Film & TV Reviews

FILM REVIEW: Everything, Everything

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).

Amandla Stenberg (Maddy)


Carla (Ana de la Reguera)
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.

Olly (Nick Robinson)
One of Maddy’s architectural models
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.


Film & TV Reviews

FILM REVIEW: Love, Simon


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.

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.

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

Film & TV Reviews



This month’s book club pick is Lois Lawry‘s 1993 novel The Giver. In 2014 a film adaptation directed by Phillip Noyce (The Bone Collector, Rabbit Proof Fence, Salt) was released 21 years after the novel’s initial release.

It was a long journey for the story to come to the screen. Actor Jeff Bridges (The Giver) co-produced the film with producer Nikki Silver and manager Neil Koenigsberg. Bridges has had a 20 year long interest in the project. His original intention was to direct his father Lloyd Bridges, in the role of The Giver. The success of The Hunger Games and Divergent film adaptations paved the way for The Giver to come to screen. Unfortunately the success of these other dystopian young adult films make The Giver look like a recycled version of these many films. It really is a pity this film came a decade too late.

Jeff Bridges (The Giver) and Brenton Thwaites (Jonas)
Jeff Bridges (The Giver) and Brenton Thwaites (Jonas)

Australian actor Brenton Thwaites was cast as the protagonist Jonas. In the novel Jonas is twelve; in the film he is sixteen. This is probably a wise decision as an older actor will be able to work longer hours than a child actor, have more experience and ability in playing the role and a teenage actor will also have more appeal to the target teen audience. Also having Jonas being sixteen also means the film can explore Jonas’s first love with friend and classmate Fiona (Odeya Rush).

Brenton Thwaites (Jonas) and Odeya Rush (Fiona)
Brenton Thwaites (Jonas) and Odeya Rush (Fiona)

Meryl Streep plays the film’s antagonist role of the Chief Elder. This role has been extended from what is in the novel most likely to showcase Streep’s talents and use her star profile. It is a similar case of singer Taylor Swift being cast as Rosemary, the previous Receiver of Memory. Rosemary is quite a small part in the book but in the film has been fleshed out more in the film with several flashbacks.

Meryl Streep (Chief Elder) and Jeff Bridges (The Giver)
Meryl Streep (Chief Elder) and Jeff Bridges (The Giver)

The character Asher (Cameron Monaghan) in the novel was the slightly goofy, happy-go-lucky comic relief and best friend to Jonas. In the film the character is changed to a much more brooding, serious teen. This is to give the film more conflict but personally I miss the Asher of the novel.

Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgård, Emma Tremblay round out the supporting cast as Jonas’ mother, father and younger sister.

Cameron Monaghan (Asher), Odeya Rush (Fiona) and Brenton Thwaites (Jonas)
Cameron Monaghan (Asher), Odeya Rush (Fiona) and Brenton Thwaites (Jonas)

The film remains largely faithful to the themes of the book although many details of the book have been changed for film, which may disappoint some fans of the book.

Film & TV Reviews

FILM REVIEW: Paper Towns

Paper Towns
Paper Towns

Paper Towns, directed by Jake Schreier (Robot & Frank), follows the massive success of last year’s adaptation of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. The novel Paper Towns was my June 2015 Book Club Pick. You can read my full review here.

Nat Wolff (who played the supporting role of best friend Isaac in The Fault in Our Stars) is brilliant as Quentin “Q” Jacobsen, the average and some what nerdy American teen, who has been infatuated with Margo Roth Spiegelman (portrayed by model turned actress Cara Delevingne) since she moved in across the road when he was a child.

Margo (Cara Delevingne) and Quentin (Nat Wolff)
Margo (Cara Delevingne) and Quentin (Nat Wolff)

This is Delevingne’s first lead role since her debut role in the 2012 film Anna Karenina. I will say it, Delevingne is not what I imagined when I read the book and some fans of the novel will not be able to get pass that. While Delevingne does not quite nail the part she is able to capture some of the essence of the alluring and mysterious teen. There is definitely more to her than her famous eyebrows.

The true chemistry is between Quentin and his equally geeky best buds Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith). Smith plays Radar straight with deadpan humour and is a good foil to Abrams who at times overplays the goofy loud mouthed vulgar teen. The trio are likeable characters and their onscreen chemistry is part of what makes the film a pleasure to watch.

Radar (Justice Smith), Quentin (Nat Wolff), Ben (Austin Abrams)
Quentin (Nat Wolff), Ben (Austin Abrams), Radar (Justice Smith)

The script is penned by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who co-wrote The Fault in Our Stars (they also wrote 500 Days of Summer together). They have done a good job being faithful to the spirit of the novel. A lot of the dialogue is taken directly from the book.

Obviously for timing reasons there are few minor incidents have to be cut or changed for the film.

The incident from the book where Quentin and Margo break into theme park SeaWorld is cut from the film due to the controversy that has surrounded SeaWorld in the recent years. The duo instead end their night at Orlando’s SunTrust building, which actually works better for the story.

Also in film Radar’s girlfriend Angela (Jaz Sinclair) joins the boys and Margo’s friend Lacey (Halston Sage) on their road trip in their search of Margo. The decision to add a second female character to the road trip is probably to make up for Margo’s absence for much of the film, bar a few dream sequences. Sage brings a depth to her character and shows that Lacey is more than just the popular pretty high school teen.

Without spoiling the ending I did I feel the film had a more optimistic and feel good ending than the book.

Ben (Austin Abrams), Angela (Jaz Sinclair), Lacey (Halston Sage), Radar (Justice Smith), Quentin (Nat Wolff)
Road trip: Ben (Austin Abrams), Angela (Jaz Sinclair), Lacey (Halston Sage), Radar (Justice Smith), Quentin (Nat Wolff)
Best buds: Radar (Justice Smith), Quentin (Nat Wolff), Ben (Austin Abrams)
Best buds: Radar (Justice Smith), Quentin (Nat Wolff), Ben (Austin Abrams)

A word to parents and those concerned about adult content. There is some rear nudity when Margo and Quentin spring her ex-boyfriend Jase (Griffin Freeman) fleeing Becca’s house (The Fosters’ Caitlin Carver). Quentin and his high school nemesis Chuck (RJ Shearer) both have scenes shirtless and in their boxers. Ben and Radar also appear shirtless.

There is also underage drinking at unsupervised house party and some sexual references / language.

Overall fans of the book will enjoy this adaptation otherwise to newcomers it is a sweet, feel-good, coming-of-age part high school road trip movie.