Tag Archives: Book/Movie Review

L: Reviews of Smith’s “Grasshopper Jungle” and Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Lots to talk about, so let’s get started.

Review of Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle:

First things first:

This is the truth. This is history. It’s the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it. You know what I mean.

In the small town of Ealing, Iowa, Austin and his best friend, Robby, have accidentally unleashed an unstoppable army. An army of horny, hungry, six-foot-tall praying mantises that only want to do two things.

Immediate thoughts upon finishing: “Now THAT was an ending.” I’ve written before about how endings of books or series often feel like afterthoughts, like the author planned in vivid detail the exposition, rising action, and climax and then threw a good enough but unsatisfying resolution onto the end and called it a day. Smith’s ending to the long and complicated saga that was Grasshopper Jungle was completely unexpected and utterly satisfying.

Since the Goodreads synopsis was wildly insufficient, I’ll elaborate by saying that the main character is sixteen-year-old Austin, who is navigating puberty in an ungraceful but painfully honest chronicle of what he calls “the end of the world.” Austin dates Shann. Austin is in love with Shann. Austin’s best friend is Robby. Austin is also in love with Robby. As if that isn’t complicated enough, Austin and Robby accidentally set in motion a series of events that lead to a world-wide epidemic and they’re the only ones who can save the world.

Sounds familiar, right? Yes, it sounds like every other YA book where the world and the fate of humanity rests on only slightly qualified teens. That’s the popular fantasy: the hero’s journey; “in a world of 7 billion, I’m special.” I get it. We all want to feel like there is something that sets us apart, so it’s no wonder this is such a popular theme in YA lit. The thing about Grasshopper Jungle, though, is that it’s absolutely ridiculous and it knows it. Almost as though making fun of the hero’s journey, our narrator, Austin, is a freaking mess of a boy. He’s faced with the likely end of the world and all he can think about are typical teenage boy things; it’s unrealistic to assume that weight of the world suddenly forces maturity, so he’s thinking about the end of the world and also threesomes or whether presidents poop or what he should name his testicles or his Polish lineage.

I’ve seen people criticize that it’s too weird and it jumps around too much. Yes, it’s weird; no doubt about that. Yes, it jumps around. Smith incorporates so much backstory and ancestry and parallel character lines into the story that, at times, he spends a whole page describing all the many ways that everything is connected. Without knowing it, everything, everywhere, and everyone involved is connected. If you go into reading this seeing the value in that, you’ll be fine. Let me be clear in saying that this book will NOT bee for everyone. Read this if you like and/or don’t mind the following: YA Contemp. Lit, small town stories, sexuality exploration, heritage exploration, hero’s journey, giant bugs, graphic detail, adventure, and action. It was a little long for my taste and I often had trouble relating, but I never had trouble enjoying it.

Review of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale:”

Go ahead and start practicing your “sick” phone voice, because you need to call in sick to work tomorrow.

Last summer I read Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and had a lot of feelings. I’ve been seeing the *COMING SOON* ads for Hulu’s adaptation of the tale and I finally penciled in a day where the hubby was away long enough for me to binge the three released episodes. Reliving this story is, again, an emotional rollercoaster. I refuse to say that the show is better than the novel. Won’t say it. I WILL, however, say that they are so incredibly different that I can’t imagine how I existed with only one instead of both.

I’ve been trying to think of how to verbalize how different they are and I think it hinges on seeing it. When you’re reading something, you visualize it; for Handmaid, visualizing it was about imagining what it would look like to be oppressed and owned. Offred gave detail in a way that almost felt blasé to me. I think that was purposeful, on Atwood’s part, since our narrator had been living in this oppressed state and was used to punishment going along with speaking out, standing up, or even remembering. Our narrator has to be cautious and callous, since failing to get her *ish* together could get her killed. I have never experienced Offred’s horrific circumstances nor have I (yet) lived in a society where I have anything but complete freedom. Thus, imagining and visualizing could only take me so far.

The show, however, forces perspective. Offred’s experiences are right in your face, for better or for worse, so you MUST acknowledge them for what they are. Raw. A Dystopia at its finest. While the book allowed you to escape since it felt like it was all in the past, the show forces you to parallel the society with today, meaning that you, the viewer, have to acknowledge that this regression of freedoms is still entirely possible. It lays it all out via flashbacks and inner thoughts, detailing how the government tricked the public into thinking that a terrorist cell attacked and individual rights are being suspended in order to protect citizens. You see the brutality; you see the consequences; you see respectable individuals fight and beg for today’s basic rights; you see the 1% thrive and the 99% suffer. This is exactly the show that we all need to be watching right now.

Has anyone else seen it? I got a lot of buzz on my review of the novel, so I’d love to know if those same souls and others have feelings on the show. Talk to me!

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My “Red Rising” Podcast

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Image from twitter.com

Wonderful people,

Check out the podcast I did with my friend, Bekah.

Be forewarned: it has mild spoilers (from minute 8:00 to 9:10) for people who intend to read the series one day. If you don’t want general info about the ending, just skip that 70 seconds and enjoy the rest!!

The popular opinion is that we have undeniable charisma and pizzazz; maybe we should quit our day jobs and just make a living by entertaining the masses?

CLICK HERE

 

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L: Book/Movie Review: “The Martian”

Before I bless you all with my many opinions of Ridley Scott’s film, “The Martian,” I’m going to begin by saying that we went to a new movie theater and my life is forever changed. My city was recently graced with the presence of a Ovations theater, meaning that my movie experience was accompanied by ample legroom, comfy recliner-style seats, and more popcorn than any two people should ever eat. To top it all off, the theater is in a shady part of town and nobody goes there, so we practically had the whole theater to ourselves, which we all know means fewer annoying people. If you have one of these theaters available for your viewing pleasure, treat yo-self.

Click here for IMDB

Click here for IMDB

Now, on to the movie. Long story short, it was awesome! First of all, the casting was perfection. When you read a book before seeing a film adaptation, you always risk the possibility of being disappointed with the film’s interpretation not matching your own. The cast of “The Martian” fit like puzzle pieces into what I had imagined. The special effects, however, were an awesome surprise. The depictions of Mars, the ARES 4, and the HAB were elaborate and entirely beyond the capacity of my imagination, and I’m endlessly glad to have been able to see what Weir may have intended.

For the most part, the movie stuck to the story like glue, but there were a number of discrepancies that I wasn’t expecting. Several important parts of the story were omitted entirely, like (some people might consider these SPOILERS so proceed accordingly) the loss of communication with NASA towards the end of the book, the storm before he reached Schiaparelli Crater and his brilliant solution, and the detailed error that caused the failure of the attempt to send supplies, among others.

Click here for Goodreads

Click here for Goodreads

I feel quite sure these were omitted purely based on time limitations. The film was less than 2 & 1/2 hours and, even though the book was small, it contained vast amounts of information that cannot all be contained in a 2 hour film. They managed to squeeze in all the major plot points, but I cannot stress how much better the book is at emphasizing the significance of every moment Mark continued to survive, the stressfulness of every move he made, and the delicate importance of every decision he made.

The movie MUST be seen, but preferably only after having finished the book!

5 STARS! MUST SEE!

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Love This? Try This! – 1984 Edition

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Click here for Goodreads page; V for Vendetta image credit to dragaonegro.deviantart.com

Why do we keep reading “the classics”? What a dumb question! Among many other reasons, we keep reading them because everything that comes “after” is influenced by what came “before,” whether it acknowledges it or not. If you buy into the notion that “history repeats itself,” we have a valuable window into our futures that can be accessed by looking at our pasts, and this is rarely more obvious than in George Orwell’s novel, 1984. The consistent relevance of this novel remains unnervingly apt to this day.

Poster available at Amazon.com

Click here for Amazon.com poster

1984 is a work of fiction, written in 1949, that speaks of the (then) future as a dystopian society oppressed by the government and lured into a state of perpetual obedience by threat of death. I live in the United States, a country full of opinionated, suspicious, self-empowered people, none of whom can I picture being easily wrangled into submission by the government, as is the case in Orwell’s novel. However, improbability does not equal impossibility, and equipping individuals with knowledge about the power and influence of the government is pivotal to our longevity as a democracy.

Poster available at Amazon.co.uk

Click here for Amazon.co.uk poster

Many versions of this “cautionary tale” have raised societal awareness (and paranoia) since the 1950’s, and my favorite was the movie, “V for Vendetta.” Paired alongside 1984, many parallels can be found and used to show individuals and students the timelessness and eerily accurate predictions of the future in Orwell’s novel. The repetition of the government slogan, the monitoring of the police, the curfew, the altering of facts in the media, etc. are all evident in “V for Vendetta,” similar to the way we see them in 1984. Clearly, the fears of Orwell in 1949 are still scary all these years later.

It’s an amazing movie and, when paired together, only heighten the meaning and the timelessness of Orwell’s classic novel.

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L: Book/Movie Review: Jurassic Park/World

As soon as I saw a trailer for “Jurassic World,” I penciled in a movie date night for opening weekend and got to work on playing catch up. First things first, I read the book. Having checked that off my To Do list, I had to find a copy of the original “Jurassic Park” movie (which I had never seen) so I could compare the two and prepare myself for the majesty that undoubtedly would be “Jurassic World.” I first searched Netflix and was sorely disappointed when they weren’t doing one of their “Spotlights!!” that they love so dearly. Shame on Netflix. Anyway, long story short, all the rental store copies were out already so I had to buy the only copy left at Wal-Mart. No, I’m not proud of it, but desperate times call for desperate measures and sometimes the only copy in town is at the devil’s supermarket. I don’t apologize.

Jurassic Park

Photo from flickeringmyth.com

So, having seen the the movie and read the book, I can’t really come up with that many discrepancies. It pretty much stuck to the book, and with good reason! They made a few choices that I thought were excusable, considering the time restrictions and that too many characters can lead to crowded confusion, so some events and experiences were consolidated from two separate book characters to one in the movie, and some events were skipped or drastically shortened, for the sake of a short film. I will say, as is almost always the case, the book has a lot more exciting moments that are omitted from the movie, and I really missed several of them, but it does such a great job of conveying to viewers the same feeling of terrified smallness and fragility that is imparted in the book. I loved Samuel L. Jackson as Arnold. I loved Newman (that is his name. Deal with it.) as Nedry. I loved Jeff Goldblum. I loved his shirtless scene. I loved the director for throwing that in there for no good reason. One of my only issues was that the kids were opposites (Tim was supposed to be the older sibling, maybe 11, and less annoying while Lex was like 8 and a raging nuisance throughout), which I just didn’t understand the benefit to that change. I loved how Dr. Grant and Tim bonded in the book, which never happened in the movie, since Tim was a little idiot. The other issue was that most of the people who died in the book lived in the movie, and vice versa. That helicopter ride away from the island was carrying at least 3 dead book characters, and then people who lived in the book were killed off in the movie. I’m not dumb, so I understand that keeping the likable characters provides appeal for the sequels. Who can resist the siren’s song of more Goldblum? NOBODY. So, I get it, I just didn’t expect it.

Jurassic World

Photo from amazon.com

Now, “Jurassic World.” Where to begin? It was awesome. I adored all the references to the original movie, and I think that was a really cool way to encourage the allegiance of fans of the original film. I heard a lot of griping about the plot being similar to the second film, but I didn’t see that one so I’m not bothered. Also, apparently nobody liked the second one, so who cares if they improve upon it? The family stuff was a little hokey, but again, not bothered. The amusement park was incredibly believable and all of the technology available for a futuristic zoological park seemed ambitious but, again, believable. I could totally see our society being capable of such attractions and technologies if dinosaur DNA became a reality. I also heard people complain that the idea of needing to create a new dinosaur to maintain the guests’ interest wasn’t believable since no one would ever get tired of preexisting dinosaurs. I disagree. I buy it; as soon as anything new is discovered, it’s all the rage until society becomes used to it. Think about all of the technologies imagined on the Starship Enterprise. Viewers THEN considered those things implausible and now almost all of them are everyday realities. Dinosaurs would undoubtedly be so incredibly kickass for the first few years, or even decades, but eventually they’d be commonplace and I think that is when this film is meant to take place. Chris Pratt was unstoppable playing Owen, the Raptor trainer, and I loved the camaraderie between the dinosaurs and their trainers, as well as the possible fragility of that bond. The cast was excellent, the plot was sufficient, the action was unstoppable, and the effects were outrageous. I loved it and it will be mine once available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Please go see it and let me know what everyone else thinks. Did anyone else read the books? How did you think they compare to the movies? Did that affect your experience while watching “Jurassic World”? I’d love to hear from everyone.

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