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…

Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1982) Review

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Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1982)

Directed by Lou Adler

Starring: Diane Lane, Laura Dern, Marin Kanter, Ray Winstone, Steve Jones, Paul Cook, Paul Simonon, Fee Waybill, Barry Ford, Black Randy, Elizabeth Daily, Brent Spiner

Running time: 87 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
The media and disaffected teens mistake the acerbic rants of an obnoxious teenage punk rocker as a rallying cry for the women of America, launching her and her talentless group to national stardom.

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My Opinion:

I mentioned this movie in my review for Miracle Mile because, like Miracle Mile, this is a movie from my beloved Eighties that I had somehow never even heard of! I love discovering movies such as these as I’ll always be especially fond of movies from this era. So, like I warned in my Miracle Mile review, I’m going to be positive about this movie but it is NOT one that most people who are reading this would like as much as I did.

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Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains stars a very young Diane Lane…. as a PUNK! I wish I had seen this as a teen because I’d have loved it and I’d have wanted to be just like Diane Lane’s character (I’d still like that but I’m pretty old so I think my “sexy punk rocker girl” days may be behind me). She starts off looking like a normal, pretty girl-next-door but then reveals this look while on tour with her “band” for the first time:

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How awesome is that look?! Although I’d be far too self-conscious to wear the see-through red top… But I love the hair & the red eye-makeup! It’s funny that her look didn’t inspire a bunch of copycats – I think that the movie was just too obscure. I’m not sure exactly why this movie didn’t make it big. Yes, it’s not the greatest movie out there & it’s very dated now but I’ve seen far worse movies from the Eighties. After watching this, I figured it was time for me to finally watch Lane in Streets Of Fire as I somehow missed out on that one. You know what? Even though that one is more well known and is from the same guy who made the excellent The Warriors, I’d have to say I definitely preferred Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains to Streets Of Fire (I’ll be posting a review of that one on Friday). This one feels more gritty and “real”. Part of that may be the fairly low budget look and part may be because this was made by someone known more in the music industry than the movie industry.

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This was directed by Lou Adler, who only directed one other film (Up In Smoke) but did produce a few movies as well (such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show). He’s mainly known for being a record producer & manager and I think this film works well as a look into the music industry and how quickly musicians can rise to fame and then just as quickly come crashing back down thanks to a fickle audience. Lane’s character is an angry teenager who becomes a hero of sorts when being interviewed about her town for a local TV station. This leads to her “band” being signed up for a tour with two other bands (despite the fact that no one has heard them play) and it’s discovered during their first concert that they have no talent. But it doesn’t matter as Lane’s punk look & attitude propel them to stardom & she becomes a kind of symbol for feminism while telling everyone that she “never puts out”. Pretty soon every girl wants to be just like her:

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As always, I love seeing familiar faces when I watch films from the Eighties. Laura Dern plays one of the members of The Stains while an extremely young Ray Winstone plays the leader of the more talented punk band on tour with The Stains (The Looters). Elizabeth Daily has a small role as a maid (Dottie from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure – she has a bigger role with Lane in Streets Of Fire). I also loved the look of the aging metal band on the tour, Metal Corpses, who are well past their prime but don’t want to retire.

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Unlike in Streets Of Fire (it’s hard to not compare them since I just watched them both), Lane’s character has some depth here and we see that she’s just a young girl who has been left with no parents after her mother’s death & she’s angry at the world. It’s strange how some movies don’t make it big – I thought this was pretty good and, although it of course looks dated, I think the subject matter works just as well now. The issues raised still seem just as relevant (maybe even more so as “fame” is now more shallow and full of no-talent assholes than ever). I liked it and I’d watch it again. In fact, I don’t like that this isn’t available on DVD here as it won’t stay on Netflix forever – it’s one I’d like to keep.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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Jurassic Park (1993) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Drew of Drew’s Movie Reviews. He also reviewed Inception HERE. Thanks for the reviews, Drew! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Jurassic Park, IMDB rank 247 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

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Synopsis
Archeologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and archeobotonist Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) are invited by John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) to visit Jurassic Park, Hammond’s unique prehistoric wildlife preserve, along with choatition Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), and Hammond’s grandchildren (Joseph Mazello and Ariana Richards).  When systems start failing across the park, Grant and the other guests must survive on an island where dinosaurs are roaming free and causing havoc on the island.

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Review
Jurassic Park holds a special place in my heart.  Not only because it was the first PG-13 movie my parents let me watch before I was 13 (rebellious, I know), but because it was one of the first movies I would watch over and over again.  After viewing it more recently, I realized I had missed several of the finer points of the story when I was younger.  I guess the kid in me just enjoyed watching dinosaurs come to life, like most young boys dream of.  Even today that is one of my favorite parts about this movie, but now I appreciate more of the nuances of the story, as well as the fantasy of living dinosaurs.

At the time, computer-generated imagery (CGI) was still in it’s infancy.  Several movies had dabbled with the it previously, but nothing really substantial.  However, Jurassic Park completely embraced the up-and-coming technology, revolutionizing it, leading to the flashy and spectacular effects we see today in blockbusters like Avatar, The Avengers, Pacific Rim, and the recently delayed Jupiter Ascending.  And despite being twenty years old, the effects don’t look dated.  It looks almost as good as effects you would expect to see today.  An amazing feat considering it is one of the earliest films to use CGI.

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Before CGI became the predominant method for special effects, animatronics were used.  I think this movie is a perfect example of how to use animatronics correctly, and is the pinnacle of the technology (which is funny considering it also ushered in the age of CGI).  If the movie had been done completely with CGI, the dinosaurs would not have come life as well as they did.  That is one of the reasons Steven Spielberg is my favorite director, because he understood how to use both CGI and animatronics side-by-side.

The Tyrannosaurus Rex is largely featured in the marketing for Jurassic Park.  However, the “big baddies,” if you will, are the velociraptors.  From the very first scene, literally, they are set up as smart, cunning, and dangerous.  First, a worker gets pulled into the cage and eaten.  Then Alan Grant (Sam Neill) talks about how they are pack hunters.  Later, the characters go to the raptor cage and they discuss how “they don’t want to be fed, they want to hunt.”  Then there is a break away from the velociraptors to focus on the T-Rex, but there is a mention about the character causing the power outages knowing not to shut down the power to the velociraptor cage.  So finally, when the velociraptors appear on screen, it is well established how deadly they are.  It was a fairly slow process, but it did well to establish the threat they possessed.

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To me, a movie’s soundtrack and score is very important.  It can almost tell you how to feel more than what is happening on screen can.  John Williams, my all time favorite film composer, writes a great and memorable soundtrack.  But honestly, what would you expect?  Everything the man writes is fantastic.  His score for Jurassic Park is up there as one of my favorite film scores.  I mean, try not to become filled with emotion and wonder and awe when John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) says “Welcome to Jurassic Park” and Williams’ Jurassic Park theme starts playing.  Go ahead, I dare you.

Some movies have one character who is just fun to hate.  In this film, that would be Jeff Golblum’s Ian Malcolm.  He’s annoying and obnoxious, but he has a charm to him that I don’t think many other actors other than Goldblum could portray so well.

One thing that surprised me about this movie is how funny it can be.  It is by no means laugh out loud funny, but every now and then someone says something that made me smile or even chuckle a little.  Even though it wasn’t much, this small amount of humor prevented Jurassic Park from becoming too serious or dark.

Here is your daily fun fact.  Several times throughout the movie, Lex Murphy (Ariana Richards) refers to herself as a “hacker,” even correcting her brother (Joseph Mazello).  Back in the day, the term “hacker” didn’t have the negative meaning it usually is said with today.  Instead, it meant someone enjoyed exploring computers as a hobby.  This included building, modifying, and creating either hardware or software or both.  There is your little slice of knowledge for the day.  Don’t say I never did anything for you.

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Jurassic Park is special to me because it was one of the first movies I really go into.  When I was younger, I enjoyed it because of the action and the fantasy of dinosaurs roaming the Earth once again.  As I grew older, I started to appreciate it for the story as well.  A mix of revolutionary CGI and amazing animatronics give this movie a unique look and feel, truly bringing prehistoric creatures back to life.  From the beginning, velociraptors are set up as a dangerous threat, so when they are finally shown on screen, the danger they pose has already been established.  John Williams’ Jurassic Park theme is very emotional and one of my favorite movie scores.  Although not laugh out loud funny, there is still humor throughout the film that prevents the movie from slipping into a dark tone.  No matter how old I get, I will never lose the sense of wonder I felt when I first watched Jurassic Park and believing that, despite this being a piece of fiction, dinosaurs once again roamed the Earth.

Rating
5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Steven Spielberg – Director
Michael Crichton – Screenplay / Novel
David Koepp – Screenplay
John Williams – Composer

Sam Neill – Dr. Alan Grant
Laura Dern – Dr. Ellie Sattler
Jeff Goldblum – Dr. Ian Malcolm
Richard Attenborough – John Hammond
Bob Peck – Robert Muldoon
Martin Ferrero – Donald Gennaro
Joseph Mazello – Tim Murphy
Ariana Richards – Lex Murphy
Samuel L. Jackson – Ray Arnold
Wayne Knight – Dennis Nedry

***BTW – Tomorrow is Drew’s one year blogging birthday! Or… Anniversary! Happy Blogiversary, Drew! And he’s having an anniversary celebration all week so head on over & check it out HERE. 🙂

The Fault In Our Stars (2014) Review

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The Fault In Our Stars (2014)

Directed by Josh Boone

Based on The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Starring:
Shailene Woodley
Ansel Elgort
Nat Wolff
Laura Dern
Sam Trammell
Willem Dafoe

Running time: 125 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Shailene Woodley plays Hazel Grace Lancaster, a sixteen-years-old cancer patient who is forced by her parents to attend a support group, where she subsequently meets and falls in love with Augustus Waters, portrayed by Ansel Elgort.

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My Opinion:

I read this book last year (you can see my review HERE) and I liked it a lot. It was my first John Green book and I thought he did an excellent job bringing these characters to life and making us care about them (I’ve just finished my second John Green book, Paper Towns. Hmm… Not as much of a fan of that one. He’s a very talented writer, though – I’ll certainly read more from him).

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It’s annoying when they don’t do a good job adapting books into films but, at least as far as YA books go, they’ve been doing a damn good job with some of them lately. I think The Hunger Games films have been great so far (especially Catching Fire) and The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is still one of my favorite films of the past few years and was an extremely faithful adaption (helps that the author made the film himself – I also reviewed the book HERE). Well, I’m very happy to say they did an amazing job with the adaptation of The Fault In Our Stars and I really have no complaints. Some things were left out as usual due to length, such as a bit about Augustus’ life prior to meeting Hazel, but I don’t think it was necessary for the film anyway.

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Shailene Woodley was good as Hazel (when I reviewed Divergent I wondered if maybe this movie would suit her better. I was right – The Fault In Our Stars feels more like the right kind of role for her). However, the true star here is Augustus Waters (played by Ansel Elgort). I’m an old lady reading YA fiction but can TOTALLY understand young readers falling completely in love with the character of Augustus. He’s charming, funny, cheeky, confident, handsome… the kind of boy teenage girls dream of, in other words. Luckily, I think Ansel Elgort captures this character and I’m sure he has loads of young female fans now. And there’s a great chemistry with Woodley so it’s very easy to get sucked into the story and believe that they’re a couple. I really can’t find fault with anyone cast in this film – they all played their roles well. The best friend of Augustus was made maybe a little too “funny” for the movie but that’s a very minor complaint – he was kind of the “comic relief” in the book as well.

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Summary:

If you loved the book, you’ll love the film. It’s an extremely faithful adaptation and, having enjoyed the book, I’m very happy with what they’ve done with the film. I don’t think anyone was miscast and I’d find it very surprising if you’re a YA-aged female who doesn’t fall in love with the character of Augustus Waters after watching this movie (and/or reading the book). However, although I love reading Young Adult fiction, “teenage melodrama” isn’t normally my genre of choice for the most part (The Perks Of Being A Wallflower being an exception). So the film probably deserves a slightly higher rating than what I’m going to give it but I rate based on a combination of personal opinion as well as “worthiness” (I feel I have to explain myself after you all picked on me for my Godzilla rating). 😉 It’s not a movie I’ll necessarily ever watch again but if I was a teenager right now I’d probably watch it over & over & over and declare it the best movie ever. It’s a very good YA film.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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**I’ve become a member of The Stone Cold Bitch Club as I shed no tears while watching The Fault In Our Stars (I do find some movies to be tearjerkers, though – you can see my list HERE).

Here are some reviews of The Fault In Our Stars from other WordPress bloggers:

Stone Cold Bitch Club:

Me!
Zoe
Cara
Abbi
Rob

Crybaby Club:

Melissa
Tom
Box Office Buzz
Natalie
Natasha
Anna

In Between Club:

Mike

Which club do YOU belong to? Let me know! If you’ve reviewed this, I’ll add a link to your review above under the correct category. 🙂

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