I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Smith’s novel saw me through the entirety of my read-a-thon participation and was an absolute delight to spend several hours reading.  If you think you’ve never heard of her before (and many of her novels are out of print), she wrote 101 Dalmatians!  What more do you really need to know after that?

I Capture the Castle could be described as a young adult/coming of age tale about a precocious 17-year-old in early 20th century England.  Cassandra and her family live in this cozy, little hamlet and their house is a dilapidated old castle!  Her father made money initially off writing a critically acclaimed novel, but then spent some time in prison after threatening a neighbor with a  butter knife and never wrote again.  They live in extreme poverty with seemingly no way out.  Cassandra, her older sister, younger brother, father and stepmother (who loves getting naked outdoors) are completely sequestered away from modern society and come off as very eccentric – basically, freaks.  Rose and Cassandra’s hopes appear to rely solely on finding a rich husband, but with no marrying men about what’s a girl to do?  Enter their new landlords, the exceptionally rich Cotton brothers straight out of America and you’ve got yourself a little golddiggery on the horizon!

Smith’s novel is excellent, but on the same eccentric side as her characters.  Cassandra is our narrator via her diary and you honestly wouldn’t know she was 17 except that she tells you so in the first few pages.  I constantly thought of her as 12-14 with her naivety being so overwhelming.  You really get a sense of how closed away this family is from anything remotely normal.  But this aspect also makes Cassandra and her family super charming and refreshingly unique.  You never really know what’s going to happen next due to the family’s quirks and that made the pages easy to turn.  The Cotton brothers help ground the novel in actual reality when the Mortmain family seems sure to transcend into fairytale land at any moment and add just the right amount of romantic intrigue.

The best way I can describe how I felt reading I Capture the Castle is enchanted.  I wanted to climb the castle’s walls, hold midsummer bonfires, and get swept away by the riches of London right along with Rose and Cassandra.  If I have any complaints, it’s only that sometimes the Mortmains seemed a bit too unrealistic, but that was also half the fun.  And let me just take a moment to recommend the film version because I watched it a year or so ago and loved it!  Henry Cavill stars and he’s a bucket full of fried chicken – YUM!  Notice how I just got real Southern on y’all?  That’s what Mr. Cavill does for me.

So don’t waste anymore time reading this post – go pick up a copy of I Capture the Castle pronto!

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Knocking ’em down one book at a time!  Loving my classic’s list!

At the Cinema: Looper

Happy Monday, folks!  Hope all is well.  This weekend was a ton of fun and part of that fun involved seeing the new film Looper.  It stars current Hollywood darling Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt.  And it is worth paying money to see.

The year is 2044 and time travel has yet to be invented, but will be in the future.  JGL plays a looper who is hired in the past to dispose of people (kill them dead and dispose of the bodies) from the future.  Eventually, he will close his loop by killing his future self – played by Bruce Willis.  And that’s all you’re gonna get!

Looper is a smart, complex, and intense sci-fi flick – the kind of movie I geek out for and that is so rarely made.  The story is far-fetched, sure, but stops short of being eye-rolling.  Perfection.  JGL is AMAZING.  He’s such an amazingly talented actor and does a spot-on Bruce Willis right down to the squint and gruff voice.  Willis is in the movie just enough to please his fans and not enough to annoy his naysayers.  Emily Blunt was great and at times I completely forgot who she was and entirely bought into her character.

But what I loved most was how well this movie has been advertised.  So often, trailers give away entire plot lines and Looper does not suffer from that in the least.  The film I thought I was going to see was not the movie I ended up watching and it was so refreshing.  And even though the end was a tad bit on the melodramatic side, I loved it – maybe even teared up a little!  So do yourself a favor in this age of remakes, reboots, and sequels and go see something fresh, intelligent, and finally worth the ticket price.

For Atlantans: You guys – have you been to the Phipps Plaza AMC?  It’s undergoing a much needed remodel and now they have reclining leather seats in every theater.  Go immediately – take a blanket and prepare to get cozy!

At the Cinema: Haywire and Man on a Ledge

Watched these films Sunday night and you can probably guess that Jimmy got to pick our selections!  I do enjoy a good action film from time to time so I tend to go in with an open mind.  I’m just often left disappointed due to lack of story.

First, we watched Haywire, a high-action, rescue-operation-gone-wrong spy movie.  And if that sounds fun to you, then you’ll probably enjoy this film.  It stars newcomer and MMA star (mixed martial arts), Gina Carano, who doesn’t appear to be the world’s greatest actress, but has the awesome ability to kick major bad guy ass.  It’s refreshing to see a powerful, female action hero and would suggest the movie on that basis alone.  The supporting cast is also shiny – Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum – so there’s plenty of eye candy.  Unfortunately, the story falls a bit flat, the third act is kind of lame, the story has plot holes galore, and the acting can be rather stoic at times.  So give it a watch, but make sure to have no expectations.

Man on a Ledge definitely won the award for most entertaining movie of the night.  Sam Worthington claims to be falsely accused of stealing hella expensive diamond, escapes prison, and perches his cute butt on the ledge of the Roosevelt Hotel in NYC to prove his innocence.  Fun concept.  Elizabeth Banks plays the negotiator trying to literally ‘talk him off the ledge’ and I love her!  Another kick ass female role so we were 2 for 2 on the night.  Granted, the plotting of this film is outrageous, but the emotions behind the crazy are genuine.  I love heist movies and this one has some fun heist-y moments between a bickering girlfriend/boyfriend that lends the movie some comedic relief to break the tension.  So many people gave this movie bad marks, but I enjoyed it as did Jimmy.  We had lowered expectations which probably helped, but would watch this again – even the terribly cheesy ending.

Final verdict (Skip, Rent, Buy):

Haywire:  Rent

Man on a Ledge:  Rent/Buy – if it’s your thing!

At the Cinema: Let Me In

I’m really enjoying watching movies and recommending them to everyone.  It’s also a great filler topic for when I don’t have a book I’ve recently finished to discuss.  So be prepared for this feature to become a blog norm – after all, movies are stories just as much as books are.  The title isn’t perfect since I didn’t actually see this film ‘at the cinema’, but you get the general idea.

Let Me In was released a couple of years ago and is a remake of the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In.  The Swedish movie was also based off a novel of the same name.  What initially drew me in was actress Chloe Grace Moretz who I happen to enjoy immensely, plus she’s from Atlanta and I feel some weird need to support hometown successes.

The movie follows a young boy, Owen, growing up in small town New Mexico during the early 80s.  His parents are divorcing and he’s struggling with being a loner and being bullied by some particularly heinous kids at school.  Owen needs a friend, badly.  When Abby and her father move into the apartment next door, he thinks he’s found not only the perfect friend, but also his first girlfriend.  The sweet, innocent smiles that pass back and forth between Owen and Abby are endearing, subtle, and remarkable in actors so young.  The chemistry and relationship between these two characters is absolutely what makes this movie so wonderful.

Abby, of course, is not what she seems.  I’m not really spoiling anything as most everyone knows this is a vampire movie since it was marketed as such.  She’s not a ‘Twilight’ vampire by any means.  She must kill to survive, can’t go in the sunlight, must be invited into your home, and sees vampirism as a curse – something she wouldn’t wish on anyone.  Owen loves Abby, but does struggle with what being a vampire means and the idea of evil.  But he stays by her side until the end and the audience wouldn’t have it any other way.

This movie is definitely a horror film and there is some gore.  The gore, however, is never indulgent.  Beautifully shot, this film is quietly and darkly gorgeous – slow-moving, deeply engaging, and morally poignant.  Let Me In is a genre film with substance and heart.  In the same frame, it will creep you out and break your heart with no apologies.  Such a rare kind of cinematic treat and I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a great film, even if horror isn’t your cup of tea.

Another Movie: Triangle

If you are at all interested in psychological thrillers with twisty endings that make you think – Watch this movie immediately!  You’ll want to watch it over and over to try and figure out how everything fits together and theories as to what is actually going on.

Triangle is a little indie Australian/British flick that is often promoted as a horror slasher film which is just dead wrong.  There is a little bit of gore, but much tamer than the slew of gorefests that are made these days.  Melissa George does a great job in her role which is important because the movie is told through her POV and we never leave her side.  And if you’re a Liam Hemsworth fan – he’s in the film far more than he was in The Hunger Games, though his character is still pretty devoid of depth.

I really don’t want to get into the plot much since this movie is best viewed cold.  In very slight terms, Melissa George goes sailing with some friends, they get capsized, and then find themselves ‘rescued’ by a cruise liner where things start to go really crazy.

The movie is free for those who have Amazon Prime memberships – not sure if it’s on Netflix streaming or not.  But very, very good stuff!

Hello Monday!

So I’ve been AWOL again from the blog.  The Hubs has begun his intense traveling season at work so we only get to see each other on Saturday and Sunday for the foreseeable future.  Since the weekends are normally my writing days, I’m going to have to figure out a better schedule.  I’m not reading as much either for the same reason.  But I do have some book club reads and TLC book tour reads to tell y’all about soon!  What I have been doing is watching movies and getting into the idea of reinvesting in my movie collection.  The Hubs is a huge movie buff and the collecting and watching is something we really bond over.  It has been put on the back shelf with the craziness of work and real life.  This weekend, however, we watched a ton of films and had an absolute blast.

We hit up Redbox Saturday night and rented Rise of Planet of the Apes.  I was wary coming off the last ‘remake’ in this series and James Franco bothers me.  My worries were for naught because this film was fantastically entertaining, emotionally smart, and a great prequel to the franchise.  Franco does a superb job as an emotionally invested scientist and his relationship with his father, played by John Lithgow, was very well developed.  And Caesar, the Ape lead, was superbly written and created.  The film’s special effects were mostly amazing baring some obviously fake shower steam which made the Hubs and I giggle.  Overall a great story, beautifully shot, and a well-crafted film all around.  Plus, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) is back to his old evil ways!

Another thing Rise does well is play homage to the original 1968 Planet of the Apes film.  The original was one of my favorite films to watch when I was home sick as a kid so I’m extremely partial to it.  I think the best viewing experience  of either Rise or the original Planet is to now watch them back-to-back.  So many references and shout-outs tying the two films together – really just delightful.  And the intense shift from humans being the developed, civilized species to the apes replacing us in the future will get you thinking and garner some great discussion/debate.

This Wednesday I’m hosting a movie night for the Litwits and we’ll be viewing the 2005 Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley.  Obviously, I’ve seen the film a million times, but it will be interesting to discuss with others so that recap will be up sometime later in the week.

I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend and a Happy Mother’s Day!