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…

My Top Ten Roller Coaster Scenes In Movies

Summer is almost here which means warm weather, amusement parks, and… Roller coasters! I actually hate roller coasters. I used to throw up in the backseat of my parents’ car on short car journeys so I’m not a big fan of anything that can give me motion sickness. 😉

I was going to do a list of amusement park scenes in movies but, after watching True Romance recently, I decided to narrow it down to just roller coaster scenes since there are way too many amusement park scenes to easily do that list. I love amusement parks in movies, though… Not sure why.

I thought the majority of these should heavily feature roller coasters instead of one just being a backdrop in a scene. However, I’ve included two films where the backdrop was so iconic that it didn’t feel right leaving them out. Hey – can I just say it’s annoying how roller coaster is sometimes two words & sometimes one?? Roller coaster seems more common than rollercoaster so I’ve gone with two words!

So, here are My Top Ten Roller Coaster Scenes In Movies:

10. TIE: True Romance & The Hole (2009)
I had to include True Romance since it’s what made me decide to do this list. And a roller coaster plays a part in the plot of The Hole, a movie I had high hopes for but found disappointing. It could’ve been a great modern Joe Dante film! But it was certainly no Gremlins.

9. Beavis And Butt-Head Do America
Honestly, I don’t remember if this was in the actual movie or just in the Red Hot Chili Peppers video for their cover of Love Rollercoaster… Anyone know?? Oh well – I love the song.

8. Zombieland
This movie always makes me want a Twinkie.

7. Big
Well, he can’t go on the roller coaster because he’s not big enough. It’s the whole reason for the movie’s plot! So I figure it deserves a place on my list. 😉

6. National Lampoon’s Vacation
Man, I really need to watch this again. Not seen it in years! Still prefer Christmas Vacation.

5. Final Destination 3
I couldn’t exactly leave this one out, either, as the whole plot revolves around the “accident”.

4. Despicable Me
LOVE THIS!! Although it’s still not quite as awesome as when Gru wins the “It’s so fluffy!” unicorn.

3. TIE: The Lost Boys & The Warriors
These are the two I really had to include even though we don’t actually see anyone on a roller coaster. But the roller coasters & the entire amusement park backdrops in both films are so iconic & immediately identifiable. Plus I absolutely LOVE these movies. 🙂

2. Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom
It counts. Because it’s my list & I say it counts. 😉

1. Fear
I really couldn’t put anything else at number one. Nothing tops this one (especially for Reese Witherspoon!). I have to admit that this movie is truly a “guilty pleasure” of mine. Because it’s pretty bad…

I should point out that there’s a 1977 film called Rollercoaster but I’ve not seen it so couldn’t include it in the list. Here’s the IMDB plot synopsis: A blackmailer threatens to sabotage roller coasters at various American amusement parks if he isn’t paid a huge ransom.

That sounds quite good! However, the trailer makes it look a bit cheesy & dated (but they did do horrible trailers for everything back then). Here it is:

Also, this post reminded me that I saw video of a very cool looking roller coaster at Shanghai Disney Resort. It’s called the “Tron Light Cycle Power Run”. Check it out! It looks cool. There’s video of it at this link: Robot 6.

Finally, here’s the whole video for Love Rollercoaster by the Red Hot Chili Peppers (love them, although I prefer the Ohio Players version):

Mud (2012) Review

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Mud (2012)

Directed by Jeff Nichols

Starring:
Matthew McConaughey
Tye Sheridan
Sam Shepard
Michael Shannon
Joe Don Baker
Ray McKinnon
Sarah Paulson
Paul Sparks
Jacob Lofland
Reese Witherspoon

Running time: 130 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Two young boys find a man who calls himself Mud hiding out on a small island on the Mississippi River. They later learn he is a fugitive and question him about it. Mud claims he killed a man who was abusing the woman he loves and he plans to repair a damaged boat that’s on the island then reunite with the woman and escape. The boys agree to help Mud with his mission.

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This was quite an odd movie and I think it’ll be a hard one to review. I decided to watch it as it made quite a few end of year Top Ten movie lists done by fellow bloggers.

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I think I remember one blogger comparing Mud to Stand By Me which got my interest as that’s one of my all-time favorite movies. Mud isn’t up there with that one but the comparison makes sense in that this is a coming-of-age drama about two boys (of 14, I think). The story focuses mainly on the boy named Ellis, whose parents are divorcing. He also thinks he’s in love with a girl from school so he’s a big ‘ol bag of mixed teenage hormonal emotions. His friend, with the kick ass name of Neckbone, isn’t so much the focus of the film but I really liked him as he reminded me a lot of River Phoenix in Stand By Me, especially with his haircut. Both boys were great and I hope they go on to do more films after this one. They’re what made the movie.

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Matthew McConaughey has never really been to my taste (or to many people’s, I think). I did like him in this, though, and I like that he’s been doing more serious roles and seems to be becoming a more highly respected actor lately (Mud is the only one I’ve seen of his more serious roles but I have to admit I liked him in Dazed And Confused as I’m from a small town and I knew a guy EXACTLY like his pervy loser). He’s a mysterious character and you never really know if the boys should fully trust him.

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This movie has a slow pace and is more about the characters than about Mud’s story. It won’t be for everyone and I’d only recommend it to those who think they may like it based on what I’ve said so far. McConaughey and especially the two boys give very good performances and you’ll find that you just want a happy ending for them all. The plot itself is quite unique compared to other films and I liked that – it felt like a “fresh” idea even though there wasn’t a lot to it. This movie has the feel of the early 80’s way of life (which I’d totally go back to if I had a time machine) and I actually wondered for a while if this was set in the 80s or if that’s just how things still are these days in Arkansas. I don’t mean that in a bad way – it’s just a very different lifestyle and one that someone living somewhere like London might not be able to relate to but, being from small-town Midwest, it made me a little homesick. Overall, I enjoyed this movie quite a bit and the only weak thing, unfortunately, was Reese Witherspoon who didn’t seem right for her role. Otherwise, I can’t really think of anything bad to say about Mud.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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