Paper Towns - the book vs the movie

Way back in April 2014, I read and reviewed John Green's Paper Towns. As soon as the movie was announced, I knew that I was going to see it. My daughter (who also read the book), my husband (who did not), and I went to see it Saturday afternoon. I wanted to take a couple of days to fully digest the experience but now I am ready to talk about it. Needless to say, there are spoilers below. 

Before I go picking everything apart, I'd like to say that I did thoroughly enjoy the movie. While there were a few moments that jarred me out of the plot (more on that later), it didn't interrupt the entertainment value. Now let's get into the nitty gritty.

There are a lot of differences between the book and the movie. Some of them, in my opinion, change the story a lot. Some of them do not. One of the big changes is the Sea World adventure. In the book, Margo convinces Quentin to break into Sea World during their revenge rampage. This doesn't happen in the movie. As a matter of fact, Margo explicitly states that they have 9 things to do (instead of 11 in the book) that night but I can only count 5...6 if you are super generous and count their shopping excursion. But maybe I'm mis-counting something. Either way, the Sea World thing is a fairly big thing in the book - after all, this is the first real illegal thing Q has done - and it isn't even addressed in the movie. The reason is understandable (no one wanted to give good press to Sea World) but it would have been nice to even have a throwaway line or maybe a discarded pamphlet or something to insinuate they did it anyway.

The movie also downplays the importance of the Omnictionary. In the book, editing the Omnictionary is Radar's LIFE. When he isn't in school or with Angela, he's editing the website. However, in the movie, the site is only used as a reference when looking up the term "paper towns." We don't see any of the characters editing it nor do we see it being leaned on heavily.  I don't know that this is a huge change in the book. But it may have shown the boys as the  social outcasts they were. Otherwise, it seemed like they didn't participate in social activities because they didn't want to.

However, the biggest change, in my opinion, is the road trip and everything that happens afterwards. In the book, Q, Ben, Radar, and Lacey skip graduation to take the road trip to Agloe to find Margo. The prom already took place. Quentin skipped the prom to go check out pseudivisions (abandoned housing divisions...also not discussed in the movie) by himself. In the movie, Angela comes with them and the gang (minus Q) insists they must be back to Orlando in time for prom. This is a very important part of the movie. So important, in fact, that the gang leaves Q in Agloe when they don't find Margo within their time limit. Yes, his best friends abandon him in New York for the prom. That is messed up. 

After his friends abandon him, movie-Quentin makes his way into the nearest town and buys a bus ticket home. While waiting for the bus, Margo happens to walk by. He chases after her and the two have a couple of milkshakes and talk it out. Margo kinda pats Q on the head and gives him a "silly boy, I'm not coming back" type of speech. Then Quentin gets on the bus and joins his friends at prom. Happy times ensue. 

BUT

In the book version, Margo is in the barn in Agloe. And Ben, Radar, Lacey, AND Quentin all find her. Margo rails at Lacey for dating Ben. Then she argues with Q about his perception of her.  The gang doesn't leave Agloe until the next morning. Quentin goes back to Orlando with his friends and Margo goes on to New York City. 

I think that the book version of the story is much more powerful than the movie version. Book-Margo decided to disappear from everything and everyone and she is angry that people still sought her out. She lashes out at the few people who truly showed concern for her. Movie-Margo comes off as an overly mature woman setting off on her own. But she's not. She is still a young woman trying to figure out who she is. Yes, she says this in the movie but that isn't how she looks or sounds or acts. 

As I said earlier, none of these changes made the movie less enjoyable for me. Though I was thrown out of the plot every time they talked about the prom. But, for once, I can truly say the book is better. If only because it had a more emotional journey for the characters. Without them missing graduation or prom, the movie left out that heavy emotional impact. 

(Side note: My husband said Margo was selfish and wasn't worth trying to find.) 

Movie review: Big Eyes

My husband, knowing that I wanted to see Big Eyes, rented the movie from Redbox over the weekend. We didn't get a chance to watch it until Monday night but I'm glad we did.

In case you are not familiar with the movie, Big Eyes tells the story of Margaret Keane, an artist who is famous for painting children with large eyes. After she left her first husband in the 1950s, Margaret did what she could to support herself and her young daughter, Jane. She found a job painting art on children's furniture. But she never stopped painting the big eyed children. It was during an outdoor art exhibition that she met Walter Keane, who would eventually become her second husband. 

Walter was an artist himself. However, where Margaret painted people, Walter painted Parisian streets. When Margaret's first husband threatened to take custody of their daughter, Walter proposed to Margaret. Now there would be a stable home for Jane. 

Ever the businessman, Walter tried to get both his paintings and Margaret's into art galleries. When that failed, he rented wall space at the local jazz club. People would frequently ask about the children with large eyes and Walter began to tell them that he painted them. Margaret was angry when she found out about Walter's lies, but he somehow convinced her that this would be better for sales. 

Years passed. Margaret continued to paint the "big eye" paintings and Walter's fame continued to rise. Profits soared, allowing them to open their own gallery. 

One day, Margaret came upon a shipping box with Walter's name on it. Inside, she found dozens of Parisian street paintings with a different artist's signature. She suddenly realized that she had never seen Walter actually paint anything. After scraping the Keane signature off of one of his paintings, Margaret confronted Walter. 

Despite knowing about Walter's false life as a painter, Margaret continued with their "big eye" ruse. Walter had convinced her that no one would accept a woman as an artist and that business was better if everyone thought he created the paintings. It wasn't until the 1964 World's Fair in New York that Walter's lie began to unravel. An art critic, John Canaday, rejected the piece Margaret painted for the Hall of Education. Canaday called the piece "tasteless" and Walter just lost it. 

Eventually, Margaret tired of the lie and how much of her life she lost to Walter. She took Jane and moved to Hawaii. It was here that she was introduced to the Jehovah's Witnesses. With some support from the community, Margaret sued Walter for slander. Since the case was he-said-she-said, the judge decided that, in order to figure out who was telling the truth, both parties needed to paint a picture. Walter claimed he had a shoulder injury that left him unable to paint while Margaret completed a painting in 53 minutes. Margaret won the case. 

Big Eyes is a very difficult movie to watch in 2015. Since it takes place in the 1950s and 1960s, there is a lot of misogyny and male dominance in the story. Margaret stays with Walter, despite the fact that he is taking credit for all of her work, for ten years! Even when she knew what a con man he was, she still stayed. The viewer definitely needs to keep in mind that, at that time in history, it was very difficult for a woman to leave her husband and be independent. Thankfully, the movie does a fairly good job of setting that up early on.

This is also one of the few movies where I could forget who made it and who starred in it and just lose myself in the characters and story. Amy Adams did a wonderful job becoming Margaret and Christoph Waltz was scarily good at being Walter. On top of that, it didn't have all of the telltale signs of a Tim Burton movie. It is obvious that Burton loved the film's subject and took a lot of care to tell the story properly. If you get a chance to catch Big Eyes, I would definitely recommend checking it out. Margaret Keane's story is an inspiring one, even if it took her a long time to make it happen. 

 

Why I think the new Godzilla movie is BS

Spoilers ahead!
It has almost been 2 weeks since the latest American Godzilla was released. A lot of people loved the movie. My husband, who is a huge Godzilla fan, is one of those people. I, on the other hand, thought the movie was total bullshit. Since I seem to be the only person who thinks this, I am going to put my reasons in a nice, easy to digest list. As I have already said, there will be a lot of spoilers ahead. If you don't want to be spoiled, stop reading right now.

OK?

1. Cutting away from the fights

So, this is a Godzilla movie, right? I get that the movie can't be 100% Godzilla. You need some characters that can actually speak. However, except for the final battle, none of the other battles are shown on-screen. Godzilla starts fighting with one of the creatures (stupidly called MUTO) and the director just cuts away to one of the humans.

"Godzilla's gonna fight....Godzilla's gonna fight...." *a door slides shut and we cut to the Olsen sister that isn't a twin*

Annoying.

2. The Brian Cranston connection.

In the trailers, it looked like Brian Cranston, who is currently a hot commodity in Hollywood, would be the human star of the movie. Nope. He dies in the first act, before any of the monsters are actually shown. (Well, I think we might have seen a foot of the MUTO...that doesn't count.)

I get that his name is hot right now. There are people that went to see this movie for him. Won't they be disappointed when he dies a third of the way into the 2-hour film.

3. The "bad" monsters should have real names.

Godzilla gets a name. There's a Mothra cameo. Yet the two big bad monsters of the movie are both called MUTO, which stands for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism. What? Give Ken Watanabe a use. Let him give those baddies some names.

4. They made Ken Watanabe useless.

His entire purpose in this movie was to stand around and watch other people do things. He is supposed to be a scientist. What scientist just stands by and lets everyone else do the work? Even the Japanese scientists in the old Godzilla movies were all "Screw this! I'm going to help Godzilla myself!"

5. Kick-Ass specialized in everything.

Brian Cranston's son, Kick-Ass, is an explosives specialist in the Navy. Yet he manages to get himself hitched onto an Army Special Force team, which gets him from Hawaii to California. Then he talks his way onto a Navy squad that is setting up an explosive to kill the MUTO. Then he parachutes into the scene of the Godzilla battle to disarm the explosive the MUTO stole from them.

Something tells me that his ass would still be stuck on Hawaii. The military isn't in the business of giving people, even other military people, rides home.

This movie was bullshit. For serious. I won't say it wasn't any fun. The end of that big battle was awesome. But I'm not going to fool myself into thinking that one awesome scene from one fight scene is going to redeem the entire film. If even half of these issues were fixed, I wouldn't be so hard on the movie. If they made the Godzilla movie about Godzilla instead of about The Other Olsen and Kick-Ass, I might have liked it more. As it stands, it is just plain bullshit.

Top That!

TeenWitch Today is the 25th anniversary of the spectacular 80s movie, Teen Witch. Man, that makes me feel old. If you haven't seen this movie, you are seriously missing out.

Teen Witch is the story of Louise Miller (Robin Lively), a nerdy 15-year old girl. One day, she meets Madame Serena (the amazing Zelda Rubenstein) who is amazed to find out that Louise is a reincarnated witch. On Louise's 16th birthday, her witch powers return to her, giving her the ability to grant all of her wildest dreams. Of course, what you dream isn't always what you really want.

I fully admit that this movie is completely hokey. Don't believe me? Watch this:

Not only is that a really real scene in the movie, it is the best scene in the movie. You will now be rapping Top That for the rest of the week. You are welcome.

And, look, Mental Floss even did a "Where Are They Now" bit on the cast last year: http://mentalfloss.com/article/48799/cast-teen-witch-24-years-later

I think the movie is (sadly) DVD-only on Netflix. But if you can get yours hands on a copy? Watch it. You'll love it.

The Wind Rises

TheWindRises Despite being released theatrically in the US way back in February, my family just got the chance to see The Wind Rises this past Saturday evening. I have to admit that I had written off being able to see it in a theater and was very surprised to see that a local art center was screening the movie. It was an extremely lucky turn of events since this coming Thursday (April 24) is the final showing before they switch to a different movie.

The Wind Rises is a fictionalized biography of airplane engineer Jiro Horikoshi. It begins with Jiro as a young boy, dreaming of soaring in the sky on a custom airplane. He is abruptly awoken when he is bombed mid-air by a huge airship above him. Undeterred, he borrows an English-language aviation magazine from a schoolteacher and, with his trusty dictionary, finds out about an Italian designer named Caproni. While reading, Jiro falls asleep and meets Caproni in a shared dream between the two enthusiasts.

The movie then skips ahead to a time when Jiro is in university. During a train ride back into Tokyo, Jiro meets a young woman, Naoko, and her maid just minutes before a huge earthquake hits. (This is the Great Kanto Earthquake that took place in 1923.) As the passengers disembark in a frenzy, the maid breaks her leg. Since Jiro is such a good guy, he carries the maid on his back through the mass of people, past the massive fires in Tokyo, and into the relative safety of Naoko's family. He leaves without even giving anyone his name so he can fight to save the books at his university from being burned to ashes.

Fast forward again to Jiro and his friend, Honjo, working at an airplane manufacturer. The two are working on a fighter design, which ends in failure. The company loses the contract and sends the two engineers to Germany to do technical research. During this time, he once again meets Caproni in a dream, where they have a philosophical conversation about the beauty of aircraft. Shortly thereafter, Jiro is promoted to chief designer for a fighter plane contract from the Navy. This also ends in failure. Jiro heads off to a summer resort in order to get his mind back on track.

While at the hotel, Jiro once again meets Naoko. As the two spend time together playing with paper airplane designs and taking walks, they fall in love. However, Naoko has tuberculosis and refuses to marry until she is well again. Jiro returns to Tokyo to once again design a fighter plane for the Navy. This time, the secret police are searching for him so he is forced out of his apartment and into the home of his supervisor, Kurokawa. Naoko, meanwhile, has holed herself up in a sanatorium in order to recover from her condition until she can no longer bear to be away from Jiro and travels to Tokyo to join him. Kurokawa refuses to let the lovers stay under his roof unmarried so they have an impromptu wedding ceremony.

The newlyweds live with Kurokawa even though Naoko's condition is deteriorating. Jiro must finish the designs on his latest creation. Despite his long workdays, they enjoy their time together.

I don't want to spoil the ending of the movie so I will end the synopsis there. Everyone in my family enjoyed the movie. I didn't expect my daughter to like it very much since she prefers movies like Kiki's Delivery Service or Ponyo or Spirited Away. This one is a little more...boring compared to the previous Miyazaki works. There is no real antagonist. No one to root for or against. It is just the story of a boy trying to make his dream come true. There are some very emotional scenes but they are handled very well. Not your typical Miyazaki fare but a good movie nonetheless.

Review: Warm Bodies

warm_bodies We actually went to see Warm Bodies on opening weekend. Life has just been too busy to write the review! So here it is:

Warm Bodies is a different type of zombie movie. Instead of being horror or action, it's a romance movie. R (Nicholas Hoult) is a zombie who wants more out of life death. He meets human Julie (Teresa Palmer) while her team is foraging for medicine. Despite his desperate need to eat brains, R saves Julie from the other zombies. Soon Julie notices that R is getting better. Somehow, his love for her has restarted his heartbeat and is turning him back into a human. And it's affecting the other zombies as well!

The previews for Warm Bodies were awesome. We knew right away that we needed to see it. And we weren't disappointed! There is a bit of action in the movie - Julie's dad, played by John Malkovich, is a general and prone to shooting things before looking at them - but don't expect it to be the main plot of the film. If you can still catch it in the theater, I highly recommend it. If not, buy the Blu-Ray or DVD!

Movie review: Looper

My husband and I don't get a lot of time to go see 'grown-up' movies in the theater. Luckily, there is a $2.00 movie theater nearby that has movies that are just about to come out on DVD. This past weekend, we were able to catch Looper.

It has an interesting plot. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a hitman for the mafia. However, he's not a normal hitman. In 2074, the mafia uses time travel to get rid of their "problems." They send the hit 30 years into the past to be killed by hitmen called Loopers. 'Closing the Loop' is when the mafia sends the future version of the Looper back to the younger version to be killed. When Future Joe (Bruce Willis) is sent back to be killed, he decides that he needs to change the future instead.

When we originally decided to see Looper, I had only heard bad reviews. My husband did find some good reviews on the internet though. Both of us didn't think the movie was all that bad. Yes, there are some terribly big plot holes but the journey was still a fun one. That said, I don't think I would watch it again. If you think about it too hard, you are bound to give yourself a headache.

Movie review: Pitch Perfect

My husband and I managed to catch an early release of Pitch Perfect, the very hysterical comedy about college acapella groups. Barden University has four acapella groups. However, only two of them are actually good. The Barden Bellas is the all-girl group and The Treble Makers is the all-guy group. The Treble Makers are the Inter-Collegiate Champions, thanks to a vomit-filled performance by Aubrey. When the new school year begins, only two of the Bellas are left to pick up the pieces. Unfortunately, the only girls willing to join them are the oddballs. Among them is Beca. She wants to move to Los Angeles to become a DJ but her father makes her attend college instead. Her musical mash-up skills become crucial to The Bellas.

I have become a big fan of Rebel Wilson. She has quickly become one of my favorite comedic actresses. My husband, meanwhile is a fan of Anna Kendrick. Luckily, both actresses are awesome in this movie. Actually, everyone is awesome in this movie. There isn't a single character that I would get rid of. Adding to the awesomeness is the soundtrack. All of the actors did their own singing and the movie is better as a result. If you don't believe me, just search for Pitch Perfect on YouTube and watch any of the trailers. Then get yourself to a movie theater on Friday, when the movie goes to a wide release. As a warning, there is a running gag involving a large quantity of vomit. (I didn't know this and almost tossed my own cookies.) If you can get past that, you'll love Pitch Perfect.

Review: Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D

Since I am a super-nice mom, I took my 10-year old daughter to see the Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D movie on Friday night. Even though it was a Friday night, our area was smack dab in the middle of a massive heat wave so I was expecting the theater to be rather full. On the contrary, besides the two of us, there were about 9 other people there. I kept expecting more people to pour in but it just never happened. Though I will admit that I was happy that I didn't have to be squashed by over-enthusiastic Katy Perry fans.

The movie itself was not awful but it seemed to gloss over absolutely everything. The backdrop of the movie is Perry's California Dreams Tour, which began on February 20, 2011 and ended on January 22, 2012. Despite the fact that this gives the documentarians almost an entire year worth of material to use, the film itself runs only 97 minutes. As a result, you only get blips and soundbites about her life. I would have loved to have an extra hour of footage to see more about the girl behind the Katy Perry persona.

If they didn't want to talk about her personal life (poor Russell Brand is shown giving a few kisses then it's nothing but text messages...I'm sure there was more to their relationship), they should have gone the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus route and just filmed the concert with a few background rehearsal snippets. It would have been infinitely more interesting since her concert looks like it was a ball of fun.

Sadly, I can't recommend this movie to anyone. I think even die hard Perry fans would be disappointed. Wait for the Blu Ray. From what I hear, there will be additional footage in the extras. Maybe there will be something good in there.

The Avengers

I can't believe I completely forgot to post my review of The Avengers. I am a bad geek.

For those of you that live under a rock, The Avengers is a team of superheroes consisting of Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Thor. Most of these characters have had stand-alone movies on their background. Poor Black Widow and Hawkeye are the exceptions. (Though Black Widow is quite important in Iron Man 2 and Hawkeye makes a cameo in Thor.) If you are going to see The Avengers, you need to see the previous movies to understand everything. The main villain comes from Thor while the major 'artifact' comes from Captain America.

First, let me say that this movie is awesome. I almost didn't want it to end. One of the reasons that I liked the movie is that it did require you to watch the previous background movies. That means that there wasn't time wasted on questions like "Who is this Thor guy and why does he carry around a hammer?" The movie was able to get right into gathering the heroes together and establishing why they couldn't fight this battle separately. Since we already know that they are powerful on their own, it is very important to show why they need to work as a team.

That said, there are a few little nitpicks I had. I always have a problem when they have a character on the screen for long periods of time without naming them. Nick Fury had this female 'sidekick' in S.H.I.E.L.D. that they don't name. My husband claims that they said her name once in the very beginning of the movie but I don't remember it. She goes through the entire movie as 'that chick that is the second in command or something.' Things like that don't detract from my enjoyment of movie. I would just like someone on screen to say her name more than once so I can remember who she is.

So, in the end, if you enjoy superhero action movies, you'll love this. There is a reason that the movie has been a blockbuster hit. I'm just sad that it'll take a long time before we see another Avengers movie.