Friday, January 27, 2012

Book Vs. Movie: Monte Carlo

It rarely ever happens, but sometimes a movie surpasses the book that inspired it.  For this first review in the Book Vs. Movie series, that is exactly what happened.  Monte Carlo, released in 2011, is loosely based on the 2001 novel Headhunters by Jules Bass.  Both center around a group of women who go on vacation together to have some fun and excitement, and while there, everyone believes them to be someone else, and they all find love.  That is the extent of the similarities between the two; the rest is incredibly different.

Monte Carlo tells the story of three young women-- Meg, Emma, and Grace-- in their late teens and twenties who travel together to France to celebrate Grace's high school graduation.  When escaping from the rain in an expensive hotel, Grace is mistaken for an heiress, and the three of them take advantage of the mix-up to travel first-class to Monte Carlo.  Of course this leads to all sorts of adventures and mishaps that lead to Grace and Meg finding love, until the real heiress arrives and panic ensues.  It's a fun, cute movie with surprisingly few embarrassing moments and a satisfying happy ending.  Selena Gomez isn't the most amazing actress, and her British accent was terrible, but overall she did a pretty good job.  But it was Leighton Meester's character that I loved the most; her story line was the most exciting and romantic.  A-

Headhunters is completely different.  The story revolves around four middle-aged, menopausal women (with filthy mouths and dirty minds) who decide to spice up their boring, monotonous lives by traveling to Monte Carlo and impersonating four extremely wealthy women.  They meet four men there, who are also impersonating people, and they all fall in love.  Their secrets eventually cause lots of drama and headaches.  One reviewer said of this book, "These women make the First Wives Club look like Little Women."  And it's absolutely true.  I couldn't finish the book; it was so trashy.  Every other sentence contained the F-word, and all the women talked about was sex in the crudest way possible.  Definitely not worth reading.  Incomplete

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Read It First

So just this month, I joined the Read It 1st campaign, pledging to read the book before I watched its movie version.  I've always believed in reading a book first for several reasons.  For one, I like to imagine things my own way, and when I'm reading a book, I don't want someone else's interpretation in my head.  Especially if theirs is awful.  Secondly, I prefer books to movies and TV shows, so there's always a likelihood that I'll never even get around to watching the movie anyway.  Third, a movie adaptation can be such a flop that it could turn me away from a book.  If I hadn't read Eragon first, only watched the movie, I never would have bothered picking up the book.  And finally, there are those rare occasions where the movie is actually better than the book.  It doesn't happen very often, but in the case of Princess Diaries and Under the Tuscan Sun, both books were absolutely awful.  I saw the movies, both of which I loved, and expected the books to be amazing.  Big disappointment.

So I prefer to read it first, but what about listening first?  I hadn't really considered the audiobook as part of the Read It 1st campaign until my brother told me something interesting.  One of his friends had been listening to an audiobook (I Am Number Four), and after listening to it, she told him that it was a badly written book.  I loved that book (gave it an A+), and I truly hate bad writing, so I tried not to take the insult personally  ;-)

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that an audiobook is no different than a movie adaptation.  It's someone else's interpretation of a book.  You're listening to how they think it should be read-- their vocal inflections, character voices, and emotional investment.  I can think of several times when an audiobook just didn't get it right, in my opinion.  When I was little, my parents had The Hobbit on tape.  The narrator completely turned me off from the book; thank goodness I decided to give it a try, but it wasn't until years later.  Another example is The Lord of the Rings audiobook from the library.  My friend Mary was reading the book before seeing the movie and I figured I would too, but I wanted to try the audiobook instead.  I gave up on that before a few chapters were done.  I'm a fast reader, and listening to someone else read at a snail's pace (to me) was incredibly off-putting.  And when I tried listening to a book I'd already read, that was even worse.  I bought a few Georgette Heyer audiobooks, and even though I loved Richard Armitage's voice as he read The Inconvenient Marriage, his interpretation of the main character didn't remotely match how I'd envisioned her in my head.  I had pictured her as a feisty, spirited heroine who laughed in the face of danger, and he read her as timid and frightened.

So I've decided that besides putting off watching the movie/TV adaptations until I've read the book, I'll also put aside the audiobook version as well.  I've also decided that besides following the rules of the Read It 1st campaign, I'm also going to go back and read the book versions of the movies I've seen in the past.  There are many that I hadn't realized were based on a book or story, and I've decided to see how they compared to each other.  Of course that does mean reading it second, but it also means the start of a new series on my blog.  During the year, I will be doing a series called Book Vs. Movie.  As I read a book and then see the movie (or read the book after having already seen the movie), I'll review them together.  I've made a list of as many as I could find, and it's seven pages long, so it looks like this will be a nice long series that may take me more than just 2012 to finish.  If my Netflix movies arrived today like they should, the first Book Vs. Movie review should be up tomorrow.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Title: Terra Nova: Season 1
Genre:  Sci-Fi Adventure

My rating:  A-

I know a lot of people will disagree with me about this TV show, which is why it will most likely not be coming back for a second season.  But I actually liked Terra Nova, especially towards the end of the season.  I think the biggest problem people had with this show was that it started out too young and too cliched.  Almost everything in the first half of the season seemed kind of corny and overdone.  But the show matured in the second half of the season, ending with such a great finale.  If only the entire season had been as good as that finale.

Besides a great finale, Terra Nova also had a talented cast.  Stephen Lang, Jason O'Mara, and Shelly Conn are brilliant actors, and their supporting cast was good as well.  I'm always a little nervous about child & teenage actors, but the ones in this show either have natural talent or very good acting coaches.  As well as a good cast, the show had great villains.  They were reasonably evil without going over the top, and their characters had depth and dimension.  A-

The Superhero Years

It seems that our society has become obsessed with superheroes.  Of course, this isn't a new phenomenon, but for some time, their popularity had dwindled.

Now it seems Hollywood is bent on a "revival".  Thor, Captain America, Batman, Iron Man, Spiderman, Superman-- all the old favorites are getting a facelift and a franchise.  And some are even joining forces for the highly-anticipated movie, The Avengers.

But why now?  Perhaps it's simply because Hollywood has run out of ideas, a very plausible theory.  But I think it has more to do with the current state of affairs.  When Superman, Captain America, and Batman were introduced, World War II was just starting and America was still recovering from the depression.  Iron Man, Spiderman, and Thor were products of the 1960s, when the country was involved in both the Cold War and the Vietnam War.  Now, America is struggling financially and fighting terrorism in the Middle East.  What better time to re-introduce America to their heroes?  Superheroes are born out of necessity; when America needs them, they appear, ready to save the day.  And so, Hollywood has been hard at work.

The two most recent Superhero movies I've watched are Thor and Captain America.  I personally enjoyed Captain America more.  For one thing, I think Chris Evans is a much better actor than Chris Hemsworth, and for another, the dialogue was pretty awful at points in Thor. Both movies were enjoyable though.  Their plots, special effects, and supporting cast all work together to make fun, action-packed movies where good triumphs over evil.  I'm definitely looking forward to when these two heroes meet up in The Avengers this summer.
Thor:  B
Captain America:  A-
Title:  I Am Number Four
Genre:  Fantasy/Science Fiction
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some language

My rating:  B+

Being one of those people who likes to read the book before seeing the movie, I usually cannot help comparing the two.  If they don't make too many changes or if the changes aren't drastic, I can enjoy the movie, despite loving the book so much.  I Am Number Four received a B+ from me, not because they changed things, but because the movie had too many plot holes and seemed much to rushed.

Of course there were a couple of changes, most of which I considered no big deal.  But there was one change that just irked me throughout the whole movie.  In the books, John's protector and mentor Henri is a very different person; he's much kinder and loving, treating John as if he really was his son.  John looks up to him and thinks of him as a father.  In the movie, John and Henri have a tense relationship, with Henri being very strict and gruff and John being very disrespectful.  I was able to handle every other change, both minor and major, but the change to Henri's character was the one that I couldn't get past.  It made Henri's self-sacrifice in the end seem less emotional and touching than it should have been.

But the main problem with the movie was just how much they rushed it.  Most movies now are at least two hours long, so why they cut this one short is beyond me.  If they'd just added on an extra fifteen minutes, they could have filled some of the plot holes or kept the movie from feeling too hurried.  B+
Title:  Pegasus
Author: Robin McKinley
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Pages:  400

Rating:  B+

Synopsis (from Barnes & Noble):  Because of a thousand-year-old alliance between humans and pegasi, Princess Sylviianel is ceremonially bound to Ebon, her own Pegasus, on her twelfth birthday. The two species coexist peacefully, despite the language barriers separating them. Humans and pegasi both rely on specially-trained Speaker magicians as the only means of real communication.  But it's different for Sylvi and Ebon. They can understand each other. They quickly grow close-so close that their bond becomes a threat to the status quo-and possibly to the future safety of their two nations.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Wow, it's been a long time since my last review.  So much has happened since November, it's going to be a challenge catching up with all the TV shows and movies I've seen, and the books I've read.  My first review of 2012 is of Pegasus by Robin McKinley.  I love Robin McKinley's books, especially her fairy-tale adaptations, but while this book was good, it just didn't live up to her past work.  There were points where the story seemed to bog down in long-winded descriptions, and sometimes I just wanted to give up or skip a few pages to get past the dull moments.  And I'm also going to have to assume that this is the first book of a series, or there will at least be one sequel, because this book ended so abruptly, with so much left undone and unsaid.

What this book did get right was character development.  Princess Sylvi and her pegasus Ebon had so much depth that they seemed almost alive.  They made the book worth reading; I always wanted to know what adventure they were going to go on next.  McKinley's greatest talent (in my opinion) is making her characters lifelike and approachable.  If she'd just cut a few paragraphs of descriptions here and there, the book would've been so much better.  B+