My Top Ten Stephen King Books). Today I’m reviewing the film adaptation of his novel Cell.

Cell (2016)

Directed by Tod Williams

Based on Cell by Stephen King

Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabelle Fuhrman, Owen Teague, Clark Sarullo, Anthony Reynolds, Erin Elizabeth Burns, Stacy Keach

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
When a mysterious cell phone signal causes apocalyptic chaos, an artist is determined to reunite with his young son in New England.

My Opinion:

Okay, what I’d heard about Cell is true: the movie isn’t good. However, I don’t think it’s quite as bad as its rating on things like IMDb (4.3 out of 10. Yikes). I’ll say that I quite liked the Stephen King book (it just makes it into My Top Ten Stephen King Books list) although it certainly doesn’t seem to be a favorite for most people. And it’s likely to drop out of my Top Ten over time as it’s admittedly not one of his best pieces of work. I’ve just always had a thing for anything at all post-apocalyptic and this story of a “zombie-like” plague of sorts is so my type of thing that I’m probably more forgiving of its flaws than I should be. Story: Good. Execution: Not so good.

The movie starts out okay. As always, things were changed from what I remember of the novel now but the overall story stays close enough. The problem with both the film and book, however, is that the story falls apart at the end. I like King when he’s at his most bizarre & supernatural but not everyone is going to buy into that sort of thing and this novel’s ending was one that was never going to translate well to film. On the written page, it’s easier to suspend disbelief & King has a way of writing which makes you accept some weird ass shit. On screen, it rarely works well. And it unfortunately didn’t work well for this movie.

I spent a long time reviewing It (the 2017 version) the other day as I liked that one a lot & I get all excited and chatty when I see a movie that I truly enjoy. Boring, predictable, poorly made movies just kind of suck my will to live and forcing myself to “review” them is a struggle. I’m sad to say that’s the way I feel about Cell. I can’t be bothered. It was only about three weeks ago that I watched this and I can barely remember the damn thing. I believe I got bored & started f*^king around on my (cell!) phone, meaning I certainly wasn’t giving this my full attention. At least I didn’t turn into a cell phone “zombie”. But aren’t we all cell phone zombies already anyway?!?! Hmmmmmm. Is that the moral of this story? You’d like to think so! But what could’ve been a thoughtful social commentary is nothing more than yet another zombie story.

I like both John Cusack & Samuel L. Jackson but I can’t say they were trying to win any acting Oscars for this one. 1408 is a better movie if you’re specifically wanting a King movie starring Cusack & Jackson. I remember liking the girl & young boy in the book (I’m too lazy to look up their names) but the movie manages to make us not give the slightest shit about the fate of any of these characters. Heck, the most enjoyment I got from this was seeing Stacy Keach as it reminded me of the last thing I saw him in: Class Of 1999a movie probably even worse than Cell, in which he looked like THIS…

What’s up with the banana? I don’t know. And I’m not sure what exactly made this movie so bad. I suppose it’s mainly due to the lack of decent character development. As I said in my It review on Wednesday, it’s the characters that really made that film so enjoyable. Horror movies are the worst for giving us underdeveloped characters. It IS possible to have a good story and good characters within the horror genre. Why are there so few??

Meh. Cell isn’t the worst horror movie I’ve seen but it’s just another forgettable one to add to the huge pile of bland films in this genre. Both the book & film are guilty of missing the opportunity to really say something about our smartphones destroying society & all that. But, to be fair, the book is over ten years old now so it’s already starting to feel a bit dated. If I remember correctly, you have to actually be talking on a phone to get the virus in this movie. I mean, who the hell actually uses their smartphone as a phone?!?! I’ve typed this entire review on my phone but I can’t remember the last time I talked into it other than to say “Hey Siri, I see a little silhouetto of a man!“. People don’t talk to each other. Social media is the opposite of social. That’s the problem. Oh well – not every movie has to have deeper meaning, I guess. I found the book a fun read. It’s too bad the movie isn’t a bit better. Oh, and I still f*^king love my cell phone. I just wish they’d changed the title to Mobile in the UK because it’s such a horrible title that it would’ve been kind of amusing.

My Rating: 5.5/10

My Top Ten Stephen King Books

Happy Birthday to Stephen King, who turns 70 today!

Welcome to Day Four of Stephen King Week. I’m posting something King-related all week. One book review (End Of Watch), two movie reviews (including 2017’s It), and two Top Ten lists (including My Top Ten Stephen King Movies). Today I’m posting my list of My Top Ten Stephen King Books.

I love Stephen King’s books, which I’ve been reading ever since the age of about 12 when a friend let me borrow his Night Shift short story collection during study hall. I was immediately hooked. That version had the hand with the eyeballs on the cover (from the creepy short story I Am the Doorway):

It’s funny how the brain works: I remember the short stories in Night Shift as if I read them yesterday while I have trouble remembering some of King’s stuff that I read in later years. I suppose it’s a combination of it being a damn good book & the fact that we often seem to have a good memory for the things we loved in our formative years.

Anyway, I’ve always loved King’s short stories & novellas just as much as his full length novels so I don’t want to ignore the collections in this post. As they’d be too difficult to “rank” alongside one-story novels, my below list is a ranking of only King’s full-length fictional novels. But I’m going to talk a little about each of his short story collections at the end of this post too (Well, hell – there are ten so I suppose I can “rank” the collections as well. Oh I do love making lists!). 😉

First, here are My Top Ten Stephen King Full-Length Novels. As always, though, I’m doing a full ranking from least favorite to favorite book and I’ve read 37 in total. Here we go!

The Rest That I’ve Read

37. Dreamcatcher
36. The Regulators
35. Desperation (I honestly can’t remember which is which of The Regulators & Desperation – I barely remember either of them)
34. The Tommyknockers
33. Bag Of Bones
32. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
31. Dolores Claiborne (Could do with re-reading)

Top Thirty:

30. Finders Keepers
29. From A Buick 8
28. The Dark Half
27. Under The Dome
26. Blaze
25. Gerald’s Game
24. Thinner
23. Revival
22. Lisey’s Story
21. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger

Top Twenty:

20. Duma Key
19. Doctor Sleep
18. Cujo
17. Insomnia
16. End Of Watch
15. Rose Madder
14. Misery
13. Pet Sematary
12. Needful Things
11. The Running Man

Top Ten:

10. 11/22/63

9. Cell (I know I have this too high & will probably change my mind over time. I’ll be reviewing the movie tomorrow so will talk a little about the book too.)

8. Joyland

7. Mr. Mercedes

6. The Long Walk

5. The Shining

4. It

3. The Green Mile

2. ‘Salem’s Lot

1. The Dead Zone

Need To Re-Read:

Rage & Roadwork (I don’t remember them at all) & The Stand. I must have read three quarters of The Stand in my twenties then got too busy in life & took so long to get back to it that I’d have to start from the beginning again. It’s… long! It was great so I still regret not finishing.

Not Read:

Carrie, Firestarter, Christine, Cycle Of The Werewolf, The Talisman, The Eyes Of The Dragon, The Dark Tower Series (other than Book 1), The Plant, Black House, The Colorado Kid, Sleeping Beauties (book coming soon)

Now here are My Top Ten Stephen King Short Story & Novella Collections (ranked from least favorite to favorite). I’ve included my favorite stories from each collection as well:

10. Full Dark, No Stars: Big Driver & A Good Marriage. It’s weird that I don’t remember this collection that well when it’s not that old. I liked A Good Marriage but somehow didn’t even remember I’d read it until I was halfway through watching the film

9. Everything’s Eventual: 1408 is the only story I really remember from this collection. It’s a good one (and decent movie adaptation, as well).

8. Hearts In Atlantis: The story Hearts In Atlantis was very good but I somehow don’t remember the slightest thing about the other stories in this book…

7. Just After Sunset: Willa, The Gingerbread Girl, Stationary Bike, The Things They Left Behind, Graduation Afternoon. Looks like I remember quite a few, so obviously a pretty strong collection.

6. Skeleton Crew: The Mist (could do with re-reading), The Monkey, The Raft & The Jaunt (this last one haunts me to this day).

5. Four Past Midnight: The Langoliers, Secret Window Secret Garden & The Sun Dog (this creeped me the hell out). These stories were great but perhaps my absolute least favorite story of King’s is also in this book: The Library Policeman. Urgh.

4. Different Seasons: The book where only The Breathing Method didn’t become a movie because, seriously, that would NOT work as a film…! The Body became the brilliant Stand By Me, Apt Pupil was turned into an okay film, and it’s obvious what movie came from Rita Hayworth And Shawshank Redemption. I worship that film. Is it time to confess that it’s the only story in this collection that I can’t bring myself to read as I love the film so much? There. I’ve admitted it.

3. Nightmares & Dreamscapes: The End Of The Whole Mess, Chattery Teeth, You Know They Got A Hell Of A Band, Sorry Right Number, Crouch End. Another really strong collection I remember well despite it being fairly old now. It might help that several of these were made into shorts for the TV series.

2. The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams: The Dune, Ur, Under The Weather, Drunken Fireworks, Summer Thunder. A really recent book I was very happy with after King’s collections from more recent years have been a bit weak compared to his oldest stuff. And I reviewed every single story in full (I’m a nerd).

1. Night Shift: Jerusalem’s Lot, The Ledge, Children Of The Corn, The Last Rung On The Ladder. I love this book so much. My introduction to King & still possibly my favorite book overall. I think he writes fantastic short stories (as does his son Joe Hill, FYI – I highly recommend 20th Century Ghosts). Children Of The Corn is really good (I think it was a hard one to translate to film without it ending up as cheesy as it did). The Last Rung On The Ladder is heartbreaking and possibly the one that most got me hooked on his work (odd, considering it’s a non-horror). Actually, it was Last Rung as well as Jerusalem’s Lot that got me hooked. Jerusalem’s Lot is a story set in the same town as in Salem’s Lot, which I have very high on my novel list. I remember actually almost enjoying the shorter story even more. Sometimes less is more.

People skip these short stories & novellas sometimes but they really shouldn’t be ignored. I think there’s almost more skill to making a short story really good (which is why my posts are always too long. I’m no writer! Blah blah blah. I need to get to the point).

Phew. I think I’ve covered everything? I’ve read none of King’s Nonfiction but Danse Macabre does sound interesting.

It (2017) Review

Welcome to Day Three of Stephen King Week! King turns 70 tomorrow so I’m posting something King-related all week. One book review (End Of Watch), two movie reviews, and two Top Ten lists (including My Top Ten Stephen King Movies). Today I’m reviewing the recent It film.

It (2017)

Directed by Andy Muschietti

Based on It by Stephen King

Starring: Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgård, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton, Jackson Robert Scott

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film tells the story of seven children in Derry, Maine, who are terrorized by the eponymous being, only to face their own personal demons in the process.

My Opinion:

Is it weird that I’m so happy that this film is kicking ass at the box office?? I just love it when one of King’s books actually gets a good film adaptation and, even better, when it gets a lot of really positive reviews. I did a list yesterday of My Top Ten Stephen King Movies (this film was at number five if you don’t feel like clicking that link). I admitted in that list that, while I always watch & enjoy all adaptations of King’s work, some of the movies have been pretty damn awful. But then we occasionally get masterpieces like The Shawshank Redemption & Stand By Me to make up for the bad ones. It (the film – such a confusing title!) isn’t quite up there with the likes of those two but I’m very happy to say that it’s easily one of the better Stephen King movies of the many that have been made. Yes! I love when the movies do his novels justice.

You’ve all probably seen reviews by now that compare this to Stand By Me and that’s a very accurate description. Stand By Me with added horror, of course. Like that, this is a coming of age tale first and foremost and I’ve always loved a good coming of age tale. That’s why I’m actually a bit surprised that this film has done as well as it has as I can’t see it being loved by full-on “horror” fans. Pennywise the clown is a great creation but I have to say that I don’t find either this or the 1990 version scary. The book is a bit unsettling but I wouldn’t say that feeling fully translated to the films. I’ve never been one to get too scared by movies, though. As far as “creepy” goes, Kubrick’s The Shining certainly has this film (and pretty much every other horror film) beat. It’s a shame that King hates that adaptation – I think it’s one of the greatest horror films of all time.

I think the main difference between the 1990 It and the 2017 It is that Tim Curry’s Pennywise is the true star of the 1990 film while the kids are what make the 2017 version so good. I think this version has done things right in focusing more on the kids & their relationships with one another. I will always be fond of the 1990 film & prefer Curry’s Pennywise to Bill Skarsgård’s somewhat dull (and a little too funny-looking) Pennywise. It felt like Curry was truly having fun in the role & his Pennywise had far more personality. But… This story is about the kids. It’s about all kids who felt like “losers” when growing up. Pennywise shouldn’t really be stealing the show and I’m glad this version gets the balance right in making the kids the stars while also giving us just enough of the monster to keep the story interesting.

The kids all did a great job in this film. As has been said, It has a very Stranger Things feel to it. But of course it would since The Duffer Brothers wanted to make It but went on to instead make Stranger Things, which is meant to feel like King meets Spielberg. Plus It used one of the same actors from that show (Finn Wolfhard, who bizarrely looks like The Shining’s Shelley Duvall). I have to say that the girl playing Beverly (Sophia Lillis) was especially good. She’s like a young Amy Adams (which is a compliment as I love Adams). I’d be surprised if Lillis, as well as most of the rest of this young cast, doesn’t go on to become a big star. However, I’m so glad they AREN’T big stars yet as having a cast of relatively unknown actors was a huge plus for this movie (in my opinion, anyway). I loved not having the distraction of having seen them in a million other things.


I do have to admit that the time period this is set in (1989 into 1990) was another huge plus for me in a way that may not work as well for the current younger generation. Or maybe that doesn’t matter? I loved Stand By Me & 1990’s It even though those kids were living in the late 1950s. I suppose the coming of age dramas tend to transcend their time period as kids that age still go through all the same sort of emotions. Although I found it kind of hilarious/scary reading this article about how the film’s director had to start a “bicycle camp” to teach these pre/early teen actors how to ride bikes for the film(!!).

But oh how I loved seeing kids the same age as me in this movie’s ’89/’90 time period. Well, sort of… I was the age of the slightly older bullies back then. And, like the bullies, I was also a huge fan of Anthrax. Anthrax! There’s an Anthrax song in this movie!!! But I’ll come back to that at the end of this review – I just want to point out that I was more like the kids being bullied than the ones doing the bullying, even though I was a metalhead. 😉 And I had way too much fun seeing the movie marquees in the film’s background accurately portraying the movie releases of that time (god I’m a nerd). And I enjoyed the fact that I could almost hear a massive WHOOSH in the cinema as the New Kids On The Block jokes went right over the heads of those in the audience. Not that I liked NKOTB… Anthrax!!! Oh, and there are lots of fun Easter Eggs in this film so, if you’re a King fan, be on the lookout for them. And read the IMDb trivia for the movie afterwards – there’s loads of fascinating info there.

I think I should try to wrap this up now or I’ll just continue to ramble on for ages. I’m clearly very happy with this adaptation of a favorite book by my absolute favorite author. The kids are fantastic, their characters are likeable (so rare in horror movies), there’s some Anthrax (and a few other soundtrack gems I won’t mention to keep some surprises), there’s a creepy clown who isn’t quite as cool as Tim Curry but still does the job, there are Stephen King and 1989/1990 pop culture references, poor little brother Georgie is still a cutie pie, “that” controversial scene from the book is thankfully again left out of the film, Sophia Lillis has true star power, the kids are the stars instead of the clown, this sentence is really long, and last but not least: this movie doesn’t rely on cheap horror movie “jump scares”. That’s not to say there aren’t some jumpy moments but I was impressed with how well the horror was handled. I especially loved the slideshow scene, which references a fantastic King novella in Four Past Midnight that really gave me the creeps. It focuses on telling its story and on its characters then it focuses on the horror. That’s what makes this a good film instead of yet another bland & predictable horror movie with expendable characters. I can’t wait to see the next film now, which will feature the kids as adults. However, as with the scenes involving the grown-ups in the 1990 film, I think the second film won’t have the same kind of magic as this one. There’s a special sort of innocence in these coming of age films and the ones that really capture that feeling end up being all-time favorites for some people. I know Stand By Me was that way for me when I was growing up & I can see It being that way for a new generation.

My Rating: 8.5/10

**Back to Anthrax, as promised**

As I said, I was a big Anthrax fan in my high school days and the fact that they had an Anthrax song & t-shirt in this movie filled me with such boring old-fart joy. I’ll assume they were used on purpose as they were always big fans of Stephen King and their songs so often referenced his work (such as The Stand in Among The Living & Misery in Misery Loves Company). I bet Anthrax are happy as f*%k that their song Antisocial is in a Stephen King film. And this was possibly my favorite song of theirs at the time, being the socially awkward misfit that I was (am). Anthrax!!! \m/ 🙂

My Top Ten Stephen King Movies

Welcome to Day Two of Stephen King Week! King turns 70 on Thursday so I’m going to post something King-related all week. One book review (End Of Watch, yesterday), two movie reviews (including the new It film tomorrow), and two Top Ten lists. Here’s my list of My Top Ten Stephen King Movies.

I love when Stephen King’s novels are made into movies, even though some of the films have been atrociously bad. But I do my best to watch every adaptation that I can, and… Holy shit – I’ve watched a lot. I think this is the longest list I’ve ever done since I now choose to rank everything that I’ve seen instead of just the top ten. Wait – I lie! My list of My Top “Ten” Best Picture Oscar Winners is slightly longer. But not much.

For this list, I’ve excluded TV shows & most straight-to-TV mini-series(es?!). I cheated & included It (1990) & Salem’s Lot (1979), however. They’re so good we’ll pretend they were theatrical releases (which they actually were in the UK, I think). Some others may have been TV – hard to remember. Enough faffing! Let’s start this countdown.

Here are My Top Ten Stephen King Movies (from least favorite to favorite & not judging on if they’re “loyal” to the book). I could do with re-watching a lot outside the top twenty so don’t take the order of those too seriously… 😉

The Rest That I’ve Seen:

42. The Mangler
41. Sleepwalkers
40. The Lawnmower Man (WTF? Shares only the title.)
39. Dolan’s Cadillac
38. Rose Red
37. The Night Flier (Don’t really remember this)
36. Sometimes They Come Back
35. Dreamcatcher (Why, Morgan?!)
34. Quicksilver Highway
33. Desperation (Also don’t really remember)
32. Cell
31. Storm Of The Century
30. A Good Marriage
29. Carrie (2013)
28. The Dark Half
27. Apt Pupil
26. Dolores Claiborne (Could do with re-watching)
25. Thinner
24. Secret Window
23. Needful Things
22. The Langoliers
21. Hearts In Atlantis (I need to re-watch this – it probably deserves to be higher)

Top Twenty:

20. Christine (Again, I could do with re-watching this)
19. 1408
18. Firestarter
17. Cujo (Although the complete change of ending was odd)
16. Maximum Overdrive (I like this more than I should. The soundtrack helps.)
15. Children Of The Corn (I like this. Not ashamed. Malachai!)
14. Creepshow 1 & 2 (I could do with re-watching. To be honest, I’m not sure which is which so stuck them together)
13. Misery (I know this should be higher)
12. Silver Bullet (I know this should be lower but, you know, it has one of the Two Coreys…)
11. Cat’s Eye

Top Ten:

10. The Running Man

9. ‘Salem’s Lot

8. The Dead Zone

7. Pet Sematary

6. The Mist

5. TIE: It (1990) & It (2017) (In all honesty, the 2017 adaptation is the superior film but I’ll always have affection for the 1990 version and, of course, Tim Curry)

4. The Green Mile

3. Carrie

2. The Shining

1. TIE: Stand By Me & The Shawshank Redemption (Sorry. Don’t make me choose between them!)

Movies Not Seen:
Graveyard Shift, Tales From The Darkside: The Movie, Children Of The Corn II through VIII & TV Movie, Sometimes They Come Back…Again & …For More, Trucks, The Rage: Carrie 2, Firestarter 2, Carrie (2002), The Diary Of Ellen Rimbauer, Riding The Bullet, ‘Salem’s Lot (2004), Big Driver, The Dark Tower

TV Series/TV Movies:

Seen:
Golden Years, The Tommyknockers, The Stand, The Shining (1997), Nightmares & Dreamscapes, Haven (Saw most of. Stopped watching when it stopped being pretty damn good.)

Didn’t finish:
Under The Dome (Started. Stopped. Not bothered. Hated the book’s characters.), The Dead Zone (2002) (Saw most of this. Pretty good show. Need to finish.), 11.22.63 (Started. Just don’t have the time to devote to TV shows nowadays.)

Not Seen:
Bag Of Bones, Kingdom Hospital, Mr. Mercedes, The Mist (2017), Various short stories…

**I cannot WAIT for Castle Rock to start up as I adore King’s short stories & want to see more of them made! But it’s gonna air on this Hulu thingymabob so who the hell knows how/when/if I’ll ever see that in the UK… 😦

Stephen King Week At CPD

Hi all! Starting on Monday, I’ve decided to do a Stephen King Week on my blog. King turns 70 next week so I’m going to post something King-related Monday through Friday. One book review, two movie reviews (including the new It film), and two Top Ten lists. Unlike certain political leaders, I’m a huge fan of Stephen King. I hope to chat with some fellow fans next week. 🙂

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (Book Review)

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The Glass Castle is a 2005 memoir by Jeannette Walls. The book recounts the unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing Walls and her siblings had at the hands of their deeply dysfunctional parents.

My Thoughts:

I read this as, which you may notice by my list at the end of this review, I’m reading books before their movie adaptations are released this year. The Glass Castle, starring Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson & Naomi Watts, is out today in the U.S. and October 6th in the U.K. I’m a fan of Larson, especially after the fantastic Room as well as Short Term 12 (which was also from the director of The Glass Castle, Destin Daniel Cretton). So, even though “true story dramas” don’t normally appeal to me, I decided to give this a read since I’ll happily watch a movie with this film’s cast. I didn’t expect the book to quite possibly be my very favorite that I’ve read so far this year. But, I think it probably is. What a pleasant surprise.

I liked the way in which Walls wrote her story. It’s very matter-of-fact and doesn’t seem to be passing judgement on her parents & the way in which they chose to raise their children. Like a lot of people raised in small-town American Midwest, my childhood was pretty straightforward (and pretty damn boring). Not rich, not poor, working parents, regularly attended school, followed all the rules & the “societal norms”, etc. The Walls family are unlike any I’ve ever personally known and I found their story fascinating. I suppose there are other nomadic families in America but it’s a world I’ve never experienced & can’t even begin to imagine. The Walls family moved from place to place all across America, sometimes homeless & living out in the open, rarely holding down regular jobs despite having the ability to work (including the mother having the qualifications for teaching) and despite the fact that their children had to dig their classmates’ uneaten lunches out of the trash at school in order to have anything to eat. I was often shocked by the horrendous neglect endured by Jeannette, her two sisters, and her brother (and amazed that these children were never taken away from their parents). However, as I said, Jeannette never really speaks poorly of her parents – she just tells her story in a straightforward manner without the need to embellish things. Their story is so outrageous that I don’t think you could make up half of the odd things their parents did. Yet Jeannette does still give us glimpses of the love their parents had for them, especially from her father through his many broken promises that I think he himself may have genuinely believed he’d keep even though his children knew he never would.

This is a hard book to describe without making it sound horribly depressing but it’s not really that way at all. It’s truly amusing and at times had me smiling at some of the bizarre things this family went through (like when they try to move a piano into their house). Jeannette’s parents, though they will sometimes make you very angry if you read this, are truly a couple of unique characters & free spirits. It’s highly unusual for me to enjoy (or even bother to read) a true story but, as they say, sometimes life is stranger than fiction. Do they say that? Hmm. Well, someone said that. Sounds like something Jeannette’s father would say. I don’t know if I’ve talked anyone into reading this but I do highly recommend it. It’s frustrating. It’s uplifting. It’ll make you angry. It’ll make you smile. It’ll make you shake your head in disbelief. You won’t know whether you want to hug or punch the parents (most likely the latter). But it’s also not soppy or trying to be some big tearjerker, which is the kind of thing that gets on my nerves. It’s just a well-written story of a girl who somehow managed to survive & to thrive after living a truly unusual childhood with two very eccentric parents. The movie has “meh” reviews so far & the below trailer doesn’t really blow me away (although I’ll still watch it). So, if you can, READ THE BOOK FIRST.

My Rating: 4.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
– The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Currently Reading: End Of Watch by Stephen King (book 3 of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy)

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King (Book Review)

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The story centers upon Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, who has been chasing after his adversary, “the man in black”, for many years. The novel fuses Western fiction with fantasy, science fiction and horror, following Roland’s trek through a vast desert and beyond in search of the man in black. Roland meets several people along his journey, including a boy named Jake Chambers who travels with him part of the way.

My Thoughts:

Another quickie book review! I figured I better “review” The Gunslinger since The Dark Tower movie is out now in the US (and out August 18th in the UK). Not many positive reviews so far, though! Damn.

Stephen King is easily my favorite author. I’ve read almost all of his books other than The Dark Tower series, which never really appealed to me for some reason. I got into King in my early teens (maaaaaaany years ago now) and I did read The Gunslinger early on but didn’t remember a thing about it other than that I didn’t really enjoy it at the time. Therefore, I guess that’s why I never continued. I hate re-reading books. Don’t know why. But I obviously had to re-read this one before I could continue with the series & the movie coming out has finally forced me to read it again.

I lie – I do remember one thing from reading it many years ago. Desert! Lots of desert. I remember the book dragging in the first half (in the desert). Reading the book again now, I wonder if I didn’t actually finish it as I remembered nothing at all from the second half of the book, which I found much more enjoyable. The story really picked up once Roland met up with Jake (toward the end of the long desert journey). I mean, I love King but a guy walking alone through a desert gets a bit boring after a while. Maybe I just don’t like stories set in the desert? Nah, that can’t be – I love post-apocalyptic desert landscapes (like in Mad Max: Fury Road or the book Wool). And I don’t mind long journeys (like in The End Of The World Running Club or King’s own The Long Walk or, you know, The Lord Of The F*^king Rings…). So. I dunno. Wow, I suck at reviews lately.

I think the main problem may have been that I didn’t really buy into the character of Roland Deschain. I didn’t like him (not that you’re meant to). He’s so stoic. Having to walk through the desert with that guy would be a total drag. I made him super hot in my head, though, so that helped. Oh! I did like the flashbacks to when he was young & being trained to one day fight to declare his manhood. The flashbacks & the time spent with Jake were the best bits (for me) and made up for the bits that dragged on a bit too long (like the time spent in Tull, although I liked his relationship with the woman while there). The “man in black” was a disappointment but I’m assuming we get a lot more of that story in the remaining books…

Well, I did like this book more than it probably sounds from this so-called review. I’m probably rating it half a point more than I otherwise would since a) it’s Stephen King & b) I can see a lot of potential for the remaining books. I’m assuming this first book barely even scratches the surface of this story. You really learn nothing whatsoever about Roland & the “man in black” and I found it entertaining enough to want to continue & learn more, especially about Roland’s past. I’ll read the rest. Eventually…

My Rating: 3.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
– The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Currently Reading: End Of Watch by Stephen King (book 3 of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy)

Oh, and it looks like the Mr. Mercedes TV series is starting today on the Audience (?!) network in the US. So I don’t know how I’ll see that in the UK but I’d like to as I enjoyed the book (more than The Gunslinger). Here’s the trailer for the show, starring Brendan Gleeson, Harry Treadaway, Mary-Louise Parker, Kelly Lynch & Ann Cusack:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Book Review)

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The Handmaid’s Tale is a 1985 dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. Set in a near-future New England, in a totalitarian, Christian theonomy that has overthrown the United States government, the novel explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain individualism and independence. The novel’s title echoes the component parts of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, which comprises a series of connected stories (“The Merchant’s Tale”, “The Parson’s Tale”, etc.).

My Thoughts:

I liked this book but didn’t love this book. I’ll be honest and say I knew nothing about it until the TV series started and, when hearing that the novel was “feminist dystopian apocalyptic sci-fi”, I was all “WHAT? That’s so my type of thing!!”. It’s a very good book. I can see why it’s a modern classic but I can’t say it’s one I’ll ever call a favorite of mine.

This is a novel that’s worthy of thorough analysis & discussion. You’re SO not gonna get that on my silly little movie blog! 😉 I’m happy to discuss it with any of you in the comments if you want but I think there are far better places online to find good write-ups of it. I would imagine that The Handmaid’s Tale is now studied in high schools (or perhaps colleges – Americans can be extremely uptight, so the sexual content would probably keep it out of high schools). Or… Is it? It should be studied & discussed, especially as it’s worryingly feeling more & more like a future that’s entirely possible in our lifetimes. I do remember when the TV series started & some people online were all “This show is obviously  anti-Trump!”. Ha! Hilarious. This show based on the book from 1985. Do these people not realize that seeing so many similarities between this book’s “fictional” dystopian future & modern day politics is scary as f*%k?!?!

I think it’s unfortunate, in a way, that this book has been labelled “feminist” as this term bizarrely has negative connotations to some people and would probably keep them from reading it. It’s a very well-written & important piece of work that deserves recognition alongside old literary classics (although I suppose that 1985 is now “old” – it just seems like yesterday to me since I’m so damn old myself). At what point is a modern classic no longer a modern classic? Okay – I’m old & depressed now. Where were we?

Oh yeah – Feminist dystopia. Don’t let labels keep you from reading this book if it interests you. Even Margaret Atwood doesn’t approve of this being labelled sci-fi & prefers to call it “speculative fiction” (I read that HERE at Wikipedia, where there’s an interesting bit about the book’s genre classification). Sci-fi does bring futuristic technology to mind whereas this book, although set in the future, feels like it’s set hundreds of years ago due to society’s regression. Once again, it’s scary as hell as it’s starting to feel like we may be headed in that direction.

As for this book’s overall “readability” (as in, is it at all enjoyable as opposed to just worthy), I’d say it has a tiny bit of that “They’ve forced me to read this book in school” thing going on. I don’t really mean that as an insult & I personally found the story itself entirely engrossing. The story kept me very interested and turning the pages but, unfortunately, I didn’t really care that much about the characters. Also, I’m not one of these annoying people who require an explanation for EVERYTHING but you really don’t find much out in this book. Whatever happened to cause this apocalyptic(?) future is never fully explained and things from the past are only hinted at through the vague thoughts of Offred, our main character. I felt like we didn’t really get to know her, which made it hard to connect with her. Although I know that’s kind of the point as any kind of emotion must be hidden & she’s living her life in constant fear. Atwood also has an odd sort of writing style, which I think further made it slightly difficult to fully connect with the book. Fantastic concept & great story but a book I can’t say I loved since I didn’t have much of a connection with the characters.

As for the current TV series, I did watch the first episode after finishing the book. Rubbish. I won’t be continuing. Sorry to anyone who’s a fan of the show but, if you’ve not read the book, I definitely recommend it over what I’ve seen of the show. Long, drawn out scenes for zero reason other than to appear “deep & brooding”.  Added violence that was not in the book (what was done to Janine didn’t happen in the book). And the episode ends with, I think, a final line that is, very importantly, never said in the book. Why?!?! After that, I knew I couldn’t continue. They’re clearly going to change too much & piss me off. And now, hearing there’s a SECOND season?!? Piss off. Don’t milk it. End it where it’s meant to end. Pffft. Adaptations annoy the hell out of me sometimes. Skip the show & go straight to the book with this one.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
– The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Now currently reading: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (Book Review)

The film adaptation of Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon comes out today in the United States. It was directed by Stella Meghie and stars Amandla Stenberg & Nick Robinson. I must admit that I really enjoyed this book and am annoyed about the three month wait to see the film in the United Kingdom (the release date is set for the 18th of August here). Here’s my review of the novel…

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The novel centers on 18-year-old Madeline Whittier, who has severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), also known as “bubble baby disease”. Due to her condition, Madeline is stuck inside her house in Los Angeles, where she lives with her mother, a physician who takes care of her.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. But I must admit that it’s a full-on “Young Adult” teen book. I know plenty of grown-ups like myself who still read YA stuff and there have been some fantastic novels in this genre. Unfortunately, though, the Young Adult label has a somewhat negative connotation to it nowadays. This is probably partly due to the fact that there seems to be so much of it now. There wasn’t half as much of it around when I was a young adult myself. Man, I’d have especially loved the post-apocalyptic dystopian thing that is so overused in this genre now. 

What’s my point? I’m getting off topic! I think my point is this: don’t automatically assume a book isn’t good just because it has the YA label. Some feel very teenage while others are just really good stories that transcend any sort of recommended age range (is Harry Potter considered YA? I would assume so). And like them or not, The Hunger Games books don’t immediately make me think “ugh, teenagers!!!”. 

Some YA, however, is very teen and Everything, Everything is clearly written with its teenage audience in mind. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with aiming to please your target audience. This would’ve probably been a favorite book of mine if it had been around in my early to mid-teens (although it would’ve been a very rare favorite in the romance genre as it’s not often that I go for a love story of any sort). As an adult, I can’t say this could now ever be a favorite book of mine but I did find it a very enjoyable read (easily one of the most enjoyable I’ve read so far this year). It has a fairly unique story, an unconventional romance, and a really likable main character. 

I think a lot of YA novels don’t always write convincing teenage characters, probably because the authors are usually adults. The characters either seem too grown-up or too childish and are often hard to like. I think Yoon got the right balance with the character of Madeline as she felt like a real 18-year-old with the hopes & dreams you’d expect from a girl who has been stuck in her home for 18 years due to having severe combined immunodeficiency. She was intelligent but not mature beyond her years and, most importantly (to me), she was very likable in a convincing sort of way. I do think that not enough attention was given to the other characters: the neighbor boy she falls in love with, her mother, and the nurse who cares for her during the day. We don’t get to know any of them as well as I’d have liked but I can forgive this as it’s not a very long book. Madeline is very much the novel’s main focus and I was happy with her character. 

I’m having a hard time explaining why I liked this one… I doubt I’ve talked anyone into reading it! But if you do really like YA novels (probably aimed more at a female audience in this case), this is one I’d definitely recommend as a lightweight but entertaining read. Madeline has had to find ways to keep herself entertained while being a “prisoner” in her own home so we get to see some fun drawings & doodles of hers throughout the book plus we get to read e-mails & instant messages between her and the neighbor boy she falls for. These gimmicks may not be for everyone but I like books that have this sort of thing as it makes it a bit more personal & fun to read. It also shows how Madeline has managed to maintain a sense of humor through her illness. Plus, as I said, I just liked the story/setup. It’s a topic I’ve found interesting ever since seeing John Travolta in The Boy In The Plastic Bubble (Ha! The 1976 TV movie… I totally just aged myself). Well, that movie was far from “good” and Everything, Everything has done a much better job of telling the story of a teenager with the “bubble baby” disease. Plus I really wanted to see what/if/how things would be resolved in this book. I will of course stay spoiler-free but the ending probably left people divided (and that’s all I’ll say). I liked it. I hope they’ve done a good film adaptation. 

My Rating: 3.5/5

Here’s the trailer for the movie (but I think it gives away too much of the story so skip the trailer if you want to know as little as possible…):

The books I’ve read so far in 2017, from least favorite to favorite:

15. The Sisters by Claire Douglas
14. Tape by Steven Camden
13. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
12. The Circle by Dave Eggers
11. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
10. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
9. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
8. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
7. The Dinner by Herman Koch
6. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
3. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
2. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
1. Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie

And I’m currently in the middle of reading Blaze by Stephen King (so far, so good). 🙂

The Dinner by Herman Koch (Book Review)

I’m reviewing the book The Dinner by Herman Koch as the movie is released today in the U.S. There’s currently no U.K. release date scheduled. The movie was directed by Oren Moverman & stars Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall, Adepero Oduye & Chloë Sevigny.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
It’s a summer’s evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse — the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

My Thoughts:

I liked this book but it’s probably not for everyone. I’ll avoid plot spoilers but I’ll tell you that none of the characters are very likable, which puts a lot of readers off (including me, usually). The story was intriguing enough to keep me reading, however, and it’s not a long book so it’s a pretty quick read. It might be worth your time if the plot synopsis interests you. However, it’s also the type of story that should work well as a movie so, if it’s a decent adaptation, you might want to skip the book. I’ll let you know if the movie does the book justice (if the movie ever gets a U.K. release date)! It’s a film I’m definitely wanting to check out as it’s one I feel could possibly improve on the book if handled well. The cast seems promising.

I liked the way the story was presented as courses instead of “Chapters”: Appetiser, Main, Dessert, etc etc (I can’t remember all the posh terms for all the different courses. Never knew there were so many courses to a fancy meal!). We slowly learn more & more about the four adults having this meal together while the story of the horrible act commited by their teenage sons comes to light.

I’m not going to say much more as the story is pretty straightforward and there’s not much more I could say anyway without spoiling it. I’ll say it’s a decent character study but doesn’t explore all the moral implications as much as it could have. By the end, it felt more shallow than I was hoping for. That’s why I’m hopeful for the possibility of a really good film adaptation as there’s some meaty material here for a really good set of screenwriters & actors to sink their teeth into. We’ll see. The Dinner isn’t as deep & meaningful as it could’ve been but it’s still an intriguing story told in a fairly original way and I’d say I enjoyed it more than several of the other 13 books I’ve read so far this year.

My Rating: 3/5

**Yes, I’m keeping a list of all the books I’ve read so far this year. At the moment, this is probably how I’d rank them (from least favorite to favorite). If you really want to know… 😉 I hope to review them all by the end of the year:

14. The Sisters by Claire Douglas
13. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
12. The Circle by Dave Eggers
11. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
10. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
9. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
8. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
7. The Dinner by Herman Koch
6. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
3. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
2. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
1. Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie

(And, yes, I’m focusing on reading books that have been movies/TV shows recently or will be very soon) 🙂

The Circle by Dave Eggers (Book Review)

The film adaptation of The Circle by Dave Eggers is out today in the US (there’s no current UK release date that I can find. Hmm…). It was directed by James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) and stars Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, Patton Oswalt, Glenne Headly & Bill Paxton (R.I.P.). I’ll probably try to go to the film at some point, so will of course review that if I do. For now, here’s my review of the novel…

The Circle by Dave Eggers

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Fast, thrilling and compulsively addictive, The Circle is Dave Eggers’ bestselling novel about our obsession with the internet and where it may lead. When Mae Holland lands her dream job at the world’s most powerful internet company, she has no idea what awaits behind the doors of The Circle…

My Thoughts:

This is one of those books where I loved the concept & agreed with its stance that, basically, the Internet & big corporations (such as the one that Fincher’s The Social Network is about) are evil. Okay, yes – I’m a blogger and I admit that I love to tweet but I’d happily hop into a time machine to go back to the Eighties and live without this sort of technology as I think we were better off without it. The world is a dreadful place & we’re living in an Orwellian dystopia. But we actually brought this all on ourselves, which I think even Orwell didn’t fully foresee. Hell, even Orwell couldn’t predict something as absurd as the rise of the Kardashi-thingies & wannabes! 😉 I blame them for society’s devolution (enabled by the Internet, of course). But back to this book…

I bring up Orwell as The Circle is indeed in a similar vein to 1984. But dystopian novels are more popular than ever and this is yet another of many that come nowhere near that masterpiece. I was pretty disappointed with The Circle overall. I absolutely love this genre and, as I said, I fully agree with this novel’s beliefs so I did expect to thoroughly enjoy it. In fact, I’ve read 14 books so far this year (that’s a lot for me!) and this is possibly my least favorite. Damn. I didn’t expect that.

I found The Circle a bit too long & meandering. It started out okay but, by halfway through, it was becoming a bit of a chore to read as its lead character (Mae Holland, played by Emma Watson in the film) was becoming more and more and MORE unlikable. I think her character is the main problem I had with the novel as I always struggle to enjoy a book when I hate its main character. This can only very occasionally be made up for if the story is exceptionally good but, unfortunately, this isn’t the case with The Circle. I know the book’s whole point is that The Circle (the evil corporation in the story) is almost cult-like and that its believers follow blindly while the reader can see what’s really going on but, ugh, you just want to slap the shit out of Mae and knock some damn sense into her! I suppose Emma Watson is a good choice for the role in the film, though, as she’s seriously starting to get on my tits lately. But I’m hoping that the film will write her character slightly differently and give her some sense.

Well, I plan to check out the movie anyway since I always like to see how novels get adapted. Maybe they can actually improve on the book (it does happen sometimes). I still really like the overall idea behind the novel & its very obvious message even though I don’t think the story and its unlikable lead character do well to convey that message & the seriousness with which we should be taking it. I think I was just hoping for something a little more insightful and less obvious. The Circle doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know and I’m not sure if it was trying to be satirical or not but, if it was, it gave the novel an odd tone that didn’t really work. I prefer my dystopian literature to either be proper satire or full-on bleak, depressing dreariness! The Circle can’t quite decide what it wants to be but I do appreciate its effort to bring further attention to a very important topic we should be taking far more seriously. I think, unfortunately, the satire maybe doesn’t work simply because this book isn’t as exaggerated as Eggers may have originally intended. This story doesn’t feel like a distant future – it feels like it has already happened.

My Rating: 2.5/5

Here’s a trailer for the movie (as is often the case lately, I think it gives too much away):

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Book Review)

Big Little Lies is a seven-episode series starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman & Shailene Woodley. It’s airing on HBO in America this Sunday (19th of February) and looks like it will air on Sky Atlantic in the UK sometime in March.

Based on the novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty, the show was created by David E Kelley & directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (director of films such as Wild & Dallas Buyers Club). Having just read the book, I figured it was time I do a quick book review for anyone who may be interested in either the novel or the TV show…

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Perfect family, perfect house, perfect life; Jane, Madeline and Celeste have it all . . . or do they? They are about to find out just how easy it is for one little lie to spiral out of control.

My Thoughts:

I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed this book as it’s certainly not my usual sort of genre (give me Stephen King, fantasy, dystopian, or post-apocalyptic!). Is it chick lit? I hate that term – It’s so condescending. And I hate the so-called chick lit genre as it tends to be the “silly” books that are given this label. I suppose it’s certainly aimed at female readers, though.

I haven’t read reviews at all but I would assume the main comparison being used to describe this book’s story & overall feel is Desperate Housewives, which would be extremely accurate. I have a confession: I’m not a girly girl & watch very few girly things but I watched all of Desperate Housewives (despite its AWFUL title, which almost made me not watch it in the first place). But then the opening DH scene started with a tragic death and a woman who then happily realized that it meant she wouldn’t have to return (some kitchen appliance she’d borrowed – can’t remember) to the now-dead woman. And I was hooked! Well-written dark humor with rich characters is something I can get behind. Who cares what label you give it? I don’t think Big Little Lies is quite as good as that first season of Desperate Housewives (as with all shows, DH went badly downhill in later years) and it doesn’t have as much of that darkly humorous streak but it’s a fun satire on parents, particularly mothers, and the crazy world of school politics.

Big Little Lies starts with a tragic & unexplained death on the night of the adult-only trivia fundraiser taking place at the novel’s school. Our three main characters, Jane, Madeline & Celeste, each have five-year-olds attending their first year of school. This is a fairly long book that I found a very quick read thanks to the way it was broken up into so many chapters & the way most chapters ended with statements from witnesses who were there on the trivia night. After the opening chapter in which someone has died, the novel then goes back to the beginning of the school year to introduce us to all our main potential victims and murderers. I loved not even knowing who ends up the victim, which kept me reading as I was anxious to find out. The witness statements at the end of the chapters give us little clues along the way as to what may have happened.

Big Little Lies isn’t exactly some piece of “worthy literature” but it was a light & entertaining read and should make for an enjoyable TV series. I’d actually like to see them up the dark humor for the show if they can. The book sounds more shallow than it actually is – It tackles some heavy issues, especially at the end, but it could’ve done with sticking more to its sassy satire we mainly glimpse in the witness statements and through the character of Madeline. Speaking of Madeline, the casting of Reese Witherspoon for this role is absolute perfection – I can totally see her as this outwardly superficial character with the deep down heart of gold. I can also see Woodley & Kidman as Jane & Celeste now even though Celeste won’t be how I pictured looks-wise but Kidman definitely has the right sort of personality & manner to suit the role well. With a lot of big names involved, including Jean-Marc Vallée as the director, I think the show is in good hands & I’m looking forward to seeing how they adapt the book.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Here’s the UK trailer for the TV show. I think they’ve upped the drama! Hope the show doesn’t take itself too seriously…

The Book Thief & Paper Towns Movie Reviews

Here are two quickie reviews of two movie adaptations of two books that I read recently. Since I read the books, I figured I better finally watch the films. I never really enjoy a movie much after reading the book and, in the case of one of these, I pretty much hated the book so I wasn’t hoping for much from the movie. Here we go!

Paper Towns (2015)

Directed by Jake Schreier

Based on Paper Towns by John Green

Starring: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Halston Sage, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Jaz Sinclair

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
After an all night adventure, Quentin’s life-long crush, Margo, disappears, leaving behind clues that Quentin and his friends follow on the journey of a lifetime.

My Opinion:

I did a very short review of the Paper Towns book HERE (I rated it 2.5/5). Full of hateful characters, I didn’t enjoy the book very much. The main boy (played by Nat Wolff in the movie) was okay but a bit bland. The girl he loves (Margo, played by Cara Delevingne) & his best friend (who is a sexist little shit & calls all girls “honey bunnies”) are annoying as hell. Seriously, Margo isn’t interesting & mysterious – she’s a bitch. But I liked the story, which involves Margo’s friends trying to track her down through a series of bizarre clues she’s left behind.

Once I’ve read a book, I always try to watch the movie adaptation but it’s never that exciting to me since I already know the story & get a bit bored. This one is a pretty straightforward & faithful adaptation. If you like the book, you should like the movie. I think this is a rare occasion where the film is better & I’d say it’s mainly down to them making Margo seem a little more human & less hateful. I also thought Nat Wolff did a good job as Quentin & made the character less dull than in the book. If you’re interested in the story, I’d actually recommend watching the movie & skipping the book as the book doesn’t really flesh out the characters any more than the film does and the movie doesn’t leave out anything important (from what I can remember).

Even though I’m WAY past “Young Adult” age, I still really enjoy reading/watching YA stuff as I can still relate to most of it. Trust me – when you get old like me, it’s very likely that it’ll still feel like you only just finished high school yesterday. It’s a traumatic time in life & I remember more from that time than I do from when I was a twentysomething. However, Paper Towns was one I couldn’t relate to at all. Maybe I’m finally out of touch? Or maybe John Green just doesn’t quite capture what teens are really like? The characters didn’t feel real to me, unlike the ones in things like The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (fantastic film & book!). But that one was set in my own era of high school with an awesome soundtrack while Paper Towns is set now & the characters refer to things from their own youth that mean nothing to me (like singing what I assume is the Pokémon TV show theme tune). No, I think the characters are weak and are the real reason I can’t connect with Paper Towns. At least the movie improves on the book slightly so I can’t give it a low rating as it’s a good adaptation and I think plenty of teens/twentysomethings probably really like it. But I’d recommend other YA stuff to people my own age before I’d recommend this one.

My Rating: 6/10

The Book Thief (2013)

Directed by Brian Percival

Based on The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nélisse, Nico Liersch, Ben Schnetzer, Heike Makatsch, Barbara Auer, Roger Allam

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film is about a young girl living with her adoptive German family during the Nazi era. Taught to read by her kind-hearted foster father, the girl begins “borrowing” books and sharing them with the Jewish refugee being sheltered by her foster parents in their home.

My Opinion:

I reviewed The Book Thief novel HERE (along with all 14 books I read last year – I ranked this one my 8th favorite out of 14 & rated it 3.5/5). Unlike Paper Towns, this book had strong characters & I really cared what would happen to them. The book was actually let down slightly by its unnecessary gimmick (it’s narrated by Death aka The Grim Reaper) and did feel overlong. I really liked the book but didn’t love it like I was hoping, despite loving the characters. Still, I’m glad it got the characters right as that’s really important to me.


In this case, I’d definitely recommend reading the book before watching the film. It’s a good adaptation with fine performances but they’ve had to leave things out (as to be expected with a long book). The characters are just so richly developed in the book, which rarely gets captured as well in a film. They did come close, however – both Sophie Nélisse (Liesel – the main character) & Geoffrey Rush (Hans, her foster father) are fantastic & exactly as I pictured. Emily Watson (Rosa, her foster mother) & Nico Liersch (Rudy, her best friend) are also very good but have far less time spent on them than in the book. Rosa is a complex character so it will have been hard to capture this but I was most upset with how little we got to know Rudy in the film as I absolutely loved him & his beautiful friendship with Liesel in the book. Ben Schnetzer (as Max, the Jewish refugee they’re hiding) was also very good & as I had pictured but, again, he sadly doesn’t get enough time devoted to him in the film.

Luckily, the movie leaves out quite a lot of the Grim Reaper’s narrative. It’s done well & not distracting, whereas it kind of threw me out of the story every time they came back to it in the book. But don’t let that criticism talk you out of reading the book as I’d definitely recommend it if the story interests you. I’m not sure how to rate this movie… I thought it was quite good but, knowing the novel is better, I couldn’t help but be just a little let down despite great performances & some perfect casting. If you’re someone who really doesn’t like to read, then by all means watch the movie instead & probably add an extra point to my below rating. It’s a good film & they’ve done the best they possibly could with a somewhat difficult novel to adapt but, ultimately, the film doesn’t deliver the same emotional punch as you don’t get to know some of the characters as well as you do in the book.

My Rating: 6.5/10

**Okay, I admit to knowing the Pokémon song very well now since my kid has become addicted to the show….

And here are some of the best Pokémon we’ve caught (I love annoying people with this!) 😉

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Book Review) 

I mentioned this book HERE when I ranked & did mini-reviews of the books I’d read in 2013. It was a super mini-review for this one as I planned to do a longer review of it at some point. So, here you go! It only took me two years!

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The book tells the tale of a boy who, following a horrific family tragedy, follows clues that take him to an abandoned orphanage on a Welsh island. The story is told through a combination of narrative and vernacular photographs from the personal archives of collectors listed by the author.

My Thoughts:

I fully admit that the eerie photographs used throughout this book are what drew me to it. It’s yet another Young Adult book, a genre which has become so popular with every age these days, but at least it’s quite “different” from the rest. I still think the idea behind this book is genius! I love that the author collects weird old photographs & ended up writing a story around them. I think that’s very creative. Unfortunately, I didn’t really love the story.

(Is this one of the creepiest photos you’ve ever seen or what?!)

As I say, I read this in 2013 (possibly even 2012) so I’m not going to get into any specifics at this point. I did think the story was clever, about a group of “peculiar” children at an orphanage who seem to each have strange & mysterious talents or “powers”. It’s a very odd book & I’m usually a fan of odd. But, for whatever reason that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, it didn’t really work for me although it seemed like the type of thing that would be right up my alley. As with most books I don’t fully enjoy, I think I just didn’t buy into the characters that much (including the main boy, Jacob, who has to unravel the mystery of his grandfather’s strange photographs).

I do think a big part of my problem, which probably isn’t fair to this book, is that I had NO idea that it was the first book in a series when I read it. I think the second book wasn’t yet out and, although I do enjoy YA books such as The Hunger Games trilogy, I’d been reading a lot of series books at that point & was looking for a stand-alone book to read. Imagine my disappointment when I got to the end and there wasn’t a satisfying conclusion! It’s very much a “to be continued” ending. As long as you know that before reading it, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed like I was.

I’m choosing to finally “review” this now as, obviously, this is mainly a movie blog & I’ve been wanting to write a little something about the book before Tim Burton’s film comes out early next year. I do love to read but struggle with book reviews – I find it far easier to talk about movies. But I still enjoy discussing books with all of you in the comments so I’ll do my best to give you a few more of my crappy book reviews by the end of this year – I’ve read A LOT! 😉

Anyway, I remember saying to my husband while reading this how it would make an excellent Tim Burton movie. Am I good or what?! Clearly someone read my mind! I was very happy when Burton was later chosen to make the film as, although I didn’t totally love it, the book is very original and had a “look” in my mind that perfectly fits Tim Burton’s gothic style. I know his films have been disappointing in recent years but, if he gets this one right, I think it could be very good. And if it’s good, it’ll probably interest me in continuing with the story. Eva Green, although too “young & pretty” for how I pictured Miss Peregrine, does feel like a perfect choice to match the book’s style as does Asa Butterfield as Jacob. I’m actually really looking forward to this film adaptation! I was probably too harsh on the book but, perhaps if I read the next book, I’ll start to like it a little more. As long as there’s some sort of conclusion? Has anyone read the second book, Hollow City??

My Rating: 3/5

Oh god! It’s those creepy kids again! This photo is the stuff of nightmares!!!!

Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult are Tackling George Orwell’s 1984

20140118-100431 am.jpg
Kind of old news now but I just had to post this so I could say: “What? Are you kidding me?? F&@k off!”.

Now that that’s out of the way, the following and a bit more can be read at this link: Screencrave

[Kristen Stewart] has signed up for a role in a remake of George Orwell’s 1984 that will gear the story towards young romance, and is seemingly called Equals. She’ll be costarring with Nicholas Hoult, recently of Jack the Giant Slayer and Warm Bodies, who is also no stranger to the problems of being young and in love. The film is to be directed by Drake Doremus, best known for Like Crazy.

Whatever.

But in looking for a picture to use in this post (I didn’t want to use Kristen Stewart), I came across this interesting Guardian article where they did a survey asking people if they’ve lied about reading books they never actually read. 1984 is number one. See the top 10 books people claim to read but haven’t here: The Guardian

Really? It’s now many years since I’ve read it but I loved 1984! Also The Catcher In The Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird & Lord Of The Rings. Okay – I fully admit that I’ve not read the rest in the top ten. 🙂

David Fincher’s Gone Girl Has Different Third Act From Original Novel

20140110-012304.jpg
I love this creepy ass photo from Entertainment Weekly. Click here to read all about what Gillian Flynn had to say in the EW article about her own reworking of her novel to adapt it for the screen (the article stays spoiler-free): SlashFilm.

Very interesting! Well, it could be a good thing. I’m still not sure if I was crazy about the third act of the otherwise exciting & intense book (you can read my spoiler-free review HERE).

First Look: Shailene Woodley Is Sick, Lovesick in The Fault In Our Stars

20140110-011600.jpg

Link to full article here: SlashFilm

It’s going to be a big year for Shailene Woodley! I’m looking forward to The Fault In Our Stars (I’ve not read Divergent). I really enjoyed the book (my review is HERE). I do love all the great young adult fiction that’s around these days. Here’s hoping this movie can be even half as good as The Perks Of Being A Wallflower film (which I loved as much as and probably even more than the book). 🙂 Now if only they’d release The Spectacular Now in the UK so I could finally see it…

The Dream Of The Heathers TV Show Is Dead Again

20130809-012645 PM.jpg
Um, yeah. Probably a good thing. Because I don’t want them messing up one of my very favorite movies! They’re still saying someone might pick the show up, though.

The following is an excerpt from this link: BuzzFeed

The project was announced last September. It had originally been developed in 2009 by Sony Pictures Television for Fox, with Jenny Bicks (Sex and the City, Men in Trees, The Big C) as its executive producer. Veronica, played in the earth-shattering 1989 movie by Winona Ryder, would move back to Sherwood with a teenage daughter who would have to face the Ashleys, daughters of the Heathers who had survived the movie. Screenwriter Mark Rizzo wrote the Bravo version of the pilot.

The Crow Creator Shares Good News About The New Film

20130809-010735 PM.jpg
The Crow creator James O’Barr has the following to say about the new movie, which will star Luke Evans and be directed by F. Javier Gutierrez, according to this link: GeekTyrant

O’Barr talked to Total Film about the director’s plan for the film, and what he thought of Evans’ makeup test:

“It was his idea to go right back to the source material and essentially shoot it shot-for-shot, as in the book, but with a little more backstory for some of the characters.

He wants to be as faithful as possible, even down to all the visual metaphors of trains and horses.

The producers showed me some shots of [Luke Evans] in the make-up and the tragedy really shows on his face, especially his eyes. He has a really commanding screen presence.”