Thursday, April 28, 2011

‘Water for Elephants’ movie: A book lover’s perspective

People frequently complain, “The book was so much better than the movie!”  In fact, many beloved books never make the successful jump to the big screen.  There are several reasons for this.  Obviously, turning a several hundred page book into a two hour movie means that things are going to get cut or changed.  Another reason has to do with the readers themselves.  When a reader envisions the book in their mind, the story becomes intensely personal.  This means every variation between the book as they pictured it and the finished movie is a chance for the reader to feel a loss. 
The movie adaptation of Sara Gruen’s bestselling novel Water for Elephants hit the silver screen this past Friday.  My general opinion is that it is one of the better book/film adaptations that I’ve seen.  Director Francis Lawrence went to great lengths to create authenticity.  We saw both the magic of the circus, but also the gritty realities of circus life during the depression.  The story stuck closely to the book plot, with no obviously missing story lines. 
The film is cast as a perfect vehicle for Robert Pattinson to show audiences the range of his acting abilities.  Flanked by Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz, Pattinson’s Jacob shows courage and vulnerability that is utterly believable.  Waltz, playing the paranoid and cruel August, is so good even I was afraid of him.  Even when he was smiling, there was a hardness behind his eyes that made him seem unpredictable. 
My only disappointment has to do with Witherspoon.  She looks great in her 1930’s costumes and hair, but there is something about her that just didn’t sit right.   August took Marlena from the rough life of a foster child and thrust her into the harsh world of a traveling circus.  In the book, Marlena was glamorous and beautiful, but that was only a veneer for the broken woman that she was inside.  Witherspoon is all veneer.  We don’t get that depth.  However, she does handle the animals and stunts like a pro.  In fact, I think she had more on-screen chemistry with the elephant than with Pattinson.  In the love scenes, we can see him trying so hard, really embracing the character.  Witherspoon just didn’t seem as present.  Hello?  How hard can it be to pretend to be in lust with the hotness that is Robert Pattinson? 
Then, there is the real star of the movie--Tai, the elephant who plays Rosie.  Each time she appeared on screen, all eyes were on her…and not just because she is nine feet tall and 4,000 pounds.  She made me laugh as easily as she broke my heart.  Even having read the book, I found myself drawn into Rosie’s story all over again. 
Overall, I have to give this movie a five star rating, based mostly on their devotion to following the book.  My issues with Witherspoon didn’t distract me from the magic and Pattinson, Waltz and Tai were wonderful.  

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Review: BED OF ROSES by Nora Roberts

The second installment of the Bridal Quartet series, revolves around Emma, the florist in a wedding business owned and operated by four best friends.  Emma is the most romantic of the four women.  Since childhood, she has dreamed of dancing in a moonlit garden with the man she loves and who loves her in return.  The problem with all of these romantic notions is that no man she has ever dated could live up to her dreams. 

Jack is like a brother to the women and has been friends with Emma for twelve years, but sometimes--against his better judgment--he feels more than friendship for her.  But Jack is a total commitment-phobe, and the last thing he wants to do is hurt Emma.  As the attraction between them grows, both must make the decision of whether it’s worth risking their friendship by taking the leap into dating. 

The major conflict in the story revolves around two questions; can two friends become lovers without destroying the friendship, and how does a hopeless romantic looking for forever reel in the eternal bachelor?  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how it ends, but as with all romances, it’s the journey the characters take to reach “happily ever after” that matters.  Unfortunately, this novel fell too deeply into the clich├ęd plotlines and lacked originality.  This may have been acceptable if there had been some interesting subplots to support it, but this was not the case.  In the breaks between  Emma and Jack working on their relationship were endless stretches of overly detailed scenes showing the women working in their wedding business, and then congratulating each other for being amazing at what they do.  It got old.  And really…four women who have been best friends since childhood and now live and work together, but never fight?  Totally not realistic. 

On a scale from one to five, Bed of Roses ranks…

Plot – 2 ½ bookmarks
Character Development – 2 bookmarks
Love Story – 2 ½ bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Paz Vega (Emma), Joe Manganiello (Jack), Megan Fox (Parker)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Review: BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS by Garcia & Stohl

Beautiful Darkness picks up where Beautiful Creatures left off with the death of Macon Ravenwood.  Lena is in a gigantic brooding funk that made me hate her after about three chapters.  Yeah, your uncle died…yeah, you feel guilty…yeah, no one understand you.  Blah, blah, blah.  And poor Ethan is just trying to be a good supportive boyfriend, but Lena is so engrossed in herself that she gives no thought to how he is.  In a book where you are supposed to be rooting for the hero and heroine to live happily ever after, it’s a really bad sign when all I want them to do is break up. 

To complicate things on the love front, two new characters are introduced.  John Breed is some sort of mysterious supernatural who of course “like totally gets” Lena, and she is suddenly running off with him without questioning what this creep really wants.  Liv Durand is a Keeper-in-training who is working with Ethan in the library over the summer.  Liv is smart, fun, uncomplicated and British…everything that Lena is not.  There is definitely some chemistry between her and Ethan, and I found myself wishing her would just forget Lena and give Liv a chance. 

The plot thickens in this book as we begin to realize the are more secrets in Gatlin, South Carolina than apple pies.  Despite being told by Lena several times to leave her alone, Ethan decides to go into the Tunnels looking for Lena and rescue her from danger.  With him are Link & Liv and they get assistance in their quest from just about everybody they know (meaning that a whole lot more people in town know about the Caster world than Ethan thought).  Along the way, Ethan discovers secrets about his deceased mother and Macon Ravenwood that add a whole new dimension to the plot.  In fact, Macon Ravenwood is becoming my favorite character in this series…behind Ethan, of course.

The Southern charm is fun and adds wonderful color to characters like Amma and The Sisters.  There is a great scene at the county fair where they talk about the importance of pageants and baking contests in the rural South.  With the introduction of Liv, we are able to get a feel for how a foreigner would view the Southern culture.  Loved that!

Even though Lena bugged the hell out of me, I do plan on reading the next installment Beautiful Chaos when it comes out in October.

Overall, I give Beautiful Darkness…

Plot – 3 ½ bookmarks (maybe would have been higher without Lena’s obsessive brooding)
Character Development – 3 bookmarks (Again, Lena is dragging this down. Love Ethan, Ridley, Macon, Liv, Marian, Amma, The Sisters…heck, I even love the cat!  But when you hate the heroine, it’s a bad sign.)
World Building – 5 bookmarks (Combination of the Southern Charm and the Caster World)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) -  Hunter Parrish (Ethan), Vanessa Marano (Lena), Billy Zane (Macon), Thomas Decker (John Breed), Jake Able (Link), Gemma Ward (Liv)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Review: THE TWISTED THREAD by Charlotte Bacon

The Twisted Thread First, I want to apologize for my lack of blog updates.  I’ve just been caught up with school, and I’m sure you’d rather not get a review of my Organizational Theory textbook.  J 

Now, on to the review!  On the campus of a prestigious boarding school in New England, a girl widely seen as the most powerful girl in school is found naked and dead in her dorm room.  Even more shocking, it is obvious that she had recently given birth to a baby no one knew she was carrying and the baby is nowhere to be found.  Told form the points of view of several different teachers and a local police detective, the secrets of the school begin to unfold. 

I really liked the character of Madeline, a twenty-five year old intern at the boarding school.  She is fun and messy and disorganized, yet incredibly real.  She is both out of place and exactly what the school needs.  Madeline’s natural curiosity leads her to do some investigating of her own, but thankfully she’s not stupid about it like a lot of characters in mysteries can be.  When she found out new information, she passed it on to the Detective in a timely manner.  I found that refreshing.

I began to get impatient with this story around page 89 (out of 383), when I thought I had it all figured out.  Luckily, I read on, because not only was I off on my assumption, but there were several different subplots which added to the depth of this story.  This book has a little bit of everything…murder, social classism, secret societies, a decades old scandal, terrible parenting, etc.  If anything, this book almost tried to do too much, but somehow it worked in the end.  I would have liked the end to have been a little quicker and cleaner, rather than drawn out with revelation after revelation over the span of the last 50 pages. 


Plot – 4 bookmarks
Character Development – 4 ½ bookmarks (Bacon actually is even able to develop the character of the dead girl, which is no easy feat)
Mystery – 4 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Kate Bosworth (Madeline), Henry Cavil (Detective Matt), Taylor Kitch (Fred Naylor), Blake Lively (Claire Harkness), Helen Miren (Tamsin), Liam Hemsworth (Scotty)