Discussion: Ender’s Game and the Film Boycott

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If you haven’t heard by now, people are planning to boycott the film version of Orson Scott Card’s novel, Ender’s Game. The movie comes out in November, and I’m not going to lie – I’ve been excited for this film since I first read the book some 15+ years ago. That being said, I deplore Card’s politics and how he spends his money. The interwebs are currently filled with passionate pleas and some downright virulent opinions about those who pay to watch Ender’s Game. I would hate to fund Card’s beliefs, but I’d also hate not seeing the film version of my favorite novel of ALL TIME. Plus, it would suck for the child actors in this film to be affected by a low grossing box office. My feelings are complicated. In real life, my friends all tell me to stop reading the internet and go see the movie (including all of my gay friends).

So my question this lovely Friday, what are your feelings about the controversy? Are you planning on seeing the movie? If you see the film, are you thinking about making a donation to a particular group or charity that fights against such crazies as OSC? Or perhaps you might even side with OSC and his beliefs? No matter – just let me know in the comments!

June Movies!

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I recently posted a vlog over on my YouTube channel wrapping up all the movies I saw in the theater during June. Nothing fancy, just a quick rating and a couple of thoughts on each. So click below if you want to know how I felt about the following films:

Man of Steel
World War Z
Before Midnight
Much Ado About Nothing
This is the End

The month’s best film award went to a surprising choice!

Movie Review: The Great Gatsby

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We got early tickets to see Gatsby Thursday night. As y’all can imagine, I was ridiculously excited. The theater was packed with many people dressed up which was so much fun to watch. Unfortunately, our theater had many technical glitches and they never could get the curtains to open all the way. Thankfully, the viewing experience wasn’t really affected and we got free movie passes as a bonus. Win.

The movie itself felt a lot like attending the circus. That’s what I kept saying. That’s what my gut automatically felt – like we were in a giant, colorful bigtop with Gatsby as our ringleader. And I’m still not sure what to say beyond that. I’ve been mulling over my thoughts for quite some time and think I might not fully comprehend my feelings until I’ve had another viewing. But here’s the randomness that has crossed my mind.

All of the actors were enjoyable, but Leo, Edgerton, and Mulligan take the cake for me. I had heard that Mulligan’s Daisy was often overacted, but I really enjoyed her performance so that was a surprising positive. When all of our main characters were in a room together, the movie shined. When the film was concentrating on green screening everything, I totally lost interest and was completely taken out of the story. Perhaps the plastic, fake look of the green screen was supposed to be a commentary on the absurdity and frailness of Gatsby’s world, but it didn’t work for me at all.

And while I adore the soundtrack on its own, in the movie the music was often jarring. There’s one scene in particular that could have played out in any nineties rap video starring Biggie Smalls. Nothing about that says 1920s to me. My husband even leaned over and was like WTF? The costuming, makeup, and jewelry were gorgeous and so faithful to the time period. Loved seeing everyone all dolled up.

In the end, I think I liked it more than disliked it. However, I’m not sure I have any sort of emotional attachment to what I watched. The ridiculous over-the-top imagery really detracted from the emotional depth and character development. Everything felt more like a plastic production than a movie focused on the humanity (or lack thereof) of its characters and the idolization of the American Dream. I think this version of The Great Gatsby will attract fans not familiar with the book and a much younger target audience. Perhaps some viewers will even find the book through this movie which is always a great thing.

I definitely want to hear what y’all think! Let me know in the comments. So far, most people have been very mixed with their opinions. Some love it desperately, others find it trite and shallow. I think I’m still on the fence.

Bonus:

I loved the humor! So many hilarious moments played wonderfully by Leonardo DiCaprio!

At the Cinema: Wreck-It Ralph and Bunheads

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On the movie front, I redboxed Wreck-It Ralph Thursday night and had really high hopes. I haven’t ever been a huge fan of animated films as an adult. I’m not sure why that is. I hear rave reviews from others well out of childhood and get such high hopes never to have my expectations met. Jimmy loves animated movies and hates that I never want to see them. But I’m trying to put more of an effort in. The last animated film I saw in a theater was Wall-E which was okay but overly preachy.

I popped Ralph in and the first half of the movie bored me to tears. Not being a gamer (even in childhood I only played maybe 2 or 3 games regularly enough to remember), I just didn’t feel connected to that aspect of the movie. I needed something emotional to connect with and quickly or it was going to wind up a DNF. Thankfully, Ralph met Vanellope just in the nick of time.

Ralph is a game villian with a heart of gold who wants to be the good guy and win medals. Vanellope is a race car driver who can’t compete in her game because she has a glitch. The relationship that develops between Ralph and V is so well done, so sweet and touching that the movie’s first half was quickly forgotten. I loved the second half so fiercely that there might have been a tear shed. Also, Jane Lynch’s character was awesome even if her storyline seemed a bit forced and out of place.

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As for the smaller screen, I recently started watching Bunheads. I always meant to watch this Gilmore Girls throwback, but not having cable I had to rely on a streaming service to offer it up for free. Obviously, as a GG fan from inception, Bunheads hits many of the right chords. The dialogue is sassy and fast, Michelle is a likable, flawed protagonist, the small town vibe and quirky characters reign supreme, and I adore seeing old friends again. Daddy Huntzberger cracks me up as a surfer dude.

While I don’t think Bunheads is nearly as brilliant as GG, there’s still plenty to love and plenty of room for growth. I’ll be watching as long as the show runs and can’t wait to see more guest appearances from GG alumni.

At the Cinema: Schindler’s List

tumblr_mbvrq3Bkg91rvp3zlo1_400I really wanted to film my reaction to watching Schindler’s List immediately after watching, but decided y’all really didn’t need to see me do my version of the ugly cry. I’m fairly certain I look worse than Claire Danes when she ugly cries, which is really saying something. However, I do want to take a moment and discuss my emotional response to watching this film for the first time.

When I saw that the 20th Anniversary edition of this movie was being released on Tuesday, I knew I had to order it and add it to my ever-growing collection of purchased films. And I knew this without having ever seen the movie. I’m glad I waited or was just never exposed to Schindler’s List until now. I’m not sure I could have appreciated and had such a visceral response had I viewed as a child or teenager.

Steven Spielberg knows how to direct a movie, how to gut us emotionally and leave us reeling yet filled with hope. As I cried my eyes out at the bittersweet end to Schindler’s story, I couldn’t help but be filled with joy at all the people he had saved and all the generations that had come to be due to his compassion. Schindler is such a flawed protagonist. He begins his journey greedily – out to make money and nothing else. He views the Jewish plight as a means to an end and monetizes their suffering to grow his wealth. But somewhere along the way, the people he is unintentionally saving save him as well.  Through their thanks, kind eyes, and relief to be alive, they show Oskar just how effective one man can be, even when he’s not trying. They show him that one man can overcome the cruelty of the many. They show him that one man can change himself as well as the paths of so many lives. While so many Jews were losing their sense of humanity, Oskar was finding his own and continued throughout the war to diligently return the favor – restoring humanity so wrongfully stolen.

Was that babbling? Did that make sense? I found Schindler so compelling and Liam Neeson did a beautiful job portraying this historical figure. As did Ralph Fiennes playing his perfect foil. As Oskar grows more human, Amon turns more evil – an oddly pure evil without conscience. He even tries to do the decent thing and stop his murdering ways, but simply can’t as it’s not in his nature. The atrocities men, women, and children suffered at his hands were gut-wrenching and nearly impossible to watch. I covered my eyes multiple times. Spielberg and his creative team definitely don’t shy away from depicting these horrors in such a bluntly realistic manner.

Filming the movie in black and white was also a stunning and winning decision. It gives the film a timeless feeling – you literally have no idea whether the movie was shot years ago or just last week. The contrast between the light and dark also resonates heavily and adds a layer of depth to the movie beyond the brilliant script and acting.

Needless to say, I loved the movie and believe there aren’t many movies I’ve ever seen that can hold a candle to it. Not an easy movie to watch, not one you can sit idly on the couch and watch repeatedly, but an important film, a necessary film. If you’ve never watched it, do yourself a favor and find some time. You won’t regret it. And of course, I need to get my hands on the book is was based on!

With two movie posts in a row, it’s time to get back to book blogging! This week is dedicated to that very purpose. You can look forward to such dandies as my reviews of Swoon and The Night Strangers along with my Vanity Fair wrap-up post!

At the Cinema: Silver Linings Playbook

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I’m interrupting my regularly scheduled book review this lovely Wednesday morning for a very important announcement! You must run (no walking!) to the nearest theater to see Silver Linings Playbook. What a fantastic script and brilliant performances by all involved. I thought I loved Jennifer Lawrence before, but now I want to have her babies. She and Bradley Cooper just really impressed me with their portrayals of these deeply wounded people struggling with mental illness.

I can’t wait to read the book. If you’ve ever had experience with bipolar disorder – personal experience or just knowing someone affected – this movie will touch you deeply. And even if you haven’t, this story is such a human story that I can hardly see how anyone with a heart could not find this both heartwrenching and heartwarming. I left the theater grinning my ridiculous goofy grin and wanting to tell everyone to skip work on Monday in order to view this film – do not wait for the DVD!! Normally, I hate anything love story related, but this one just got me in the gut.

In case you don’t know what this film’s about let try to sum it up fairly concisely. Pat (Cooper) has been sentenced to 8 months in a mental institution after nearly beating his wife’s lover to death when he catches them together. During his time in the hospital, Pat is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and begins to understand that it’s something he’s battled his whole life. Deciding to change his life permanently in an effort to overcome his negativity, he takes up a strict regime of exercise and intellectual pursuits (reading!) to better himself and get his wife back. Along the way he meets Tiffany (Lawrence), a similarly diagnosed woman healing after the tragic death of her husband. Their relationship is the heart of the movie.

Okay – I’m going to leave you fine people be and stop spewing all the sappy gooey gushing all over my otherwise (yeah right) slightly more mature blog.

P.S. So happy Jennifer Lawrence won the Golden Globe! I might have given her a standing ovation in the privacy of my living room and frightened my dogs a good bit.

Let’s Gush About Skyfall, Shall We?

Second best Bond film of all-time.  I wanted to get that out of the way for those readers who can only stomach the first sentence.  The best Bond film is obviously Casino Royale – you never forget your first love.  And yes, I understand that all of the above is opinion.  I’ve never been a huge Bond fan despite growing up watching the Sean Connery films repeatedly.  The Pierce Brosnan movies made me want to gouge my eyes out.  I hate campy Bond (don’t shoot!).  I also was never satisfied with the female characters or the derogatory sexual innuendo.  Octopussy?  No thanks.  My husband, however, LOVES them.  Bless his heart.

Anywho, I’m not going to harp on about my first James Bond lovefest, Casino Royale.  Instead, I’m going to continue the affair with a little gushing about Skyfall, the newest film in the legendary series (Number 23!!!).  Daniel Craig is back and better than ever in a worst than ever way.  He gets injured, presumed dead, and has a hard time recovering because – let’s face it – he’s getting older.  M still has full faith in her 007 and sends him on the mission of hunting down and capturing the person responsible for a cyber terrorism attack on MI6.  That’s when Bond meets Javier Bardem – maybe the best Bond villian EVER.  Hi-jinks ensue.  Also, the new theme song by Adele is AMAZEBALLS.

So what worked?  Everything, silly!  Visually, a masterpiece film deserving of Oscar attention.  The cinematography is absolutely stunning.  I could freeze frame the film at any point, blow up the picture in black and white, and hang it on my wall because the photography is flawless.  Each shot was done with purpose and with beauty.  The dismal gray London skies are almost always visible and add the perfect amount of ambiance and atmosphere.

The acting?  Spot on.  Judi Dench and Daniel Craig both bring their A-games and leave nothing on the table.  I kid you not, Jimmy totally teared up during one scene no matter how hard he tries to deny it.  And Javier Bardem?  The most maniacally, evil, creepy son of a bitch I’ve ever seen on film.  He’s INSANE and INSANELY good.  I think it has a lot to do with the blonde hair.  Plus, once you know where his evil comes from you’re all like – ‘Ok, I can dig.  I still hope Bond blows you to smithereens, but I don’t mind him having a hard time doing it.’  When you can love an evil man, that man is SMOOTH.

How about the new Bond girls?  The scantily clad brief sexual encounter in China is typical Bond.  But she is gorgeous.  I much preferred the somewhat shaky field agent, Eve.  She is tough, a spy, and has wicked chemistry with Bond.  Their scenes together always made me smile and I totally wanted to be her.  What unfolds at the end with Eve was exciting and something to look forward to!  And again, Judi Dench is marvelous as M and one badass woman who can simultaneously be intense, make the touch decisions, and still display a moving vulnerability.

Honestly, all of the above could have been sub-par and the movie still would have won me over because the script is top notch and so very deserving of an Oscar in my opinion.  Since we’re all fans of reading here, at least most of us, you have to know that this film unfolds like a perfectly plotted novel of espionage, suspense, and thematic depth unseen in any prior 007 movie.  The characters are so three-dimensional, so complex, and experience the kind of character growth that feels natural and so very honest.  Bond and M, in particular, carve their way slowly through dealing with their individual pasts and how that affects the very deep emotional connection they have as a kind of mother and son.  The film really delves deeply into the idea of ‘the circle of life’, confronting our past, mortality, and the ability to be content with it all.

Fans of old-school Bond will be super pleased to see many throwbacks to the early stories.  For those worried about the length – don’t!  I never got bored, never zoned out, and actually appreciated the slower middle.  The beginning starts off with a bang, but then slows down allowing the viewer to really get inside Bond’s mental space which allows us to care that much more deeply for the explosive ending.  I’d go back and watch it again tomorrow if I wasn’t low on funds!  Can’t wait for the dvd release.  I think tomorrow’s gonna be a Casino Royale kind of a day.