Singleton + Writer + Book Lover + Moviegoer = Screen Spinster

Welcome to the loneliest blog on the web. I have no words of wisdom to espouse. (why does espouse sound so much like spouse? Is that word trying to rub it into my spinster brain?) Anyway, I don't own a cat. Never will. I don't cook, nor do I sew or knit, but I do spin a yarn (tale) from time to time. I have no domestic talents, I am not a domestic engineer/goddess, nor do I want to be. I'll sometimes post my views on scripts, (mine & yours or theirs) movies, television shows and maybe theatre, along with my own musings usually in the style of a poem. So pull up a rocking chair, sit back as your cherry pie bakes and stay a while if you like.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

BOOKS: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker




I don't believe in miracles, and thankfully this book isn't about miracles, so don't be afraid to read it. This book is about life on planet earth when earth decides to change course and throws humanity for a loop.

I loved The Age of Miracles. It's a beautifully written, well crafted coming-of-age story about a 12-year-old girl set against the backdrop of what would become a worldwide catastrophe. The earth has stopped rotating like it used to, and this creates longer days then longer nights. The 24 hour timeframe is no longer workable. People are thrown into disarray. People are getting sick. Crops aren't growing. Will humanity survive?

Julia is on the cusp of puberty. She's 11 about to turn 12, so she's finally noticing boys and also becoming aware of her surroundings and the adults who fill it. Julia struggles with bullying at school, with loss of friendships, with betrayal, while the world comes to terms with what is called "the slowing." Life as she knows it will never be the same, and not just because of this global phenomenon, but because she falls in love while witnessing what could possible be the end of her parents' marriage. This girl has a lot to deal with. When I was 12 all I had to deal with was frizzy hair, hairy legs and a pimple or two (boys were a definite NO NO at that young age).

Karen Walker's writing style is lyrical and hypnotic. The words she uses forces the reader to read slow, to take it all in. It's as if we become part of the slowing, but the book is also a quick read because it's a page turner. Coming-of-age stories aren't known to be page turners, and this one is absolutely lovely. The main plot point of the earth slowing down isn't the focus of this work. It's about the characters and what this crisis does to them and the people they interact with. What happens to communities in such a life changing situation. Do we thrive or do we survive? It makes the reader wonder what would I do in such a situation? What would be my priorities? Would I be a realist? Or would I keep hope alive? What would you do?


I'm not going to lie. This book made me cry. I fell hard for these characters. Julia is a wonderful, smart, insecure, awkward girl, navigating the perils of puberty. She's nothing special. She's just you and me going through life. Her parents are polar opposites to one another. Julia's grandfather is 86 and a bit of a conspiracy theorist, but his relationship with Julia is much bigger and more important than we realize. I loved Grandpa! In fact, I pretty much loved everything about this book. It is the best book of the year and quite possibly one of the best books I have ever read.

Don't let the title fool you into thinking this book is about new age psycho babble because it's not. If anything this book is rooted in the scientific, in the secular, in the here and now. The Age of Miracles is about life at this particular moment. Life is staring you in the face right now. Don't look away. Look up! Embrace it! Because you never know when it'll stop moving.

A+
9.5/10

Sunday, September 2, 2012

At the Cinema: PARANORMAN


ParaNorman is a sweet little gem of a movie and isn't just for the undead.

Norman can talk to ghosts which makes him a social pariah, even his family think he's a bit of a nut job. But what he doesn't know is that a witch's curse on his small New England town is about to come to light and he's the only one who can put it right.

ParaNorman is a beautifully crafted animated film. Visually this film is a stunner. It is slightly off centre, or abnormal (pardon the pun) with its cast of uniquely drawn characters. People aren't beautiful in this film. People are layered with big noses and crooked eyes and ill-shaped earlobes, but put that altogether and you get something that is just sublime to look at. The look of the film trumps the actual story. Not to say the story isn't well written. It is a fine film, but I do think it lacked a more concrete conflict. I never really believed that Norman or the town were in any real danger.

For those with kids I would say it's not for young children. I would venture to guess that 10 and up would enjoy the film, but a toddler might be scared. And it's definitely an entertaining film for adults.

When we finally do meet the witch (one of the loveliest animation sequences that I have ever seen) who was killed during the witch trials of the 18th century we get to know more about where she came from and why she is doing what she's doing, and it's quite touching. This film has a lot of heart and is a lot more sweet than I thought it would be. It touches upon a lot of themes. Themes kids can relate to like bullying, loneliness, and feeling out of place. But it doesn't do it in a heavy handed way.

If you haven't seen this film then you're missing out. It'll probably be out in time for Halloween and I would definitely recommend watching it on such a ghoulish night where the zombies, witches and ghosts come out to play!

8/10
A-

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A letter to Jane Austen from Elizabeth Bennet



My Dearest Miss Austen,

My sincerest thanks to you and your mighty pen for allowing me to see the error of my ways with regard to my prejudices, as well as my own pride. Putting me through the emotional upheaval of the last year was the only way I could grow into the woman I am now: A grateful and blessed creature. My marriage to Fitzwilliam Darcy is all that I could have ever imagined and more. He is faithful, intelligent, and truly does possess the kindest and most loyal of hearts. Our life together at Pemberley is filled with laughter and friendship. I take daily walks in our gardens, attempting not to cry from the beauty that surrounds me.

That being said, why oh why, did you surround me with so many relatives who operate on the idiotic level? Lydia and my mother drove me nearly to the brink of insanity everyday, but at least I have love for them and can forgive their lack of intelligence. But Mr. Collins?!!?? Really, now? Why such a man to be my cousin and the heir to Longbourn, which by the way, I feel should never have been entailed away. Just because we are all daughters and females does not mean that we are not equal to men. I digress. Back to Mr. Collins! His constant barrage of senseless rhetoric is a thorn in my side. I tolerate him only for the sake of my dear friend, Charlotte. If you had made her slightly more handsome she could have chosen a husband with intelligence. Instead, she has chosen a fool. The constant influx of his pretentious notions on love and etiquette and God is almost more than I can bear, but then I remind myself how fortunate I am that I only see him a few times a year, and that my Mr. Darcy is quite the opposite. I immediately banish the thoughts, horrid ones indeed, that if I had been closer to poverty, or less pretty or less intelligent, I, too, might have chosen, if choice is even possible, such a man to be my husband. Therefore, I am grateful, despite the bumps and bruises along the way that you gave me the courage and mindfulness to believe in myself, and to know that the only reason to marry is for love.

With all my affection,

Mrs. Darcy, formerly Miss Elizabeth Bennet

Sunday, August 19, 2012

HOPE SPRINGS eternal?


I try to keep up on films that are being made, but I don't remember hearing news about this film and the trailer for Hope Springs snuck up on me. It was one of those movies that I kind of wanted to see, but resigned myself to the fact that I won't see it anytime soon (my bf can't be dragged to this kind of film) and I wanted to see it with someone. It normally would have been with my mother but she is out of town. Then I got an invite from a good friend (Hey, Carl!) and off we went to spend date night with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, and Steve Carell as the third wheel.

Kay and Arnold Soames are empty nesters who sleep in separate beds and go about their daily routines without variation. Kay would like to have sex with her husband as it's been a while, but Arnold always has an excuse. But Kay doesn't give up. She decides to take money from her own savings, buy plane tickets to Maine and spend a week in marriage counseling sessions with Dr. Bernie Feld (a very tamed down Carell). Arnold scoffs, but eventually goes with her, grumbling all the way (he's definitely a new generation Grumpy Old Man). The married couple reveal secrets about themselves and peel back the layers that have gathered over 30 years of marriage. Some news is welcomed while other news is disheartening and tough to hear. Kay wants sex. Arnold has lost interest. They've both become complacent in their own lives and relationship.

The film hinges on the performances of its two leads, and Streep and Jones are great in their roles. They're the heart of the film and without them the film would fail miserably because the plot itself is paper thin and the story is weak and tends to linger on the superficial. But that being said, I loved the characters. I felt for Streep's Kay as she tries to light a fire under her marriage, as she tries to look pretty for her husband, as she tries to find her sexual spark again. She transforms herself into this housewife with mom hair that I kept thinking made her look frumpy, but that's the beauty of Streep. She doesn't just play frumpy she becomes frumpy with a hint of something underneath. Jones is so crotchety in his oldness that as I laughed at his bitchiness I also wanted to punch him for it. I laughed a lot during this film (as did the audience) because some of the scenes were embarrassing, but realistic that it felt like we were flies on the wall. One second you're laughing and the next you're stifling a cringe as the heartbreak of awkward moments bounces off the screen and onto your lap. And Steve Carell is fantastic in his role as a marital therapist. He is understated and genuine and his tone is soft and deliberate. I really liked him in this film. He is more than just a funny face.

If you're a Streep fan and want to see how an aging couple deal with the empty nest (and in this case the empty bed) then Hope Springs is for you. You don't have to be an old married couple to enjoy it, or even old. The theme is universal and I think no matter your age or your relationship status this film is relatable. I just wish that some moments weren't glossed over and that a little bit more digging was done. But overall, I had a fun time out on a non-date date night for what is essentially a date movie.

7.5/10
B

Bourne Legacy: Not so much a legacy without the Jason


It's taken me a week to sit down and write this review, and not because the film is bad. It's an okay action film, better than a lot of stuff that's been coming out of Hollywood lately. I just didn't care or remember much of the film once the film was over. So what did I take away from The Bourne Legacy? Ultimately, the title is all wrong. It sets you up for something that just doesn't quite come together, and the biggest problem is that Jason Bourne isn't in it.

Jeremy Renner (doing a good job with the script he was given) plays Aaron Cross (who thinks up these generic and silly Harlequin names?) and he's part of Operation Outcome, another one of those dark and secretive government programs. The film takes place in the past (just after the last Bourne movie ended) and Aaron is making his way across the wilderness, but what he doesn't know is that he, along with anyone involved in the program, have been deemed a liability and the government is getting rid of them. Cross survives the attempt on his life and makes his way toward Dr. Marta Shearing (the talented and classic beauty Rachel Weisz) who helped monitor the people in the program. She, too, survives more than one assassination attempt. The second one she is saved by Cross who quite literally comes out of nowhere, which is a good action sequence, but I kept thinking how did Cross get here? And how did he know to come there? And WTF?

Anyway that's about as much as I care to remember as the plot is convoluted and at times, silly, and well, kind of boring. It has a definite "been there, done that" vibe to it. It doesn't quite flow and is episodic in its limited scope. I liked the performances, but when I found out what Cross's secret was I felt a bit let down and didn't see this character as a leading man anymore. I couldn't help feeling that this movie is not a Bourne movie. Maybe if they called it something else then expectations wouldn't be there.

You definitely have to see the first Bourne movies in order to watch this one. This one piggybacks so much on those other films that if you're new to the series then you'll be lost. But even if you've seen those movies if it's been a while then it might be confusing. I haven't watched a Bourne movie in years and I felt a bit lost.

6/10
B-

Monday, August 6, 2012

YA FICTION: Just something I'm working on



Halfway through my dystopian tale.


No tributes were harmed in the making of this story.

:)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Book Review: CINDER by Marissa Meyer


Cinder is a cyborg and a citizen of New Beijing, but she is not treated as an equal to humans, despite the fact that she's only about 35% cyborg. Cinder is a mechanic who works in the market and all her money goes to her stepmother and stepsisters who have guardianship over her. She's basically a slave to them. One day Prince Kai, in disguise, comes to visit her stall and asks her to fix his beloved android, thus setting in motion the plot of a sci-fi tale about Cinderella (loosely based).

I love YA fiction and for the last few years have been obsessed with dystopian tales. This one has somewhat of a dystopian feel but it's not that genre. The world is new, but people still have their basic freedoms. It's set in the future where earth has been at peace for over a 100 years after WWIV, but the earth has been divided up into 6 countries in total. The story takes place in the Eastern Commonwealth. The biggest threat to mankind is not one another but two things: The Lunar people who inhabit the moon and have great powers of mind control and could destroy mankind and a deadly virus, letumosis, plagues the world.

It took me a while to get into the story, but once I let myself fall into this well crafted world, I was hooked. We all pretty much know the story of Cinderella and how it turns out, but it doesn't follow that path exactly. Cinder is more than just a damsel in distress. She is a deeply layered and confused young woman who discovers secrets about herself through the story. She's not what she seems even to herself.

Marissa Meyer is a fine writer who has created a believable world with characters who are multi-faceted and genuine. I had a feeling the story wouldn't end as the book came to a close. It seems that book publishers are only looking for trilogies or series at the moment, which is fine because I look forward to reading more, as I am the kind of gal who was never invited to the ball.

8/10
A-

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises to the occasion


Gotham is under attack once again. What is it with this city? Is it built upon an ancient Indian burial ground or Buffy's hellmouth? It always seems to be in trouble. That being said the city has enjoyed a relative calmness for 8 years. The Batman is gone. Mob criminals are in jail. The city is safe. But dark secrets have been kept from the citizens of Gotham and as we all know secrets aren't kept in films for very long.

Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale looking haggard. A true method actor) has become a recluse with a bad knee and greasy hair he keeps to himself in one of his wings inside the Wayne Manor. His foundation still holds charity events but he's never present. He just watches from the shadows (just like a bat! get it?). Bruce is forced to come out of hiding when he has a run in with Selina (Anne Hathaway as a deliciously sexy and savvy Catwoman) as she steals his mother's pearls. But what she was really stealing were Bruce's fingerprints. This plot line eventually links in with the main plot of Bane wanting to destroy Gotham (plot points will be kept to a minimum as I think it's best to see the film with fresh eyes).

Which means...The Batman must come back! Gotham needs him! But does Gotham still want him? The cops chase after him as he's the bigger catch than Bane who has yet to show his true nature. Batman is cocky and arrogant and due to this he has a very painful encounter with Bane under the streets of Gotham. He is literally a broken man and is relocated to the sidelines for part of the film until he's able to come to terms with so many of his issues (abandonment issues, anger issues, lost love issues, fear issues, death issues etc.).

The Dark Knight Rises is an enjoyable and entertaining film. It has many layers and complex characters. Nolan really strives to make sure these characters are three dimensional and not just caricatures. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a standout as police officer Blake. He brings a lot of heart to his role (no spoilers about him though) and this film fan was drooling over the man in blue. Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate is very good and beguiling. I was pleasantly surprised by where her character went, but also wanting a different outcome for her (let's just say that patience isn't a virtue). Gary Oldman shines once again as Commissioner Gordon. A man married to his job. He's given up his family for Gotham, which is just so sad and probably wasteful. And Michael Cane as Alfred was just so heartbreaking to watch. He was the heart of this film. Now for Bane. Tom Hardy commands the room when he's in a scene and his physical presence is quite impressive. I just wish I didn't have to strain to understand him for a big chunk of the film. Sound editing needed to be better when he was on screen.

The movie isn't perfect. I didn't particularly like how Bane was defeated or how another villain was done away with. They both felt like passive ways of dealing with an antagonist. I didn't particularly enjoy some of the one liners that Batman and Bane had because that campiness doesn't work in the Nolan Batman universe as these films are much darker in tone. But that being said I went into the film with no expectations and came out quite satisfied. I think even if you have high expectations going in you'll be entertained and not disappointed. The film delivers and is a fitting end to Christopher Nolan's era as the caped crusaders' director.


8/10
A



Sunday, July 8, 2012

BRAVE: Finally a Princess who doesn't need or want or love a Prince

I've been waiting for a princess story where marrying or loving a prince isn't the key component, and it's been a long wait. Merida is a Scottish princess who hates having to do girlie things. She wants to ride her horse and shoot her arrow. She wants to forge her own fate/destiny/story, but her mother, Elinor, has other plans for her daughter.

Merida is to be married off to one of three sons of the local clansmen, and all three are buffoons in some way. Merida hates the idea of being married off (as she should since she's still a teenager!) so she seeks out the help of a witch who gives her a magical pastry to give to her mother because all Merida wants is for her mother to change. But like all good spells, something goes wrong.

I didn't know plot points when going into this film and I will not reveal them now. It was a bit surprising where the story went, but I believed it and went with it. But the part I liked most about this story was that it wasn't about romantic love. It was about unconditional LOVE, the kind a mother gives a child. This is a film about mothers and daughters. The ups and downs. The give and take. The good and bad. The happy and sad. It's heartwarming and sweet. Is it the best Pixar film ever made? No. But it's a good story.

The film has funny moments and the voice acting was excellent. I do so love my Emma Thompson! But the film is also quite violent and I think young kids will freak out. I had thought of taking my nieces who are 4 and 5, but knowing what I know now I think they would have been too frightened and we would have had to leave the cinema. If you have younger girls then I suggest maybe reading the book first and slowly revealing the story to them and then showing them the movie on DVD so you can take breaks just in case it becomes too intense for them.

8/10
A-

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man spins a fine web

I wasn't sure about seeing this film as I thought it was silly to revamp the comic hero so soon after the last three. But I am glad they did.

The Amazing Spider-Man is yet another origin story, which we've seen before, but this one has a lot of heart. In fact, I was quite surprised by how heartwarming and sweet it was. Probably not the best thing for a super hero action film, but I think those kind of movies need more heart.

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield who I am now crushing on) gets bitten by a radioactive spider and then eventually becomes spider-man. He's on a mission, and at first, it's a very dark mission. His Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen doing a wonderful job and the heart of this film) is killed by a long haired man with a tattoo on his wrist. Peter basically will stop at nothing to try to find that man, much to the chagrin of the police lead by Captain Stacy (Denis Leary does a great job here). Eventually Peter must battle the lizard man, a scientist (Rhys Ifans) who worked with his father who injects himself with a reptilian formula to try to regrow his own arm. Things don't go so well for him. The lizard part takes over and he wants to inflict this formula onto the citizens of New York.

The villain, as far as villains go, is pretty lame. Personally, I find most comic book villains to be lame (apart from the batman ones of recent years). But this film doesn't rely too heavily on this villain. Yes, he plays a role and there is a big climactic fight scene at the end, but the real story is Peter Parker coming of age, coming to terms with death and manhood and falling in love with Gwen Stacy (The luminous Emma Stone). These two lovebirds have great chemistry on screen. They were a delight to watch.

I also really liked Peter's sense of humor and sarcasm as Spider-Man. He's not all broody and dark like Batman or all American apple pie like Captain America. This hero is much more layered and genuine, I think. I laughed out loud quite a few times, which I wasn't expecting so that was definitely an added bonus. Oh, and I also got teary eyed a couple of times too. Yeah, the scene where city workers synchronize the cranes to help Spider-Man leap from building to building is pretty cheesy, but I like that kind of cheese!

One quibble is that I found some of Spider-Man's swinging scenes as he webbed from building to building to be a bit blurry. I would have liked it to be crisper with slightly better editing. That being said, this is a fun summer flick and is a great movie for date night. I also think 12 year olds will get a kick out of it, unless of course 12 year olds are too cynical already.

8/10
A-


P.S. Keep a look out for C. Thomas Howell who plays a father who owes Spider-Man a debt of gratitude for saving his son.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

YA Fiction: INSURGENT

Chicago. Future. Factions. Veronica Roth continues her dystopian tale. There is civil war amongst the factions and the Erudite are dead set on killing off any and all divergents.

Tris is reeling from the death of her parents and doesn't know how to deal. She has to run and hide from the Erudites who want to experiment on her brain then kill her. Insurgent is a solid part 2 in this trilogy that leads to a big reveal at the end. I did find that the last part of the book was rushed and that too much time was spent on the buildup.

I am looking forward to the third book. I just hate waiting so long in between books.

7.8/10
B+

(Note: This review is short and rather ill written because I am distracted. My friend lent me her Vampire Diaries DVDs and I am hooked on this crap!)

MOVIE: TED (The proof is in the stuffing)


"F**K you THUNDER!"

TED is an R-rated comedy by the screwed up mind of Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) and I do so enjoy his mind.

John Bennett is a lonely little boy and one Christmas he wishes that his stuffed teddy bear was real and then voila! Holy Shit! It happens. His parents reaction is hilarious! And the hilarity continues throughout the film. John as an adult (Mark Wahlberg)is still a bit of a child. He has a dead end job and smokes pot all the time with Ted (who grew up to a foul mouthed bear). The one good thing in John's life is his girlfriend Lori Collins (Mila Kunis) who loves that John has such a big heart. She's just had enough of Ted living with them. Ted drinks. Smokes pot. Invites hookers over (no spoilers, but the hooker scene is pretty funny and gross, which is a MacFarlane speciality). So, of course, John has to choose.

What I liked most about this film was the bromance between the two. A real man and a stuffed animal truly are best friends in this film and their relationship feels real and genuine. And when Ted is in mortal danger it pulled at my heartstrings. Even though you know it's a bear, sorry he's a stuffed bear, you can't help but root for him! The CGI bear is top notch and looks great. A lot better than most big budget action films out there.

If you like foul mouths and raunchy material then head on over to the multi-plex. Laugh in your cola and spit in your popcorn. It'll knock the stuffing right out of your face!

8/10
A-


Movies: Prometheus

Where do we come from? Who made humankind? Did life begin on earth? Or is life somewhere out there waiting for us?

Prometheus is a prequel of sorts to the Alien franchise. It's a lot more sci-fi than horror. It's slow and methodical. It takes its time to build a mystery that leads to some answers. Not all answers, but enough to tie up this plot (strong feeling that there will be a sequel to the prequel that isn't Aliens).

The movie's exposition was a bit much at times. The action and regular dialogue could be unclear at times, which would then be followed by a long winded explanation of things that just happened. I expected it to be a bit smarter and clear in its story, but it's still worth seeing, especially if you're a science fiction fan or Alien fan.

B
7/10

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Movie: Moonrise Kingdom



Quirky. Whimsical. Nostalgic. Sentimental.

Moonrise Kingdom (which for some reason I keep calling Monsoon Rising) is a really sweet film. The characters are well thought out and conceived and felt truly unique. Despite their quirkiness and sometimes out there behaviour they felt quite real and genuine. Wes Anderson's direction is nuanced and stylized. The look of the film is perfect to the time and the story about first love. I think you have to enjoy Anderson's work or be a fan of films that have a slower pace to really like the film.
Anderson takes the time to linger on moments and by doing this he creates the mood: A nostalgic mood that takes one back to a more innocent time. Weren't we all innocent (no matter of decade) when we first fell in love?

B+

Thursday, June 7, 2012

YA Dystopian Fiction: Starters by Lissa Price


It's the near future and a war has ravaged America where the only survivors are people under 18 or the elderly due to vaccinations being given to them and not the middle aged people. The Spore Wars is what it's called. And these aren't your average old people. They age upwards to 200 years.

Callie is 16 and living on the streets with her sickly younger brother and best friend Michael. They go from abandoned building to building fleeing the Marshals who round up unclaimed minors and put them in institutions until they turn 19. But Callie has a chance to change all that. She goes to the body bank. The body bank is a place where rich elders rent out the bodies of young people so they can live vicariously through them for about a month. Callie doesn't think it's the right thing to do, but with her sickly brother getting sicker she has no choice and she needs the money. Callie gets a makeover and is rented out, but her rental goes haywire and she wakes up in her renter's home, an elderly rich woman by the name of Helen, and slowly begins to uncover the real story behind the body bank. The body banks wants to not just rent out bodies of the young, but to sell them on a permanent basis effectively killing the young person inside.

Starters is a quick read and fun. It has some mystery that needs to unravel, not to mention an ominous and frightening character who goes by the name of The Old Man. Who is this Old Man? Well we don't know, nor do we find out. Perhaps the sequel will lay it out for us. I did find at times the writing to be repetitive and I'm not sure why towards the end a full page was written that summed up the entire plot in the guise of Callie thinking about what has happened to her. I think the author should have felt confident enough in the plot thus far and in her readers to know that we don't need to be spoon fed the obvious.

It's not the best YA dystopian book out there, but it's worth a read this summer.

7/10
B

Movies: The Dictator or how I'd rather watch Fidel Castro get a rectal exam


A dimwitted ruthless arrogant dictator comes to America. Sounds like a funny premise, right? Well a premise does not make a film. What a disappointment. I can't say I hated it or that I liked it. It was just a waste of time and money.

Sacha Baron Cohen plays Aladeen with such passion and conviction that it's quite a let down when that same passion wasn't put into the actual script. Here's how I think it went down:

Cohen: "This character is so funny that it'll simply play itself out."

Film Crew/Producers/Anyone with a brain:"But maybe we should plot out these scenes to make sure we have a story."

Cohen: "This character will make the scenes funny. Don't worry."


They should have worried. It really felt as though the writing was done by a very lazy person(s) because they really thought Sacha could just stay in character as the dictator and any scene he's in would turn out funny. But milking a woman's breasts, or commenting on hairy armpits or shitting on someone isn't funny. And I have the funny bone of a 12-year-old boy most of the time. All the funny bits felt really forced. Even the few people in the audience were laughing out of pity. I think I laughed a couple of times but only because of a personal relationship to a couple of the jokes that aren't actually funny.

I thought Borat was hysterical and I was hoping The Dictator would be something like that because the premise really is funny. The character had such potential to be funny and memorable. When the funniest moment of the film is the beginning with a dedication to Kim Jong Il you know you're in trouble. And I have to say that Margaret Cho plays a better dictator on 30Rock than Cohen plays on the big screen.

Save your money. Rent Borat instead or watch the funeral for Kim Jong Il. Or if you're looking for a fish out of water story rent Coming to America (when Eddie Murphy used to be funny) Those would be far more worthier of your time.

D
5/10

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Book Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver YA FICTION

Love is illegal. Feelings cause disease. Get the procedure to be cured or face imprisonment or death. These are the things that Lena must deal with in this dystopian future.

Pandemonium is book two in a trilogy by Lauren Oliver and things are heating up as a strong rebel force is fighting back against those who think love is wrong. I would call it an oppressive regime, which it is, but there isn't just one person or force at play here. It's a collective mentality that is the bad guy.

Lena has escaped the city and has entered the Wilds where she meets up with others like her. Those who don't want the cure. Those who fight for love. I enjoyed the structure of the book as the chapters go back and forth between what happened in the past while she was in the wilds and what's happening now in the present as she's joined the rebellion and has infiltrated NYC now to get close to the DFA leaders. An extreme group who want all uncureds wiped off the face of the earth.

Oliver's writing style is very rich and she has a talent for words. I'm more of a simplistic writer, but I admire those who can embellish a simple act or scene that doesn't bog the reader down.

The story itself is pretty predictable as I figured out the ending very early on. It's a solid ending (a cliffhanger) but I also kind of wanted something different. Something less predictable. Then again I like to analyze plot points and beats and the ending fits well within those confines. And let's face it a love triangle work for a reason. They bring about conflict and drama and pain. Things that are ripe for the picking. I do hope that Lena finds her mother and that this kind of maternal love is explored more so than the romantic kind.

I look forward to the final book as I hope the story gets even darker. And although love is a great thing to fight for I think this story needs to show that love can also turn to hate and chaos if abused.

8/10
A-

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Book Review: Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty

I have reached the end of my love affair with Jessica Darling and it's been swell. It started off strong and may have ended a bit rocky, but I'm forever glad that I got to know her.

The fifth and final book in the Jessica Darling series is one long conversation between Jessica and her first love Marcus Flutie. They literally bump into each other at the airport and proceed to spend the next few hours catching up and skirting the issue of love, sex and soul mates. Jessica has grown in the last decade, but a part of her will always be that awkward angst ridden teen (I think we all are to some degree). I was just hoping for a bigger and better sendoff for Jessica. The book feels like it would work better as a stage play as it relies on dialogue to tell the story for the most part.

I don't believe in soul mates. I used to, once upon a time, but I grew up. Marcus and Jessica believe in such things despite their sarcastic and cynical natures. Is their belief enough to bring them actually together? What do you think?

7/10
B-

Movie Review: The Avengers

I was one of the few people left on the planet who still hadn't seen The Avengers, not because I wasn't interested, but because I wanted to avoid the crowds as much as possible. But on a Thursday night at 5:20 I went (a crowd eventually showed up. Who'd a thought?) and I really liked the film.

It's a fun summer flick. For an ensemble film it really hits all the right moments with its characters. I felt I really got to know the individual avengers (without having to watch the other films) and that the screen was shared well by all of them.

If you like superhero films then go see it. If you like witty banter then go see the film. If you like well edited action sequences then go see the film. If you're a Joss Whedon fan (like I am) then go see this film.


8.5/10
A


P.S. Stick around for two scenes during the end credits.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Book Review: Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty

Jessica Darling has completed college and she's looking for a real job while sharing a room known as the cupcake with her best friend Hope. Hope's got the top bunk. There is one more book to go in the life of Jessica Darling and I am looking forward to its end, but I also know that it'll be bittersweet as I've grown to really like this character. Jessica is great. But I have to admit that Fourth Comings is a weak book.

Fourth Comings takes place over a week as Jessica decides whether or not to accept her boyfriend Marcus's marriage proposal that came out of the blue just as she was contemplating breaking up with him. The book is written as journal entries that are for Marcus's eyes only so there is a lot of "you" references. We, the reader, are really Marcus, the you.

Although the books prior to this were light on plot this one is pretty non-existent. A whole book dedicated to a 22-year-old deciding to marry or break up with her boyfriend is not very interesting, despite a cast of characters who are familiar and fun. I would say that the fourth book is the weakest and I just hope that book five ends the series on a high note.

6 out of 10.
C+

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Movie Review: The Five-Year Engagement


I love Tuesday night at the movies because tickets are cheaper, and for this Tuesday's night out I chose to see The Five-Year Engagement.

Tom (Jason Segel) and Violet (Emily Blunt) get engaged a year after meeting, but it isn't an easy engagement. They move for Violet's career, putting Tom's on hold. Tom goes through an early mid-life crisis involving hunting and lamb chop sized sideburns, and the temptation to cheat comes to the forefront.

I liked the film because the two leads are delightful and very relatable. They feel like people that I know. People I would want to be friends with. I was rooting for them, but I knew that they needed more obstacles to overcome before they could be together. Getting engaged after only one year is a risky move because regular life hasn't settled in yet and the lovey dovey stage is at the forefront. But Violet and Tom's relationship is about to get real and that's what this movie is about.

There are some laugh out loud moments mixed with genuinely sweet moments. I particular loved the Sesame Street exchange between Violet and her sister Suzie (Alison Brie doing a pretty good British accent).

The Five-Year Engagement is a fun night out, but I'd watch it on a cheap Tuesday with a significant other or some good pals.

7.5 out of 10
B

Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Review: Charmed Thirds by Megan McCafferty


Jessica Darling is going to Columbia no matter what her parents say, even if she's dead broke by the end of her 4 years there. Jessica is as neurotic as ever and still struggling through the ups and downs of young adult life.

Jessica excels in her classes, but she's unsure as to what she's going to do with a degree in psychology since she doesn't want to be a doctor.

Again this story is about character rather than plot. And thankfully Jessica is still a likable yet flawed protagonist, which makes her all the more endearing and real. I love her sense of self because half the time she has no idea what she's doing or feeling. I can most certainly relate. No matter how old one gets, we're always evolving and questioning where we are and who we are. It's natural. I just wish we could all do it with sarcastic wit like Jessica does.

I will say that, at times, I wanted to wring her neck for her stupid choices, but if she didn't make those stpid choices then I wouldn't enjoy her so much.

I've picked up Book 4 (there are 5 altogether) and I look forward to seeing where she goes in her 20s.

8/10
A-

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

These Women Rock!

Photo removed due to me not wanting to get sued.

Amy Poehler and and Kristen Wiig are funny, smart, writers, performers and seem to be a girl's girl. They have each other's backs and support their fellow sistas! And I, for one, love them. I secretly imagine that we're all besties and that I make them laugh on a regular basis (and not because I walk into glass doors). Do you have gals like this in your life? If not, get on it!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Book Review: Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty



My love affair with Jessica Darling continues as she finishes up her senior year at Pineville High. And what a year for our protagonist. She gets a boyfriend who now has clear skin! She quits the track team and the school paper, which is her mini rebellion. She hasn't lost any of her sarcastic wit or dry sense of humor as she navigates her way towards adulthood.

Second Helpings, like Sloppy Firsts, is a character driven novel. And when you have a flawed, but likable and relatable protagonist the journey is worth the read.

Jessica has to figure out which college she is going to attend, but despite her forthrightness, she is scared. She's scared of the big city. She's scared of life outside of Pineville. All the colleges she applies to are secluded and isolated, so there's no real danger. That is until she gets the idea from her former crush that NYC is the place to be. But NYC in a post 911 world is an even scarier thought. But deep down, Jessica knows that she's meant to think big.

But before college can happen, Jessica has to get to graduation and prom where the ever annoying and frustrating Marcus Flutie await her. Jessica's love for Marcus is so deeply hidden that she won't or can't admit it to even herself until the last possible moment. Jessica thinks she'll die a virgin, but will she? Then again don't all teenage girls who have fairly good self-esteem and exceed in academics think that?

I can't wait to read Jessica's story as she heads to college. I'm sure it'll be full of angst and inner turmoil and lots of humor. I'm picking up Charmed Thirds today at the library. Why write when I can procrastinate and read this instead?

A
8 out of 10

Movie Review: Lockout is a F*%kup


Where to begin? How about I begin with the fact that my friend and I laughed out loud during this whole movie. We got the giggles early on and couldn't stop. So for that I am grateful for this movie going experience because I had a great time with my friend watching a horrible, horrible movie on screen.

Lockout is about this guy, Snow (Guy Pearce) who is a CIA operative in the future who gets framed for something and then within a matter of days he's convicted, but then a deal is made and he can get out if he goes into space to rescue the President's daughter (Maggie Grace) who is being held hostage on a prison space station. The premise is ridiculous, but what makes the movie even more ridiculous is the fact that everything is a coincidence. Most movies are given the allowance of one coincidence to get a plot rolling, but this one is riddled with them. This happens so that that can happen, etc. But none of it makes any sense.

So these prisoners are in a pilot type of project where they are put into stasis. The President's daughter goes up there on a humanitarian mission to check on their status. So these men who've been asleep for days, weeks, months or years break free, but don't experience any physical illness? Some wake up and immediately begin rioting. One prisoner who was put to sleep for about a day develops dementia while others are fine? There is no logic in any of it. And yes, sometimes action packed dick fests need to have some kind of logic.

Guy Pearce does his best as the wise cracking anti hero, but he ain't no John MacLean (Die Hard). The dialogue is laugh out loud funny (in a bad way). There is not one moment of subtext. Everything said is on the nose. The villains (one of which is barely understandable with his thick Scottish brogue) are one dimensional. And are never really realistic as villains. Too cartoonish in their nature. They kill a lot, but even the killing is just so over the top stupid.

The movie is terrible. Save your money. But I do have to admit again that I enjoyed myself that evening due to busting a gut. But don't be fooled as this film is going to be on my Top Ten Worst films of the year. I think I will love to mock this film for months to come.

D+
5.6 out of 10.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Movie Review: The Cabin the Woods aka stick to the city kids!


A weekend getaway. 5 young people (5 archetypes if you will). Sex. Drugs. And Beer! The perfect set up for blood and mayhem.

The Cabin in the Woods is a film best enjoyed if you don't know much going into it. So I'll keep this review spoiler free by making myself the focal point of this review.

I am a Joss Whedon fan and he's the reason why I went to see this film. The only reason really as I don't much care for horror films. The dialogue is classic Whedon, sarcastic and witty with lots of humor. I laughed out loud quite a few times. I also had to grab my boyfriend's hand a couple of times when I was worried that the horror would be too much, but it never really was. Sure there's guts and blood, but the premise and the dialogue are really what the story is all about.

If you're a Whedon fan you'll enjoy seeing some of the actors from Whedon's tv shows (I won't say who or what roles they play) and even if you're not well versed in the Whedon lore, there's enough bloodshed and laughs to keep you content.


7.8
B+


The film is Cowritten by Whedon (along with its directorDrew Goddard)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Movie Review: The Raid Redemption


I heard about The Raid back in September when it played at TIFF, but it wasn't on my list of films to see then. So fast forward several months later and it's opened here in the city for the general population. And I, for one, am glad it received distribution. What a hella ride!

A SWAT team becomes trapped in a tenement run by a mobster and his gang of ruthless killers. The movie opens with one cop, Rama, played by Iko Uwais, going about his morning routine, which involves prayer and then jumps to the SWAT team as they gear up to storm the tenement. What they don't know is that they're on their own in this endeavor and that there won't be any kind of backup. And man! Do they ever need backup. They get picked off one by one. Eventually there are only a handful of survivors and now they're trapped inside this building as the gang members search for them to finish them off with their machetes.

We follow Rama as he helps an injured cop to safety. And Rama isn't some regular cop. This guy is schooled in the martial arts and man his fists can fly! When we're not following Rama we get to see Jaka (Joe Taslim) try to find his way out of this mess as well. Jaka is a senior police officer and he's not leaving without any of his men.

This movie is an action packed, fist flying, blood spewing adventure (to say the least). The plot is fairly simple, which is perfect for this kind of film. This film is about the fighting. Having it take place in one location makes the fight sequences pop off the screen. The editing is top notch and every blow is felt and heard. These guys are dancers in a way. The way they choreograph each punch and chop is rhythmic and fast. It's beautiful to watch. There is also some blood with lots of machetes and knives going through jugulars, guts and legs. At times I had to look away, but that doesn't really work as the sound of bones breaking is far worse than actually seeing it.

I really enjoyed this film. It was a lot of fun. The audience was packed with men. Of course! But I have to say that women should go see this with their boyfriends because Joe Taslim is great as Jaka and he is damn hot! He is my new crush and I've already cleared it with the boyfriend that he is now on my list! (Ladies, you know what list I'm talking about)

8/10
A-.

Note: The film is from Indonesia and has subtitles. But don't be afraid of foreign films. Those tend to be the best ones. And let's just say this film is more about action than dialogue anyway.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book Review: Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty



Where have I been these last 11 years? I've been missing out on Jessica Darling this whole time? I am truly clueless, and disappointed that it's taken me this long to read this book. But a good thing about waiting this long is that I can read the other books in the series right after one another and not wait years in between. So perhaps my procrastination/laziness is a stroke of genius on my part!

Jessica Darling is 16 and can't stand her classmates, her town of Pineville, and her family. Her best friend has moved away and she feels alone, isolated and depressed. Even her athletic nature as a runner is something she secretly hates doing. Jessica is me. Jessica is most of you. She's universal, and yet unique at the same time. Her circle of friends are boy crazy, and nuts about clothes, and gossip. Jessica hangs out with them simply because it's a routine and doesn't particularly want to eat lunch alone. Even though she'd probably be better off eating alone. I love that her food of choice is Cap 'N Crunch morning, noon and night. Not healthy at all, but a great character trait.

The plot is simple. Actually, the book really doesn't have a plot. Jessica has crushes on a couple of boys, and boys have crushes on her (she knows it, but doesn't act on it). She works at a crappy summer job. Her friends turn on her. She falls for the reformed bad boy (but does he return the sentiment? Hmmmm) and she goes through the ups and downs of teenage life with wit and sarcasm. It's definitely a character driven book. My favourite kind of story. It's how I write as well. I've been working on my own teen novel where the protagonist Lucy shares a lot in common with Jessica. It's kind of odd how Lucy (whose story I have yet to complete) is so much like Jessica, and I haven't read this book until now. Hence why she's universal. Stories about teenage girls who have it all don't interest me. Teenage girls who feel like a fish out of water is genuine and realistic, and much more compelling.

I've fallen in love with Jessica and I can't wait to read more about her senior year, her college years and post college life. I'm off to the library right now to see if I can snag a copy of Second Helpings.

Friday, March 30, 2012

In the Rain: Love When Wet




A scene in the rain is now a cliché. I mean, in real life I don't have a conversation in the rain about love as the rain would likely cause my contact lenses to swim out of my eye socket. That being said I can't help but love a good rainy scene.

There's the classic one in Singin' In The Rain, which I think everyone would love to do once in their life. I do enjoy splashing around in my rain boots so I am on my way to becoming Gene Kelly.

When I watch Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany's in the rain looking for her cat it makes me almost want to get a cat. Almost, but then I remember I hate cats. When George Peppard kisses her it makes me melt, and I want to get struck by lightning.

One of the hottest romantic scenes in the rain is in The Notebook. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams getting hot and bothered under a torrential downpour is porn for ladies. It's spontaneous, passionate and forbidden with a hint of skin under the wet clothes. But the clothes stay on and that's what makes it work!

But what about those pesky rain scene in the romantic comedy? Even a great film like 4 Weddings and a Funeral can't pull off a rain scene. In large part this scene doesn't work because Andie McDowell is the worst thing in an otherwise great film. But also the dialogue comes across as fake and forced. When McDowell says, "It's raining? I hadn't noticed." I cringe every time. How could you NOT notice? Am I supposed to believe that you're so caught up in the moment of love that you can't be bothered by the weather? I think that's what the filmmakers wanted, but instead it makes the audience laugh out loud at its absurdity. It doesn't work because the majority of the film is witty and sarcastic and this moment feels out of place.

A great rain scene (probably my favorite) comes to us in the film Sliding Doors. A gem of a film. It shows us two paths taken and what can happen. We have all had moments of what if? in our lives and this film captures that question and answer beautifully. Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah have a moment of miscommunication that leads them to a scene on a bridge where the London rain pours down on them. The feelings are heartfelt and the dialogue is genuine. It is one of the best love scenes in the rain ever.

So if you're thinking about writing a scene in the rain think long and hard. Watch scenes that work and ones that don't. Go over your dialogue with a fine tooth comb. Make it realistic. How would people react in the rain? Would they try to run from it? Would they play with it? Would it make them miserable or happy? Would they care about their shoes getting ruined? Once you know what the characters would feel and do in that situation then you're ready for the downpour!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella



Poppy Wyatt has lost her engagement ring followed by a stolen cellphone, so why wouldn't she grab a dumped cell in the trash bin and use it to stay connected? The premise is a bit more than that. Poppy is getting married (to a man she barely knows) and she is desperate to find the ring so his very academic family doesn't realize what an idiot she is. She borrows a cell and through a series of events she and the man (Sam Roxton) who technically lays claim to the phone begin a textual relationship, strictly platonic (of course that might change since this is a romantic comedy) until the ring has been located. But once the ring is found, Poppy can't seem to part with the phone and she then finds herself not only planning a wedding, but helping Sam stop a scandal that can ruin his company, and the reputation of an honorable man. Phew! That sure is a lot of background story. What one should take away from the premise is that girl meets phone, then meets boy while getting married to another boy then girl loses phone.

Sophie Kinsella is the queen of the Chick Lit genre. She's the queen because she writes well. She knows her genre. She hits the beats. She has a knack for witty and fast paced dialogue. I enjoy this genre as it's quick and easy, and mostly painless. But I am finding that the older I get the more annoyed I become with her female leads (I'm particularly fed up with her Shopaholic series as Becky Bloomwood has gone from quirky and unique to downright insane).

Poppy Wyatt, although I liked her in the beginning, started to really piss me off. She's a complete idiot, clueless and just downright dumb. She's charming and sweet, and has a heart of gold (like all Kinsella's leads) but it's getting old and repetitive. Poppy, using a company phone (a company she doesn't work for) takes it upon herself to answer emails and texts for Sam in a way that he never would. He's a professional and doesn't need to add smiley faces and xxxxxxx at the end of his name. No normal and sane man would do that. And Poppy not realizing how unprofessional that is causes a lot of problems. Now I know the plot needs conflict and obstacles, but when it comes from the likes of a lead who is so clueless as to the mess she could be creating it just feels forced. I mean, who is this Poppy? What world does she live in? On what planet is it okay for her to pretend she's a male boss and send an email ending with kisses to a female underling? Does she not know that technically speaking, that's harassment?

I was just frustrated by Poppy's actions, especially the wedding at the end. I won't give it away, but let's just say that her actions made me feel really sorry for her in a way that made me think she was pathetic. And it's never good for the lead character to be viewed as pathetic.

I wish Kinsella would think more outside the Chick Lit box. Give her characters some edge because the whole stupid, but sweet shtick is starting to grate.

7/10
B-

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Film Review: The Hunger Games pops off the page and onto the screen


"I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!"

And let the 74th Hunger Games begin.

Katniss Everdeen takes her younger sister's place when she is chosen to battle it out in an arena with 23 other tributes. A battle to the death where only one survivor will be crowned victor. The Hunger Games comes to the life on the big screen after great success on the page. I loved the books and I have been waiting patiently for the film version. And as I waited I wondered if the film would do the book justice. As we all know so many adaptations fail to translate. I didn't want to be disappointed with this one. And I wasn't.

(Spoilers ahead so be warned)

District 12 looks dry and rough just as I had imagined. The Capital is loud, colorful and obnoxious just as I had pictured. I don't know the citizens of the Capital, but just by their neon clothes, strange makeup and outlandish footwear I know I hate them. I hate them for their arrogance and narcissism, but most of all I hate them for their ignorance. I will say that I don't hate Caesar Flickerman (the host of The Hunger Games) only because he is played by Stanley Tucci and Tucci delivers a great performace, blue hair and all!

If you haven't heard about The Hunger Games then you are either living under a rock, or you're my 86-year-old grandmother who doesn't speak a word of English. Otherwise, most people have heard something about this dystopian story set in what once was North America where 12 districts are under the dictatorship of the Capital and its leader President Snow. Every year 2 tributes (one boy, one girl between the ages of 12-18) are chosen by random to battle it out in a game to the death. It was enacted 74 years prior as a way to control the people, but it's done in the guise of penance and remembrance so they do not try to revolt again. The ultimate terror tactic. And it works. It works on the reader, and now it works on the viewer.

Even though I know this story and I know what happens to the characters, I was nervous watching everything unfold. I had tension in my stomach. I had goosebumps up and down my arms, and I had great concern for these characters on screen. (I know it's just a movie and just so you know I am okay now. All tension gone!)

I want fans of the book to rest easy because Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss. I think the entire cast lives up to the expectations. I know there are concerns about Peeta, and I was one of those people who were irked by the casting choice. Josh Hutcherson looks nothing like what I thought Peeta should look like, but over the year he kind of grew on me and when I finally saw him on the screen I believed him. Peeta isn't meant to be gorgeous. (I think Gale is meant to be rugged handsome and Liam Hemsworth fits the bill there) Peeta's meant to be a doughy boy who works in his parents' bakery. He blends in. That's who he is. He's an everyman. And for me, his portrayal and his chemistry (whether romantic or platonic) with Katniss works. He's a boy who will go through even more hardships in the next two installments and he has nowhere to go but up. Remember when we first met Luke Skywalker? He was a whiney kid from a desert planet and he ended up becoming a Jedi who kicked some serious butt! And I think Peeta is the kind of character who will develop and grow on us (He won't kick butt, but he'll definitely change). I will say this, could someone else have played Peeta? Yes. Could someone else have played Katniss? No. But it works.

For fans of the book, we all know that the story is told from Katniss's Point of View, so we never get to see what happens outside of that perspective. It works for the page, but that had to be slightly tweaked for the film version. And it works. I am happy that they've done this. It also helps the viewers who haven't read the books to get a better idea of this world and what these Hunger Games are really about. For example, we get scenes of President Snow plotting in his rose garden, and we see just how much power this man wields. And we get a glimpse into how Haymitch (played by the every wonderful, yes I said wonderful!Woody Harrelson) works the Capital citizens in getting them to sponsor Katniss by sending her aid during the games.

The pacing of the film is tight and full of tension and conflict. The buildup to the battle is slow, but in a methodical way. It's meant to be a slower build so when the battle begins we are thrust into it and all the hell that is breaking loose. When Katniss is sent up the tube to be released into the game and she says good-bye to Cinna (her stylist played by the oh, so HOT Lenny Kravitz) I wanted to cry. Without saying a word, Lawrence says it all. With one look we finally see her fear and vulnerability, and although we know she has to win, we can't help but think, she's dead meat. And really, Katniss survives in this battle due to luck and the kindness of others. She makes tactical errors from the get-go, and nearly pays the price with her life from the start. And only through the help of 12-year old Rue does Katniss even stand a chance. And this is where the heart of the story truly takes place.

Amandla Stenberg plays Rue. The tribute from District 11. The district closest to 12 and also one of the poorest ones. Rue reminds Katniss of her sister, Prim. Young and sweet and innocent. Rue had no one who volunteered to take her place so she was thrust into a battle with people twice her size and strength. But Rue has mad hiding skills. She's small so she can disappear fast. Rue comes to Katniss's aid and then nurses her back to health when Katniss becomes injured. They form a bond and help one another survive. In this battle where violence or the threat of violence is at every turn, they are able to find their humanity because ultimately those who lost their humanity are the ones watching this televised blood bath in their fancy apartments in the Capital taking bets ,and who have made carnage a form of entertainment (hence why I hate them so).

Rue and Katniss' bond is devastating to watch because we know something horrible is going to happen (again, this review contains spoilers), and when Rue is killed it's more than just horrible. It's outrageous and puts the entire battle into perspective. It's the turning point, not only for this film, but for the entire series of books. It's the catalyst of change that is going to occur. During this battle, we don't know what happens back home in the districts, we find out later in the subsequent books that Katniss' tenderness towards Rue begins a rebellion. And when the film cuts to District 11 and the music swells, I lost it. I admit it. I cried. The thing is I knew I was going to cry, but what made me really cry was watching the reaction of those characters we don't know, and how one act of kindness that followed such cruelty impacted them. The unfairness and injustice of the world they live in bounces off the screen. It's a very powerful and moving scene. My favourite of the film.

The film, of course, is set up for its sequels and I can't wait! But one question I do have is, does this film work for people who haven't read the book? It's hard for me to judge that because I have read the books and I loved them. I love this story and I love the characters. Is a televised battle to the death that original? No. (Battle Royale and Running Man). But this story not only has that violent factor, it has love. And that's what makes it stronger. At the heart of The Hunger Games is the love a young women has for her little sister. She is her protector, and she will sacrifice her own life in order to keep those she loves safe. Now that is a universal theme that everyone can relate to (book lovers or not)!


The film is directed by Gary Ross and the script is written by Ross, author Suzanne Collins, and Billy Ray

EDIT: In the original review I didn't mention the violence. I will say that I thought the movie could have been more violent. The violence is integral to the story, and was very disturbing in the book (as it should be) but I do understand why it was toned down as the core audience are teenagers (specifically teenage girls).

9.5 out of 10
A+

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dear Ovaries




Why do you have weird fingers?
Why are they hugging my eggs?
And why do you look like an Alien Predator?
Stop staring at me.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

For Prim




I volunteer
to keep you safe
for my sister
for our sake

I volunteer
to the death
with these arrows
with this mark

I volunteer
to be tribute
kill or be killed
I will return

I volunteer
to take your place
for family
for love's sake

BOOK REVIEW: A Million Suns: An Across the Universe Novel by Beth Revis


I have returned to my sci-fi YA fiction addiction with book two in the across the universe trilogy, A Million Suns.

Amy has been unfrozen for three months on the spaceship godspeed that's been travelling hundreds of years from sol-earth through space to reach the new earth that just so happens to be across the universe (see what I did there?). Elder has become leader after the death of Eldest, and he struggles to keep things in check now that the residents of the ship are no longer being secretly drugged (in order to be controlled). And they want a revolution, which Elder doesn't have time for as the engine isn't working at all. They are stuck literally in space. All energy is being diverted to keep godspeed working internally. But there are more secrets to be revealed. Orion (now frozen) has sent Amy on a quest to find the clues that will change the course of godspeed's journey.

I enjoyed this sequel and the chapter structure that continues to go back and forth between Amy and Elder's perspectives. The walls of the ship continue to imprison Amy as she longs for open space and some kind of earth, any earth. She misses her parents who are still frozen and visits them everyday. Her sense of longing and loneliness pops off the page. I am not claustrophobic, but I would be if I were on godspeed. The story is a bit on the long side as I found the clues that Orion left behind to be tedious and repetitive. Why didn't he just tell Amy and Elder what he knew? I understand why the author has chosen to write it the way she has, but it kind of feels like filler and not a mystery that needs to be unraveled.

I am looking forward to the final book that comes out next year and it looks as though a change of scenery for some of the characters is coming. And I am curious as to how the frozens will react once they are unthawed, if that ever happens.

B+
7.5/10

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Book Review: Dear George Clooney Please Marry My Mom by Susin Nielsen


Yay! A book for Tweens that doesn't involve the paranormal. What a relief. And what a delightful and enjoyable read. Susin Nielsen has captured the voice of a 12-year-old the way Judy Blume did so many years ago. Reading Dear George... transported me back to a time when things were simpler. The story isn't simple (Violet is coming to terms with her parents' divorce), but it is funny and sweet. What I liked most about the book was Nielsen's style of writing. She writes in a way that makes her characters pop off the page, and no matter the age of the reader, the characters are relatable, even when, at times, they are unlikable.

Violet gets the idea in her head that her mom should marry George Clooney (who cares that he's the consummate bachelor) so her mom can stop dating losers, especially her latest find Dudley Weiner. And Violet really thinks Clooney can be a possibility because her mother met George once on a film set when she did his makeup (or was it hair? I do know that Clooney doesn't wear makeup when filming. He refuses to). The plot may sound lighthearted, and it is, but Violet is a young girl who is in a lot of pain. Her father left the family for a younger actress and moved to LA to start a new family with her, leaving Violet and her younger sister behind. Violet is hurt by this abandonment, and like most tweens she refuses to really acknowledge it and allow herself the chance to heal. Instead, she feeds cat turds to her half-siblings and only talks to her dad with the help of a magic 8 Ball. But like any coming of age story, Violet will make strides in her growth. Things won't be tied up with a pretty pink bow, but the load she's carried on her shoulders since her dad left has definitely been lightened by the end.

If you have 10-13-year old girls in your life, and you want to protect them from the Twilight garbage that's out there then give them this book. Tell them about the Judy Blume books you read as a kid, and that you hope this one becomes one of their favourites.

8/10
A-

Friends With Kids: Ovaries, Sex and Complications


I have friends with kids, but I am not the friends with kids. And all the friends in Friends with Kids have kids. Confused?

Friends with Kids is written by, directed by, and starring Jennifer Westfeldt. It's her directorial debut and she's done a great job. Westfeldt plays a woman in her late 30's who wants to have a kid and time is not on her side, so her best friend and womanizer (played by the adorable Adam Scott) offers up his services, but in such a way that it feels fresh. Their other friends who are married with children aren't so keen on two friends having a baby, and raising it together, but living separate lives (dating). They choose to do it this way because they witness what's happened to their married friends who've had kids, and they don't want to be miserable like they are.

The premise has been done before, but there's something delightful and new about this offering. The characters are all fleshed out, and each actor has their moment to shine. The dialogue is genuine and the funny moments stem from truth. There are moments that the language veers toward the vulgar. But the language fits well with the characters because, let's face it, well-rounded, employed, confident adults can use foul language if they want to, and they should.

When Scott and Westfeldt's characters copulate it's hysterical in its awkwardness, and in its tender moments as well. I could relate to a few characters at different times during their journey. These group of friends feel like our collective group of friends. Everyone knows someone or is someone in this film. It's a great night out whether or not you have kids.

8 out of 10
A

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What I've recently picked up from the library



Dear George Clooney, Please Marry my Mom by Susin Nielsen

This Dark Endeavour: The Apprenticeship Of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel

The Rum Diary on DVD

Get Him to the Greek on DVD

Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

The Submission by Amy Waldman

A Million Suns: An Across the Universe Novel by Beth Revis

Thursday, February 2, 2012

An M&M Haiku




M&M's fall down
Rest between my boobs they melt
Chocolate lover

Friday, January 27, 2012

YA REVIEW: The Death Cure by James Dashner



And here we are at book three of this trilogy. I was fairly content with the last two books in the series, but not blown away by them. I find the story, at times, forced into going a certain way. I had hoped that book three would be the one that would tie it altogether and blow me out of the water. It does not.

The book is fine. Neither bad, nor great. I don't see myself remembering much of it in the future. I enjoyed it while reading it, but I couldn't help thinking I am getting cheated out of something better. I also didn't trust the writer, James Dashner. I kept thinking what kind of trick is he going to pull out of his hat now. Is Thomas even who he says he is? Is anyone? Is anything that happens in this book real? I kept thinking that everything is a trial, and once again, we'll be told something that will mean all that happened was just a test. That doesn't quite happen, but when distrust is there in the first place it makes it hard to truly give myself over to the reading experience.

Thomas has survived the maze and the scorch trials, and has reached his boiling point when he ends up at WICKED, the government agency that has been behind his journey. He refuses to go along anymore with their experiments, and (along with some friends) he escapes to a walled city to find out if he can stop WICKED. Oh, and he's immune to the Flare, but still has to run away from (let's face it) zombies.

I had hoped the ending of this story would give more answers, but instead it left me questioning. I wondered why Teresa, who was a major character in the first two books, is relegated to window dressing here. She isn't given the proper amount of story time. Who is Chancellor Paige? She's mentioned and gets to basically end the story, but why? The ending is open ended, so I'm not sure if a future set of books are planned.

Perhaps, I expected too much, after all, I am not the target audience. Then again, does a target audience mean a story shouldn't live up to its potential?

I think teenage boys will like the story the most.

B-
6.5/10

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Underworld: Awakening. Should have let it sleep


I will put into this review the same amount of time the 4 writers put into the script.

Waste of time. Badly written. Ill conceived. Too much voice over. Save your money.

D+

Sunday, January 15, 2012

If you want to cry, or be inspired to write a moving scene...




Then watch the truck scene in Bridges of Madison County and the funeral scene Steel Magnolias . One is full of truth in words, and the other reveals itself through nothing more than an actor's presence in the moment.

These two scenes get me every time. No matter what.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Writingisms #5


When a criminal is caught make sure he/she doesn't confess when interrogated. Spilling the beans is too easy. Have the audience know the truth, but let the characters wonder a bit.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

YA DYSTOPIA: Legend by Marie Lu.


My love affair with YA dystopia continues with LEGEND by Marie Lu. Legend tells the story of two very different people. Day and June. Day, a teenage boy, is the most wanted criminal in the Republic and June, a military prodigy, is chosen to track Day when he is accused of murdering a soldier, June's brother. But what happens is a little more complicated than a revenge tale. Secrets are revealed and all is not what it seems.

The Republic in which they live in was once the USA, but its citizens don't know that. It is a dictatorship where class lines are clearly drawn and fear of a plague keeps the masses down. It's a fun set up, as most dystopian worlds are. We get two clear points of view as each chapter is split between Day and June's experiences. This is the fourth YA book that I've read that has done this kind of structure. It seems to be working.

The world is richly described and the characters are well drawn out. I could see the Lake sector clearly and the squalor of the poor areas just as well as the military bases and where the rich live. Marie Lu has created a believable world and is able to get under the reader's skin. I could imagine the tight reign of the regime and could feel its suffocating hand reaching down on its people. The tension is tight and the conflict pops off the page.

It's Book 1 of a trilogy (a growing trend, or just a trend), and I look forward to finding out if Day and June can survive their world, and how many more casualties are to come.

8/10
A-

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

In YA FICTION: CROSSED by Ally Condie


Cassia has left her hometown, and has ventured out into the world in order to find Ky, the boy she loves. But she has to do this in secret and play the games of the Society in order to get what she wants. Crossed is Part 2 in a trilogy and we continue to follow Cassia as she navigates her way through adolescence in a dysopian universe that controls everything. Every dream. Every thought. Every opinion. Every action is monitored in a way that you don't even know if your life is your own.

I liked the first book, Matched, a bit more than this one. It's still well written, but I found to structure not to my liking. The chapters go back and forth between Cassia and Ky's perspective, (which seems to be a new trend among YA novels of late). And because of this, I kind of feel like the plot gets lost. It feels all rather internal at times. But I do think this is a good love story. It feels true because it's complicated and also it's confusing for all involved, which is how young love actually is. That being said, it's still a good read, and I look forward to the final book, as secrets are yet to be revealed.

Oh, and I am a Xander fan. The one Cassia leaves behind to follow her heart.

B
7/10

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

New Year's Eve was spent at the cinema and it was a bit of a struggle to decide what to see. We ended up deciding on Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and it was a fairly good decision. The strength of this film is once again on the characters. They are strong and fleshed out and fun to watch. Robert Downey Jr. is a great, albeit odd, Sherlock Holmes, and I can't help but be drawn to him. He's silly and funny, and absolutely brilliant! Jude Law as Watson is also great in his role. He's uptight and conservative and a good foil for Holmes' lunacy. Holmes' plethora of disguises are quite fun to see and at times, completely unnecessary and over the top. Why does he look like the joker when dressed as a woman? Hmmmm.

Now the plot on the other hand was a bit of a mess. I found the first half of the film to be all over the place and lacking a certain focus. The villain, Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) was good, but I think he could have been a bit more well defined. Holmes is after Moriarty, who plans on starting a war so that he can profit from it, and pursues him to France then to Germany where they have a showdown. I liked their interactions as they are both quite brilliant men. One on the side of good, the other the side of evil.

If you're a fan of the first one and like the way Downey plays Holmes then I think you'll like this film. If you're not a Holmes fan and don't like Guy Ritchie's hyper-stylized way of directing then this might not be for you.

6.8 out of 10C+ with a strong B+ for the acting and the costumes.