Archive for the ‘Film Review’ Category

My book club pick for last month was Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. A film adaptation directed by Stella Meghie was released in 2017.

The film focuses on seventeen-year-old Madeline ‘Maddy’ Whittier (Amandla Stenberg, ‘Hunger Games’, ‘The Hate U Give’), who is being treated for rare disease called Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SKID).

Maddy lives her life inside a sterile environment never leaving her house – hence why SKID is often referred to as ‘bubble disease’. Her only company is her doctor mother Pauline (Anika Noni Rose, ‘Dreamgirls’), her day nurse Carla (Ana de la Reguera) and the occasional visit from Carla’s daughter Rosa (Danube Hermosillo).

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Amandla Stenberg (Maddy)

 

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Carla (Ana de la Reguera)

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Pauline (Anika Noni Rose) and Maddy (Amandla Stenberg)

Maddy’s attention is caught when Olly (Nick Robinson,‘Love, Simon’, ‘Jurassic World‘), a cute floppy haired, all dressed in black, skater boy who moves next door with his father, mother and sister.

The boy-next-door Olly befriends Maddy and the two first begin communicating from their bedroom windows and later online, and eventually with the help of Carla are able to meet in person – behind her mother’s back.

The text, email and instant message chat conversations from the book are played out onscreen in imagined life size versions of the architectural models that Maddy creates. This was a clever technique of allowing the audience to see the two characters interacting.

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Olly (Nick Robinson)

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One of Maddy’s architectural models

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Maddy and Olly

Stenberg and Robinson have good chemistry onscreen together, and it is positive to see an interracial relationship presented on onscreen just as it is. The character of Maddy is biracial in the book (African-American and 3rd generation Japanese-American) this mixed heritage representation is unfortunately lost in the film.

Overall the film keeps to the spirit of the novel, and fans of the novel will hopefully be satisfied. But as a film it does fall short.

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My book club pick for August 2018 was Wendelin Van Draanen’s 2001 novel Flipped. As it was the long weekend I had the chance to sit down and rewatch the film version. I had seen the film back in 2011, so it was interesting to revisit it after reading the book.

The film adaption of Flipped was released in 2010. It was directed by Rob Reiner (The Princess Bride, When Harry Meet Sally, A Few Good MenMisery). Reiner also co-wrote the script with Andrew Scheinman.

The film opens in the summer of 1957 when seven-year-old Bryce Loski (Ryan Ketzner) and his family moving in across the street from Juli Baker (Morgan Lily, also young Raven in X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past).

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Young Bryce (Ryan Ketzner) and Young Juli (Morgan Lily)

Juli knows that Bryce will be her first kiss, but Bryce isn’t so sure and does his best to avoid Juli.

Madeline Carroll and Callan McAuliffe play Juli and Bryce as the film moves to 1961 and follows them through their sixth to eighth grades.

Juli and Bryce views of each other begin to change. Bryce begins to look at Juli in a different way and realises she is not what he initially thought. Unfortunately for Bryce Juli’s view is also changing – she is beginning to realise that Bryce is not the boy she thought he was.

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Juli (Madeline Caroll)

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Bryce (Callan McAuliffe)

As I mentioned Reiner changed Van Draanen’s contemporary setting to the early 1960s, a few years later than his earlier adolescent themed work Stand by Me, which was set in 1959. It possible that Reiner chose to change the time period as that was when he grew up. The nostalgic feel of small town America in the 1960s suits the story.

One of the key features of the novel is its he-said-she-said narrative with Bryce and Julie alternating chapters each giving their perspective. I pointed out in my review of the book that this can be risky for an author to do because it can slow down the pace of the novel with characters retelling the same points of plot. Van Draanen did a good job at offering two different perspectives in an entertaining and often amusing way.

Reiner kept with dual perspective with Carroll and McAuliffe each providing voice over for their characters perspectives. This received some criticism from critics that argued the scenes weren’t different enough to justify showing the same scenes from opposing points of view. I would have to agree with this assessment.

The adult cast was made up of a group of experienced actors. Penelope Ann Miller and Aidan Quinn as Juli’s parents, Rebecca De Mornay and Anthony Edwards as Bryce’s parents. The late John Mahoney portrayed Bryce’s grandfather and Kevin Weisman plays Juli’s intellectually disabled uncle.

Flipped doesn’t have the same magic as Reiner’s classic film Stand by Me, but it is still a sweet movie and is faithful to the spirit of the book.

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This post continues on from my series to review the film adaptations of some of my past club picks.

My June 2018 book club pick was Gayle Forman‘s 2009 novel If I StayA film version directed by R.J. Cutler was released in 2014.

Chloë Grace Moretz portrays Mia Hall, a gifted seventeen-year-old cellist with ambitions to study at Julliard School of Music in New York City.

She lives in Oregon with hip parents (Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard), and little brother Teddy (Jakob Davies). She is also in a relationship with Adam (Jamie Blackley), who is older and in a local indie band.

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Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz)

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Adam (Jamie Blackley) and Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz)

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Teddy (Jakob Davies) and Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz)

One snowy day while on the road to visit family friends a truck hits the car she and her family are travelling in. Mia wakes up on the side of the road and sees her unconscious body.

 

The film follows Mia as she wonders the halls of the hospital watching her family and friends interactions with each other, as she is trapped somewhere between life and death.

Chloë Grace Moretz delivers a capable performance as expected, but it is not her best work. A large part of the subplot is the relationship between Mia and Adam, unfortunately there is spark lacking between the two.

It is Stacy Keach who provides the strongest performance as Mia’s grandfather, especially with one particularly tearful monologue.

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Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz)

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Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz)

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Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz), Gramps (Stacy Keach), Teddy (Jakob Davies)

As I pointed out in my review of the book the narrative is quite predictable. Viewers that haven’t read the book should be able to pick the direction the film is going on.

 

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As it is a long pubic holiday weekend I thought that I would take the opportunity to review a few film adaptations of past book club picks.

First up is J.K. Rowling‘s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2001), which was my book club pick for November 2016.

I first saw Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them while on holiday in Kolkata, India. An interesting viewing experience. The film was in English with English subtitles and there was an intermission where staff brought around food that had been preordered.

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Rowling wrote the book Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, along with Quidditch Through the Ages, as a supplement to the Harry Potter series. Profits from both books benefited the charity Comic Relief.

The book was designed to be a reproduction of the textbook written by magizoologist Newt Scamander owned Harry Potter, and first mentioned in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

The film written by J.K. Rowling, and released in 2016, features Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, who in 1926 arrives in New York City from England en route to Arizona with a suitcase full of magical creatures.

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Newt (Eddie Redmayne)

Within hours of arriving Newt accidentally switches suitcases with Jacob Kowalsi (Dan Fogler), a No-Maj (the American term for a Muggle). Inevitably several of the magical creatures escape and begin to cause havoc on New York City.

Stuart Craig, production designer on all eight Harry Potter films, creates a dark and gothic 1920s Manhattan. The set design is one of my favourite elements in the film.

Newt also attracts the attention of Porpentina ‘Tina’ Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), a disgraced demoted Auror for the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), who sees him as a threat to magical society.

We are also introduced to Tina’s sister and roommate Queenie (Alison Sudol), who is a Legilimens, which is a magical person with the ability to read feelings and memories from another person’s mind.

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Newt (Eddie Redmayne) and Jacob (Dan Fogler)

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Tina (Katherine Waterston) and Newt (Eddie Redmayne)

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Queenie (Alison Sudol)

While Newt is searching for his magical creatures the wizards of MACUSA have their owns concerns about the infamous dark wizard, Grindelwald – one of the most dangerous dark wizards of all time, second only to Voldermort.

Director of Magical Security Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) accuses Newt of conspiring with Grindelwald.

There is also the threat of exposure from Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton), who believes there are witches and wizards in New York City. Graves is working in secret with Mary Lou’s eldest abused adoptive son Credence (Ezra Miller) to find an Obscurus, a parasite that develops inside children if they suppress their magical abilities.

The real stars of the film are the magical creatures. I can’t decide if my favourite is the mischievous Niffler, or the tree-stem sized lock-picking Bowtruckle named Pickett.

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Mary Lou (Samantha Morton) and Credence (Ezra Miller)

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Credence (Ezra Miller) and Graves (Colin Farrell)

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Niffler

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Pickett

The film is directed by David Yates, who directed the final four films in the Harry Potter series. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them also stars Johnny Depp, Carmen Ejogo, Ron Pearlman, and John Voight.

A sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was released in November 2018. Another three films are expected in the Fantastic Beasts series with the third film scheduled for release in November 2020.

 

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This month’s book club pick is J.K. Rowling‘s 1997 novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In 2001 a film adaptation written by Steve Kloves (The Fabulous Baker Boys) and directed by Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Home Alone 2: Lost in New YorkMrs. Doubtfire) was released.

The Philosopher’s Stone, which was the highest grossing film of 2001, kicked off a franchise of eight films (book seven Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was split into two parts) across 10 years.

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Harry (Daniel Radcliffe)

The film opens with Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris), Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith), and Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) delivering orphan infant Harry Potter to his mother’s sister’s family home.

On his eleventh birthday Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) learns that his Uncle Vernon (Richard Griffiths) and Aunt Petunia (Fiona Shaw) have been hiding the truth about his past. He is of wizard heritage. His parents, who were wizards, did not die in a car crash like he was told but were killed by an evil and powerful wizard, Lord Voldemort.

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Harry (Daniel Radcliffe)

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The Dursleys: Dudley (Harry Melling), Vernon (Richard Griffiths), Petunia (Fiona Shaw)

Harry survived Voldemort’s murderous attack and was left with a lightening bolt shaped scar on his forehead. Following the attack Voldemort’s powers were weakened and he went into hiding making Harry, ‘the boy who lived’, a celebrity in the wizarding world.

The film follows Harry’s journey as a first-year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At Hogwarts he meets and forms a friendship with fellow first years Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson).

The adventure slash mystery plot is based around a mysterious object that is being hidden on the third floor at Hogwarts that students’ are forbidden from entering. Harry believes that someone is trying to steal this object and it involves Lord Voldemort. So with the help of Ron and Hermione, Harry sets out the solve the mystery of the philosopher’s stone.

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Hermione (Emma Watson), Neville (Matthew Lewis), Ron (Rupert Grint), Harry (Daniel Radcliffe)

An array of experienced British actors fill the adult roles including John Cleese (Nearly Headless Nick), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick), Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursley), Richard Harris (Albus Dumbledore), Ian Hart (Professor Quirrell), John Hurt (Mr. Ollivander), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Fiona Shaw (Petunia Dursley), Maggie Smith (Minerva Dursley), Julie Walters (Molly Weasley), and Zoë Wanamaker (Madam Hooch).

They help guide the lesser experienced child actors through this film. There are some good performances particularly from Coltrane, Rickman and Smith.

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Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane)

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Snape (Alan Rickman)

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McGonagall (Maggie Smith)

Stuart Craig’s production design is amazing, particularly the scenes set at Hogwarts. He has really captured the magic of Rowling’s wizarding world.

The film comes in at over two and a half hours and is a reasonably faithful adaptation of the book with a few minor tweaks for pace.

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This month’s book club pick is Becky Albertalli‘s 2015 novel Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. A film adaptation titled Love, Simon directed by Greg Berlanti opened in US cinemas March 16th. It opens in cinemas here in New Zealand March 29th but I saw an advance screening yesterday afternoon.

Nick Robinson (The Kings of SummerJurassic World, 5th Wave) portrays Simon Spier, an average 17-year-old Atlanta high school senior.

On the surface life is good for Simon. He lives in a nice suburban home. His high-school sweetheart parents (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel) are still happily married. He has a good relationship with his little sister Nora (Talitha Bateman, who worked with Robinson on The 5th Wave), and has a good group of friends.

Simon has one secret – he is gay.

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Simon (Nick Robinson), Nora (Talitha Bateman), Emily (Jennifer Garner), Jack (Josh Duhamel)

When Simon learns that a fellow student, using the pseudonym Blue, has posted anonymously on a school blog that he is gay, he immediately begins exchanging anonymous emails with Blue.

The film has Nick’s soccer teammate Bram (The Legends of TomorrowThe Flash‘s Keiynan Lonsdale), theatre kid Cal (13 Reasons Why‘s Miles Heizer) and Waffle House waiter Lyle (Joey Pollari) each take turns voicing Blue’s emails.  This is a interesting technique to cover the mystery of who Blue is.

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Nick Robinson (Simon)

Simon’s secret is revealed when he leaves his Gmail account signed in on a school library computer and classmate Martin (Logan Miller) reads one of his emails. Martin uses the secret emails as leverage to blackmail Simon into helping him get a date with Simon’s friend Abby (X-Men Apocalypse‘s Alexandra Shipp).

He is scared that if Martin outs him he will lose Blue, so Simon starts lying and manipulating his friends to help Martin woo Abby. This includes convincing his best friends Leah (13 Reasons Why‘s Katherine Langford) and Nick (Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) to date when he learns Nick has a crush on Abby.

This sets up the dramatic tension and conflict for the film.

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Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), Leah (Katherine Langford), Abby (Alexandra Shipp), Simon (Nick Robinson)

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Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), Abby (Alexandra Shipp), Leah (Katherine Langford), Simon (Nick Robinson), Garrrett (Drew Starkey, obscured), Bram (Keiynan Lonsdale)

As it is marketed as a romantic coming-of-age teen comedy there are plenty of laughs with the supporting characters. Natasha Rothwell (Saturday Night Live writer) is brilliant and hilarious as the scene-stealing teacher directing the school production of ‘Cabaret’, which Simon, Abby and Martin are in. Tony Hale (Arrested DevelopmentVeep) also provides plenty of comedy as the awkward, cringey Vice Principal trying to be hip with his students. There is also a very funny montage where his heterosexual friends have to come out as straight to their parents.

The film has an amazing soundtrack featuring music from the The Bleachers, Troye Sivan, Whitney Houston, Jackson 5.

Hopefully Love, Simon will pave the way for more LGBTQ+ representation in accessible, major studio-produced cinema.

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This month’s book club pick is Rachel Cohn and David Levithan‘s 2006 novel Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. A film adaptation was released in 2008 directed by Peter Sollett.

The film follows a group of teenagers over 24 hours in New York City.

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We first meet Nick O’Leary portrayed by Michael Cera (Juno, Superbad, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) in his Hoboken, New Jersey bedroom. Nick still clad in his sleepwear is leaving an awkward post-break up message on his ex-girlfriend Tris’ phone.

Next we go to Sacred Heart, an all girls school, where Tris (Alexis Dziena) has one of Nick’ mix CDs entitled ‘The Road to Closure: Vol. 12’. After Tris dumps it in the bin Norah (Kat Dennings) is quick to retrieve it. She clearly has a connection to this mysterious musio Nick.

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Nick (Michael Cera)

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Nick’s ex Tris (Alexis Dziena)

Back at Nick’s, his gay bandmates Thom (Aaron Yoo) and Dev (Rafi Gavron) have arrived to pick up mopey Nick for a gig that night. Nick is the bass player in an queercore punk band ‘The Jerk-Offs.’

At the gig Tris turns up with new beau Gary (Zachary Booth). After Tris mocks Norah for not having boyfriend Norah asks Nick, unaware who he is, to be her boyfriend for five minutes. This is different to the novel where it is Nick who asks Norah.

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Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

Norah (Kat Dennings) and Nick (Michael Cera)

Norah’s best friend Caroline (Ari Graynor) is getting increasingly more drunk. Norah just wants to take Caroline home. Nick’s bandmates hoping that Norah can get Tris off his mind offer to take Caroline home, so Nick and Norah can spend the time getting to know each other better while searching for elusive indie band Where’s Fluffy’s secret show.

Unfortunately Thom, Dev and their new beefy friend (Richard B. Wright) lose Caroline. Nick and Norah must join the search for Caroline, and find out what they want from each other.

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Dev (Rafi Gavron), Lethario (Jonathan B. Wright) and Thom (Aaron Yoo)

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Nick (Michael Cera), Caroline (Ari Graynor) and Norah (Kat Dennings)

Part of the magic of the novel is the dual narrative – Cohn writing chapters from Norah’s perspective and Levithan from Nick’s. This magic is lost in translating the book to film.

Cera and Dennings have good chemistry together and thanks to witty dialogue the film is a little bit better than your average teen-rom com but overall it does not offer anything new or special.